A prosecutor on Friday urged jurors to convict Stewart Rhodes, founding father of the right-wing Oath Keepers militia group, and 4 associates, saying they “threw their our bodies to the trigger” on the day of the U.S. Capitol assault to attempt to block Congress from certifying then-President Donald Trump’s loss to Joe Biden.
Prosecution and protection legal professionals gave closing arguments to the jury in federal courtroom in Washington in an eight-week trial that has included testimony from 50 witnesses and video of the Jan. 6, 2021, rampage by Trump supporters on the Capitol. The protection was on account of full its closing arguments on Monday earlier than jurors start deliberations.
The defendants, their legal professionals informed the jury, went to Washington that day to protest the election and supply safety to high-profile audio system at political rallies, and had no plan to storm the Capitol – nor had been they ordered to take action.
Rhodes and co-defendants Thomas Caldwell, Jessica Watkins, Kenneth Harrelson and Kelly Meggs are charged with a number of felonies in reference to the Capitol assault together with seditious conspiracy, which carries a sentence of as much as 20 years in jail.
“These defendants banded collectively and agreed to do no matter was mandatory, as much as and together with utilizing power and violence, to cease the election end result from changing into finalized, after which on Jan. 6, they struck,” prosecutor Kathryn Rakoczy informed the jury.
“They noticed the riot unfolding on the Capitol they usually threw their our bodies to the trigger, they usually took it,” Rakoczy added.
The Capitol assault adopted false claims by Trump, a Republican, and his allies that the November 2020 presidential election was stolen from him by means of widespread voting fraud. Biden, a Democrat, took workplace two weeks later.
The rioters attacked police and despatched lawmakers, employees and even Trump’s personal vice chairman, Mike Pence, fleeing for security.
Prosecutors offered video of the riots, textual content messages, audio recordings, surveillance footage and excerpts from the testimony of confessed co-conspirators. Three of the 5 defendants additionally took the witness stand in their very own protection.
As Rakoczy recapped the proof on Friday, she sought to persuade the jury that the defendants’ inflammatory banter concerning the 2020 election was extra than simply bluster.
To be able to receive a conviction on the cost of seditious conspiracy, prosecutors should show past an inexpensive doubt that two or extra individuals plotted to make use of power to oppose the U.S. authorities.
The prosecution has mentioned members of the Oath Keepers conspired to make use of power to maintain Trump in energy by stopping Congress from certifying Biden’s election victory, with defendants Meggs, Watkins and Harrelson getting into the Capitol clad in tactical gear.
Prosecutors even have mentioned the Oath Keepers staged a “fast response power” in a close-by Virginia lodge that featured a stockpile of firearms that may very well be taken into Washington if wanted.
The protection painted a unique image.
“There was no assembly of the minds. There was no plan,” James Lee Brilliant, one in every of Rhodes’ attorneys, informed jurors.
Rhodes, Caldwell and Watkins testified in their very own protection. They denied plotting any assault or in search of to dam Congress from certifying the election outcomes, although Watkins admitted to impeding law enforcement officials defending the Capitol.
Throughout cross-examination, prosecutors tried to undermine the credibility of the defendants by displaying examples of violent rhetoric they used earlier than, throughout and after the riot in messages on the Zello “walkie-talkie” app, telephone calls, texts and on social media.
Protection attorneys downplayed the importance of that proof.
“It was heated rhetoric. Horrible heated rhetoric. Bombast. Inappropriate. However that’s not indicative of an settlement of a gathering of the minds,” Brilliant mentioned.