Oath Keeper indictment shows DOJ "methodically working its way up the chain of command": experts

The Jan. 6 seditious conspiracy charge "sends a message that the prosecutorial door...has officially swung open"

Published January 18, 2022 5:00AM (EST)

Stewart Rhodes, founder of Oath Keepers (Aaron C. Davis/The Washington Post via Getty Images)
Stewart Rhodes, founder of Oath Keepers (Aaron C. Davis/The Washington Post via Getty Images)

This article originally appeared on AlterNet.

A major bombshell from Attorney General Merrick Garland and the U.S. Department of Justice came on Thursday, January 13 when Oath Keepers founder Stewart Rhodes was charged with seditious conspiracy in connection with the January 6, 2021 attack on the U.S. Capitol Building. Harvard University law professor Laurence H. Tribe and former federal prosecutor Dennis Aftergut analyze this indictment in an op-ed published by NBC News' website a few days later, laying out some reasons why it is a very big deal.

"The monumental lead count of the 17-count indictment alleges that (Rhodes) and his co-defendants, along with unnamed others, were part of a 'seditious conspiracy,'" Tribe explains. "That crime is, in effect, treason's sibling."

The legal experts continue, "Under 18 USC §2384, seditious conspiracy is an attempt 'to overthrow, put down, or to destroy by force the Government of the United States, or…. by force to prevent, hinder, or delay the execution of any law of the United States.' It is punishable by up to 20 years in prison."

The indictment on January 13 came only two days after the Boston Globe published a Tribe/Aftergut op-ed in which they expressed skepticism about Garland's willingness to vigorously prosecute those he described as the "January 6 perpetrators."

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But in their NBC News op-ed, Tribe and Aftergut write, "This historic indictment creates an enormous incentive for the defendants to cooperate with the government and help fulfill Attorney General Merrick Garland's January 5 commitment to hold 'all January 6 perpetrators, at any level, accountable under law — whether they were present that day or were otherwise criminally responsible for the assault on our democracy.' Four other Oath Keepers, at least, are already cooperating…. As a legal scholar and a former prosecutor who have been critical of the pace and seeming incompleteness of Garland's investigation, we tip our hats to the attorney general for this enormous step forward."

According to Tribe and Aftergut, the indictment of Rhodes and other Oath Keepers "confirms that the Justice Department believes the plotters of the Capitol siege specifically intended to overturn the election, prevent the lawful transition of power and shatter our democracy."

"In addition, the new conspiracy charge sends a message that the prosecutorial door to everyone involved in the seditious scheme has officially swung open," Tribe and Aftergut argue. "Finally, it shows the Justice Department is indeed methodically working its way up the chain of command of what it believes to be an exquisitely organized, multipronged plot."

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By Alex Henderson

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Alternet January 6 Oath Keepers Seditious Conspiracy Stewart Rhodes