The high-profile seditious conspiracy trial for the leader of the far-right Oath Keepers extremist group will begin this month after a judge on Wednesday rejected a last-minute bid by Stewart Rhodes to exchange his lawyers and delay his case.
Rhodes said in court papers this week there had been a “breakdown” in communication between him and his two lawyers, who he claimed weren’t defending him forcefully enough within the Capitol riot case. Rhodes’ latest lawyer argued that the Oath Keepers founder has not been given enough time to adequately prepare for trial and urged the judge to delay his trial a minimum of 90 days.
However the obviously irritated judge called the claim that Rhodes is being denied a good trial “simply false.”
U.S. District Judge Amit Mehta said Rhodes’ suggestion that his lawyers should not providing effective counsel look like “complete and utter nonsense” and questioned why concerns about his lawyers are surfacing for the primary time just weeks before trial.
“The notion that you’re going to create the sort of havoc that you’ll — and havoc is the one appropriate word I can consider — by moving Mr. Rhodes’ trial, not going to occur,” Mehta told Edward Tarpley, whom Rhodes wanted as his latest lawyer.
Mehta said Tarpley is free to hitch Rhodes’ two other lawyers — James Lee Vivid and Phillip Linder — at trial, but Mehta was not going to remove them from the case.
The case against Rhodes and 4 co-defendants starting Sept. 27 in federal court shall be essentially the most serious case to go to trial to this point within the riot of Jan. 6, 2021, that delayed the certification of Joe Biden’s 2020 president victory over Donald Trump.
It’ll even be a significant test for the Department of Justice, which has brought rarely used and difficult-to-prove charges of seditious conspiracy against Oath Keepers members and people of one other far-right extremist group, the Proud Boys.
Authorities say Rhodes was the ringleader of the Oath Keepers’ plot to violently stop the transfer of power. Within the run-up to Jan. 6, authorities say the Oath Keepers recruited members, purchased weapons and arrange a “quick response force” with guns on standby outside the capital with the goal of keeping President Donald Trump in office.
On Jan. 6, prosecutors say the Oath Keepers formed two teams, or “stacks,” that entered the Capitol. Rhodes shouldn’t be accused of going contained in the constructing, but was seen gathered outside the Capitol with several members after they did, authorities say.
Rhodes has said there was no plan to storm the Capitol and that the members who went contained in the constructing went rogue. His lawyers have argued he believed Trump would invoke the Riot Act and call upon the Oath Keepers to support his bid to remain in power. When Trump didn’t do this, Rhodes took no motion, his lawyers have said.
Three members of the Oath Keepers have already pleaded guilty to seditious conspiracy, are cooperating with investigators and will testify against Rhodes at trial.
Rhodes claimed that his lawyers, Vivid and Linder, weren’t answering his calls or visiting him enough and didn’t file legal papers they promised to. The defense also argued its case could be hurt by the arrest this month of the the Oath Keepers’ general counsel — Kellye SoRelle — whom the defense was expecting to call to the stand.
Vivid denied not answering calls from Rhodes or failing to debate the defense strategy with him. He called among the latest motions Rhodes desires to file “frivolous.”
For full coverage of the Capitol riot, go to https://www.apnews.com/capitol-siege