According to a Department of Justice press release, a federal grand jury in the District of Columbia returned an indictment that charged 11 defendants with seditious conspiracy along with other crimes related to the breach of the U.S. Capitol building on January 6th.  This breach of the Capitol disrupted for several hours the process of counting electoral votes in the last presidential election.

Among those charged with seditious conspiracy was 56 year old Elmer Rhodes III, the leader of the Oath Keepers. Rhodes was charged along with Edward Vallejo, age 63. Rhodes is the founder of the Oath Keepers and Edward Vallejo is listed as just a member.

Under 18 U.S Code 2384 Seditious Conspiracy is defined as;

If two or more persons in any State or Territory, or in any place subject to the jurisdiction of the United States, conspire to overthrow, put down, or to destroy by force the Government of the United States, or to levy war against them, or to oppose by force the authority thereof, or by force to prevent, hinder, or delay the execution of any law of the United States, or by force to seize, take, or possess any property of the United States contrary to the authority thereof, they shall each be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than twenty years, or both.

The Government Will Have A Hard Time Making Its Case On The Evidence Presented

The government will have an uphill fight to make these charges stick before the court. Conspiracy charges are usually brought when law enforcement thwarts a plot before it is carried out, not a year after it supposedly occurs. This is illustrated by the acquittal of defendants in the 2021 case of seditious conspiracy brought against the Hutaree militia in Michigan to incite a rebellion against the government.  In that case, the judge said that hateful diatribes are protected by the First Amendment and did not constitute proof of making detailed plans for making a rebellion.

It is also well known that the government often brings conspiracy charges against defendants when they lack the evidence to prosecute them for a more specific charge. In the case of celebrity Martha Stewart, she was charged with Securities Fraud, obstruction, and conspiracy. The most serious charge of Securities fraud was dropped but she did go to prison for statements she made to the FBI and conspiracy to commit fraud.  This amounts to saying, “We can’t get you for the actual crime, but we got you on talking about committing it.”

These cases will hinge on the details of the planning made by Rhodes and others in the Oath Keepers, and the details of concrete planning to overthrow the government by violent means. The indictment itself is thin on relating actual concrete planning and instead relies on members using encrypted apps like Signal to communicate with each other and coordinate things like travel plans to reach Washington and gear legally and openly purchased to supposedly forward their plans

The indictment says that Rhodes and the Oath Keepers brought weapons with them to the area, but stored them in a hotel in Virginia, in compliance with the laws in the Capitol which makes possession of such weapons illegal.