Phoenix man, 10 others indicted for seditious conspiracy in Jan. 6 Capitol breach
PHOENIX – An Arizona man and 10 others were indicted by a federal grand jury for seditious conspiracy and other charges related to violent breach of the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021, authorities said Thursday.
Edward Vallejo, 63, of Phoenix was charged for the first time in connection to Jan. 6, as was Elmer Stewart Rhodes III, 56, of Granbury, Texas, according to a U.S. Department of Justice press release.
Vallejo was arrested in Phoenix on Thursday morning. Rhodes, founder and leader of the far-right Oath Keepers militia group, was arrested in Little Elm, Texas.
This is the first time seditious conspiracy charges were levied after the Capitol was stormed by supporters of then-President Donald Trump while Congress was in session to certify President Joe Biden’s 2020 election victory. The charge carries a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison, according to the release.
The other defendants named in the new indictment have previous Jan. 6 charges against them: Thomas Caldwell, 67, of Berryville, Virginia; Joseph Hackett, 51, of Sarasota, Florida; Kenneth Harrelson, 41, of Titusville, Florida; Joshua James, 34, of Arab, Alabama; Kelly Meggs, 52, of Dunnellon, Florida; Roberto Minuta, 37, of Prosper, Texas; David Moerschel, 44, of Punta Gorda, Florida; Brian Ulrich, 44, of Guyton, Georgia; and Jessica Watkins, 39, of Woodstock, Ohio.
The indictment alleges that Vallejo and Caldwell coordinated “quick reaction force” teams of Oath Keepers and affiliates who “were prepared to rapidly transport firearms and other weapons into Washington, D.C., in support of operations aimed at using force to stop the lawful transfer of presidential power.”
The latest charges rebut, in part, the growing chorus of Republican lawmakers who have publicly challenged the seriousness of the attack, arguing that since no one had been charged yet with sedition or treason, it could not have been so violent.
The indictment alleges Oath Keepers for weeks discussed trying to overturn the election results and preparing for a siege by purchasing weapons and setting up battle plans.
Seditious conspiracy occurs when two or more people in the U.S. conspire to “overthrow, put down, or to destroy by force” the U.S. government, or to levy war against it, or to oppose by force and try to prevent the execution of any law.
But charges under that Civil War-era law are rarely ever used, because they’re hard to prove and harder to win.
The last seditious conspiracy case was filed in 2010 against members of a Michigan militia, but two years later they were acquitted by a judge who said their hateful diatribes didn’t prove they ever had detailed plans for a rebellion.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.