Eleven rioters, including the founder of the far-right group the Oath Keepers, who stormed the US Capitol in an attempt to overturn the results of the 2020 presidential election have been charged with seditious conspiracy, federal officials said Thursday.
Elmer Stewart Rhodes, the 56-year-old founder of the extremist group, was charged alongside Edward Vallejo, 63, and nine other defendants who had been previously arrested for participating in the insurrection.
Ahead of the riot at the Capitol, Rhodes and his cohorts organized teams who planned to bring ammunition and firearms to Washington and organized training for fellow rioters to learn “paramilitary combat tactics,” the Justice Department said in a statement.
During the raid on the Capitol, Rhodes and his followers utilized paramilitary techniques, according to the indictment that was handed down by a grand jury Wednesday.
Soon after the mob of President Donald Trump supporters breached the building, Rhodes entered a restricted area of the Capitol and called for his followers to meet him there, the Justice Department said.
A number of other Oath Keepers — including five of Rhodes’ co-defendants — and their associates then formed a “stack” formation, marched up the Capitol steps and also entered the building, according to the indictment.
Another group of Oath Keepers formed a similar formation on another side of the Capitol and also breached the grounds, the feds said.
As the rioters broke into the building, other Oath Keepers were stationed outside the District of Columbia in so-called quick reaction force teams.
The paramilitary teams were formed so they could quickly transport weapons and ammunition into the city to help thwart the peaceful transfer of presidential power.
The teams were coordinated by Vallejo and co-defendant Thomas Caldwell, 67, according to the indictment.
Rhodes, of Texas, formed the Oath Keepers during the Obama administration and seeks to recruit active and former military members, law enforcement and other first responders to its ranks.
Members, some of whom have connections with militia groups, believe the government is run by a “shadowy conspiracy that is trying to strip American citizens of their rights,” according to the Anti-Defamation League.
If convicted, the suspects will face a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison for seditious conspiracy, according to the Justice Department.
The feds have so far brought charges against more than 700 pro-Trump rioters in connection with the Jan. 6 riot.