Oathkeeper founder Stewart Rhodes has been found guilty of seditious conspiracy, the first time the charge has been handed out since 1995. He faces up to 20 years in prison after plotting to overthrow the 2020 presidential election in connection with the US Capitol riots on January 6 2021.
After a two-month trial, Mr Rhodes and another member, Kelly Meggs, were found guilty in Washington DC on November 29 by a federal jury after three days of deliberations.
Three other members of the Oath Keepers, Kenneth Harrelson, Jessica Watkins and Thomas Caldwell were acquitted.
The three of them entered the Capitol building wearing tactical gear, and Ms Watkins admitted to “criminal liability” by impeding police officers inside the Capitol but denied trying to storm the building.
All five defendants were convicted of obstruction of an official proceeding, and have mixed verdicts on other charges.
Harry Litman, a former US attorney, now a legal analyst, wrote on social media that the guilty verdicts represented “a huge huge victory for the US [justice department] in a challenging and deeply important, even historic, case”.
Fifty witnesses testified in the case, with Mr Rhodes and two other accused testifying in their own defence.
Mr Rhodes did not go inside the Capitol building but was accused of leading the plot to try and overthrow the 2020 presidential election.
Mr Rhodes insisted his followers acted on their own accord and went rogue.
In the court case, recordings and encrypted messages by Mr Rhodes showed he called on his followers to keep former president Donald Trump in office and warned of a “bloody” civil war.
Messages sent by Mr Rhodes revealed that the Oath Keepers leader expressed regret that his group did not bring rifles to the Capitol on January 6, reports stated.
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Mr Rhodes went to Yale University to study law and is a former US paratrooper and disbarred attorney.
He wears an eye patch due to accidentally shooting himself in the face, and is one of the most prominent figures who has now been found guilty in the Capitol attack.
Mr Rhodes, who prosecutors say acted like a “battlefield general” during the Capitol riots, was also found guilty of tampering with documents of the proceedings and was found acquitted of two other conspiracy counts.
He founded the Oath Keepers, as a pro-gun, anti-government group in 2009 and has shown up to protests as well as armed standoffs across the US.
The group is named after the oath of service that police and military officers make when they pledge to “support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic”.
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Prosecutors on the trial did not allege that the group planned to break into the Capitol building but had conspired to commit an act of treason against the US Government.
Assistant US Attorney Jeffrey Nestler said to jurors on the case: “They took matters out of the hands of the people, and put rifles into their own hands.
“They claimed to wrap themselves in the Constitution. They trampled it instead. They claimed to be saving the Republic, but they fractured it.”
Four other members of the Oath Keepers have been charged with seditious conspiracy and will go to trial next month.
Other members of the far-right group Proud Boys, including its former chairman Enrique Tarrio, will also face trial on seditious conspiracy charges this December.