ARIZONA NEWS

Phoenix man, 3 others found guilty of seditious conspiracy in Jan. 6 attack

Jan 23, 2023, 1:02 PM | Updated: 1:50 pm

FILE - Insurrectionists loyal to President Donald Trump try to break through a police barrier, Wedn...

FILE - Insurrectionists loyal to President Donald Trump try to break through a police barrier, Wednesday, Jan. 6, 2021, at the Capitol in Washington. (AP Photo/Julio Cortez, File)

(AP Photo/Julio Cortez, File)

PHOENIX — Four members of the Oath Keepers militia, including a Phoenix man, were found guilty Monday of seditious conspiracy in the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the U.S. Capitol.

It was the second major trial of far-right extremists accused of plotting to forcibly keep President Donald Trump in power.

The verdict against Phoenix’s Edward Vallejo comes weeks after after a different jury convicted the leader of the Oath Keepers, Stewart Rhodes, in the mob’s attack that halted the certification of President Joe Biden’s electoral victory.

The Washington jury deliberated for about 12 hours over three days before delivering their guilty verdict on the rarely used charge, which carries up to 20 years in prison. The four were also convicted of two other conspiracy charges as well as obstructing an official proceeding: Congress’ certification of the 2020 election. Minuta, Hackett and Moerschel were acquitted of lesser charges.

The judge denied prosecutors’ bid to lock up the men while they await sentencing, finding them not to be a risk of flight. They were ordered to remain in home detention with electronic monitoring. The judge didn’t immediately set a sentencing date.

It’s another major victory for the Justice Department, which is also trying to secure sedition convictions against the former leader of the Proud Boys and four associates. The trial against Enrique Tarrio and his lieutenants opened earlier this month in Washington and is expected to last several weeks.

The trials are some of the most serious cases brought so far in the sweeping Jan. 6 investigation, which continues to grow two years after the riot. The Justice Department has brought nearly 1,000 cases and the tally increases by the week.

Defense attorneys sought to downplay violent messages as mere bluster and said the Oath Keepers came to Washington to provide security at events before the riot. They seized on prosecutors’ lack of evidence that the Oath Keepers had an explicit plan to storm the Capitol before Jan. 6 and told jurors that the extremists who attacked the Capitol acted spontaneously like thousands of other rioters.

Prosecutors told jurors that Rhodes and his supporters began shortly after the 2020 election to prepare an armed rebellion to keep Trump in power. Messages show Rhodes and the Oath Keepers discussing the prospect of a “bloody” civil war and the need to keep Biden out of the White House.

“Our democracy was under attack, but for the defendants it was everything they trained for and a moment to celebrate,” Prosecutor Louis Manzo told jurors in his closing argument.

Prosecutors alleged that the Oath Keepers amassed weapons and stashed them at a Virginia hotel for so-called “quick reaction force” teams that could quickly shuttle guns into Washington to support their plot if they were needed. The weapons were never used.

Vallejo, a U.S. Army veteran, allegedly drove from Arizona to prepare with the quick reaction force at the hotel. When the trial opened, jurors heard an audio recording of Vallejo talking about a “declaration of a guerrilla war” on the morning of Jan. 6.

Vallejo was arrested on Jan. 13, 2022, the day after a federal grand jury returned an indictment charging the Phoenix man and 10 others. A superseding indictment with nine defendants, including the four men found guilty Monday, was handed down on July 22.

Three other Oath Keepers have pleaded guilty to seditious conspiracy and agreed to cooperate with prosecutors in the hopes of getting a lighter sentence. They are among about 500 people who have pleaded guilty to riot-related charges.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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Phoenix man, 3 others found guilty of seditious conspiracy in Jan. 6 attack