The Department of Justice (DOJ) announced that the founder of a group called Oath Keepers, fifty-six-year-old Elmer Stewart Rhodes III, was arrested on Thursday, January 13, for alleged “seditious conspiracy” regarding the January 6, 2021, breach at the U.S. Capitol. Rhodes will remain in custody until a detention hearing takes place on January 20.
Rhodes, of Granbury, Texas, was arrested in Little Elm. According to the DOJ, he allegedly organized a group and created plans to travel to the U.S. Capitol with weapons and equipment. The DOJ alleges that he played a significant role in managing teams, recruiting other participants, creating training programs for combat, and bringing items to the Capitol such as camo uniforms, tactical vests, batons, knives, helmets, radio equipment, and eye protection. According to the FBI, he allegedly purchased $40,000 worth of equipment and ammunition before January 6, 2021.
Rhodes was allegedly on restricted grounds and told his followers to go to the building. WFAA reported that the DOJ alleges he texted messages to his followers on that day, stating, “We aren’t getting through this without a civil war.” However, Rhodes’ attorney Jon Moseley asserted that his client never entered the Capitol building.
Dr. Michael Phillips, a professor at Collin College, said, “Generally, these cases trip up on the issue of free speech… you actually have to have those words connected to action.”
Rhodes graduated from Yale Law School, has no criminal background, and is a former U.S. Army paratrooper. The website for Oath Keepers states, “Oath Keepers is a non-partisan association of current and formerly-serving military, police, and first responders who pledge to fulfill the oath all military and police take to ‘defend the Constitution against all enemies, foreign and domestic.'” The group also allows civilian citizens who have not served to become Associate Members of the organization.
KWTX News reported that the role of president for Oath Keepers is now placed upon Granbury lawyer Kellye SoRelle until the situation is resolved with Rhodes. “I am currently acting as President of Oath Keepers in lieu of Mr. Rhodes until he is released. He is not guilty of any of the outlandish charges, and the organization stands with Mr. Rhodes. I would like for the political parties and politicians to stop dividing the people and using us to promote agendas for their own personal financial gain,” SoRelle stated.
According to The Texas Tribune, Rhodes’ alleged conspiracy was “opposing the transfer of presidential power by force.” If convicted of seditious conspiracy, Rhodes could face twenty years in prison.
More than 725 people, many of whom are from Texas, have been charged in the attack on the U.S. Capitol on January 6, 2021.