Lawyers offer closing arguments in case of riotous January 6 Oath Keepers conspiracy

Prosecutors delivered their closing arguments Friday in the inflammatory conspiracy trial of Oath Keeper founder Stewart Rhodes and four others, telling jurors a “mountain of evidence” showed the defendants planned to use force to end the transmission of Presidential power to stop Joe Biden.

For about two hours, Assistant U.S. Attorney Kathryn Rakoczy guided the jury through some of the evidence — text messages, videos and testimonies — presented over the past seven weeks, saying it showed a conspiracy to bring about the peaceful transfer of power to the first time to disturb in American history.

“Our democracy is fragile. It cannot exist without respect for the rule of law,” Rakoczy said. “And it will not survive if people who are unhappy with the outcome of an election can use force to change the outcome. That’s what these defendants did. They conspired to stop the January 6 transfer of power – and they did.”

“This is unacceptable,” she said. “This is criminal.”

Rhodes and co-defendants Kelly Meggs, Jessica Watkins, Kenneth Harrelson and Thomas Caldwell are charged with sedition, obstruction of an official process and other offenses in connection with the events of January 6, 2021.

Her trial is the most momentous to date in the investigation into the deadly attack on the US Capitol.

Rakoczy opened her closing argument in Rhodes’ own words, citing a message he sent on November 5, 2021: “We can’t get through without a civil war. Prepare your mind, body and spirit.”

“Two days after the presidential election,” Rakoczy told the jury, “Mr. Rhodes, with all his terror and violence, is calling for war to oppose the results of a presidential election. Think about it.”

She said Americans have been divided and upset about the election results earlier in US history, but nonetheless, for two centuries, power was transferred peacefully because people ultimately respected the rule of law.

But, she said, “not these defendants.”

“A mountain of evidence has shown that these five defendants conspired and agreed to do whatever was necessary, including the use of force, to stop Joe Biden’s legitimate transfer of power,” she said.

The defendants had amassed an “arsenal of deadly weapons,” which they brought to the Washington, DC area for a rapid reaction force to bring firearms to downtown on January 6, she told jurors.

Some of the defendants booked rooms at the same Virginia hotel where they kept their weapons for the rapid reaction force — a coordination, she said, that “shows there was an agreement, a conspiracy.”

Rhodes, she said, was the “orchestrator of this conspiracy and the architect” of the plan to block certification while the other defendants played various other leadership roles.

Throughout the trial, prosecutors repeatedly used the defendants’ own words against them.

Rakoczy reminded the jury of inflammatory messages Rhodes had sent out in the weeks and days leading up to January 6 and on the day itself, and urged the jury not to go “deaf” to such rhetoric.

“Let’s face it: the words of the defendants in this case were not mere rants and rants of old men in a barber shop,” she said. “You have repeatedly called for the violent overthrow of the US government.

RHODES ATTORNEY: NO PLAN

In his closing remarks, Rhodes’ attorney James Lee Bright admitted that Rhodes and his co-defendants engaged in a great deal of “terribly heated rhetoric and bombast”.

“I disagree with a lot, but it doesn’t indicate a disagreement,” Bright said. “Releasing is not a disagreement. Expressing hate and anger is not a disagreement in this country.”

“Is it inappropriate? Yes. A lot of that. Is it something we wish wouldn’t be done. Absolutely,” he added. “But if everyone is talking about the same topic, it’s not an exchange of ideas.”

Bright told the jury that during the trial he made a point of asking witnesses three questions: Was there a plan to storm the Capitol? Was there a plan to breach the rotunda? Was there a plan to stop or delay confirmation of the election?

“We had 50 witnesses in this case. Not one person testified that there was a plan. Not one,” he said.

He objected to the government’s portrayal of the rapid reaction force as an offensive force meant to attack the Capitol, arguing that the Oath Keepers were only in DC that day to provide security for speakers and Trump supporters.

In the end, Bright asked the jury to carefully consider all the evidence in the case, telling them that “lives are at stake.”

“If you take the time to look at this through the alternative lens and not just what the government is giving you, there is a similarity in the stories and they diverge,” he said. “They diverge with the concept of whether there was a disagreement.”

Without a disagreement and without a conspiracy, he asked what did Rhodes actually do?

“He stayed outside. He didn’t go in. He didn’t destroy anything in the Capitol. He didn’t have a megaphone that said, ‘Go, go, go.’ He didn’t push anyone,” Bright said. “He was filming. He was taking photos.”

He ended by asking the jury to find Rhodes not guilty on all charges.

Attorneys for the remaining defendants have yet to make their own closing arguments.

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