In a tense, head-to-head exchange with Oath Keepers leader Stewart Rhodes, prosecutors used Rhodes’ own words from texts, speeches and interviews to suggest to the jury that the militia leader misled them when he testified he was unaware of other members’ activities on January 6, 2021, and was appalled by the violence that day.
Rhodes is the first of the five defendants charged with seditious conspiracy in federal court in Washington, DC, to testify.
In his two-day testimony, Rhodes told the jury that he wasn’t involved in the specifics of planning for January 6, and that he had no knowledge of plans for the so-called quick reaction force that the group set up in Virginia to quickly move weapons into Washington, as prosecutors have alleged.
Prosecutor Kathryn Rakoczy, however, showed the jury Signal messages in which Rhodes told other members that “We WILL have a QRF” on January 6 because “this situation calls for it” and was part of group messages where members shared photographs of routes the QRF could use to enter the city.
“The buck stopped with you in this operation,” Rakoczy said to Rhodes, reading the leader’s messages aloud.
“I’m responsible for everything everyone else did?” Rhodes responded.
“You’re in charge, right?” Rakoczy said.
“Not if they do something off mission,” he shot back.
“That’s convenient,” Rakoczy said, smiling.
The militia leader also told prosecutors that he “hoped to avoid” conflict and was only concerned about a civil war breaking out after Joe Biden became president – leading to a chiding question from Rakoczy about how “the civil war will be on [January] 21st and not on the sixth?”
“I don’t condone the violence that happened” on January 6, Rhodes testified. “Anyone who did assault a police officer that day should be prosecuted for it.”
Rakoczy pointed to statements Rhodes made in a secretly recorded conversation in the days after January 6 where he said he wished the Oath Keepers had brought rifles to the Capitol that day.
“If he’s not going to do the right thing, and he’s just going to let himself be removed illegally, then we should have brought rifles,” Rhodes said in the recording prosecutors again played for the jury.
“We could have fixed it right then and there,” Rhodes said of the Capitol attack, according to the recording. “I’d hang f**king Pelosi from the lamppost.”
After playing the recording, Rakoczy asked Rhodes, “That’s what you said four days after the assault at the Capitol, right?”
“Yeah, after a couple drinks and I was pissed off,” Rhodes testified.
Rhodes and the other four defendants have pleaded not guilty to the seditious conspiracy charges.