Capitol riot jury picked for 1st seditious conspiracy trial

Sep 29, 2022, 2:39 PM | Updated: Sep 30, 2022, 8:05 am

WASHINGTON (AP) — A jury was selected Thursday in the seditious conspiracy case against the founder of the Oath Keepers extremist group and four associates in the highest profile prosecution stemming from the Capitol riot to reach a trial.

A panel of 12 jurors and four alternates was chosen after three days of questioning about their feelings concerning the insurrection on Jan. 6, 2021, and potential biases against the far-right group accused of plotting to use force to stop the transfer of presidential power.

Opening statements are expected to begin Monday in federal court in the case against Stewart Rhodes and his associates — the first Jan. 6 defendants to go to trial on the Civil War-era charge of seditious conspiracy.

The stakes are high for the Justice Department, which will try to prove that Rhodes spent weeks rallying his followers to prepare to use violence in a desperate bid to keep Republican Donald Trump in the White House. If convicted of seditious conspiracy, they could face up to 20 years behind bars.

Court records show the Oath Keepers, in the weeks leading up to Jan. 6, discussing paramilitary training and setting up a “quick reaction force” that could get weapons into Washington quickly if they were needed. Oath Keepers stashed weapons for the “quick reaction force” at a Virginia hotel and equipped themselves with communication devices, helmets, vests and other battle gear before storming the Capitol with the large mob of angry Trump supporters, prosecutors say.

Rhodes is not accused of going inside the Capitol, but telephone records show he was communicating with Oath Keepers who did enter around the time of the riot and he was seen with members outside afterward.

Rhodes, Kelly Meggs, Jessica Watkins, Kenneth Harrelson and Thomas Caldwell face several other charges in addition to seditious conspiracy.

Drawing from an original pool of 150 potential jurors, the judge and lawyers individually questioned about half of them over three days. U.S. District Judge Amit Mehta disqualified dozens of the prospective jurors, mainly based on concerns about whether they could be fair and impartial.

Thomas Caldwell’s lawyer, David Fischer, asked many of the prospective jurors for their opinions about supporters of former President Donald Trump.

“I don’t understand the allegiance to him,” said a woman who is an elementary school principal. The judge rejected defense lawyers’ request to dismiss her.

One of the many lawyers from the jury pool described Trump’s die-hard supporters as “misinformed” and referred to the Jan. 6 attack as an “insurrection.” The judge disqualified him.

A few of the jurors are federal government employees, including a patent lawyer, a Transportation Security Administration program analyst and a man who works for the U.S. Government Accountability Office.

The GAO worker said he attended two Black Lives Matter protests after George Floyd’s killing by a police officer in Minneapolis. He said he has a “negative impression” of the Oath Keepers but believes he could be impartial.

Another juror is a man who works in human resources for the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services and owned a home on Capitol Hill. He said his father is a Trump supporter. He also said one of his neighbors is U.S. Magistrate Judge Zia Faruqui, who sits in the court where this trial is being held and often presides over hearings for Jan. 6 criminal cases.

A juror who works for the U.S. State Department’s Bureau of Consular Affairs said he doesn’t closely follow politics, adding, “I find the whole thing relatively distasteful.” Someone else chosen for the jury works as a health care consultant and said he has close friends who are Trump supporters.

“I don’t understand why people did what they did on January 6th,” he said.

Rhodes’ lawyers have said his defense will focus on their client’s belief that Trump was going to invoke the Insurrection Act and call up a militia to support his bid to stay in power. Rhodes’ lawyers have said they will tell jurors that he is not guilty of seditious conspiracy because his actions in anticipation of what he believed would have been lawful orders from Trump under the Insurrection Act.

His lawyers have said the “quick reaction force” outside Washington was meant for defensive purposes if Trump did so. Lawyers for the other Oath Keepers have said they came to Washington only to provide security for figures such as Trump ally Roger Stone at events before the riot.

Nearly 900 people have been charged so far in the Jan. 6 riot and more than 400 have pleaded guilty or been convicted at trial. Sentences for the rioters so far have ranged from probation for low-level misdemeanor offenses to 10 years in prison for a retired New York City police officer who used a metal flagpole to assault an officer at the Capitol.


For full coverage of the Capitol riot, go to

Copyright © The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


(Facebook Photo/Superior Court of Arizona in Yavapai County)...
Associated Press

Arizona judge has cases reassigned following DUI arrest

The Arizona Supreme Court has ruled that all cases currently assigned to a Yavapai County Superior Court judge recently arrested on suspicion of extreme DUI will be reassigned to other judges.
1 day ago
Haitian migrant Gerson Solay, 28, carries his daughter, Bianca, as he and his family cross into Can...
Associated Press

US, Canada to end loophole that allows asylum-seekers to move between countries

President Joe Biden and Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau on Friday announced a plan to close a loophole to an immigration agreement.
4 days ago
Expert skateboarder Di'Orr Greenwood, an artist born and raised in the Navajo Nation in Arizona and...
Associated Press

Indigenous skateboard art featured on new stamps unveiled at Phoenix skate park

The Postal Service unveiled the “Art of the Skateboard" stamps at a Phoenix skate park, featuring designs from Indigenous artists.
4 days ago
(Facebook Photo/City of San Luis, Arizona)...
Associated Press

San Luis authorities receive complaints about 911 calls going across border

Authorities in San Luis say they are receiving more complaints about 911 calls mistakenly going across the border.
10 days ago
(Pexels Photo)...
Associated Press

Daylight saving time begins in most of US this weekend

No time change is observed in Hawaii, most of Arizona, Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands, American Samoa, Guam and the Northern Marianas.
18 days ago
Mexican army soldiers prepare a search mission for four U.S. citizens kidnapped by gunmen in Matamo...
Associated Press

How the 4 abducted Americans in Mexico were located

The anonymous tip that led Mexican authorities to a remote shack where four abducted Americans were held described armed men and blindfolds.
18 days ago

Sponsored Articles

(Desert Institute for Spine Care in Arizona Photo)...
Desert Institute for Spine Care in Arizona

5 common causes for chronic neck pain

Neck pain can debilitate one’s daily routine, yet 80% of people experience it in their lives and 20%-50% deal with it annually.
(Pexels Photo)...

Sports gambling can be fun for adults, but it’s a dangerous game for children

While adults may find that sports gambling is a way to enhance the experience with more than just fandom on the line, it can be a dangerous proposition if children get involved in the activity.
Fiesta Bowl Foundation

Celebrate 50 years of Vrbo Fiesta Bowl Parade magic!

Since its first production in the early 1970s, the Vrbo Fiesta Bowl Parade presented by Lerner & Rowe has been a staple of Valley traditions, bringing family fun and excitement to downtown Phoenix.
Capitol riot jury picked for 1st seditious conspiracy trial