U.S. urges jury to convict Oath Keepers for plotting to maintain Trump in energy By Reuters

© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: Oath Keepers militia founder Stewart Rhodes poses throughout an interview session in Eureka, Montana, U.S. June 20, 2016. REUTERS/Jim Urquhart/File Photograph

By Sarah N. Lynch

WASHINGTON (Reuters) -A prosecutor on Friday urged jurors to convict Stewart Rhodes, founding father of the right-wing Oath Keepers militia group, and 4 associates, saying they “threw their our bodies to the trigger” on the day of the U.S. Capitol assault to attempt to block Congress from certifying then-President Donald Trump’s loss to Joe Biden.

Prosecution and protection legal professionals gave closing arguments to the jury in federal court docket in Washington in an eight-week trial that has included testimony from 50 witnesses and video of the Jan. 6, 2021, rampage by Trump supporters on the Capitol. The protection was because of full its closing arguments on Monday earlier than jurors start deliberations.

The defendants, their legal professionals informed the jury, went to Washington that day to protest the election and supply safety to high-profile audio system at political rallies, and had no plan to storm the Capitol – nor have been they ordered to take action.

Rhodes and co-defendants Thomas Caldwell, Jessica Watkins, Kenneth Harrelson and Kelly Meggs are charged with a number of felonies in reference to the Capitol assault together with seditious conspiracy, which carries a sentence of as much as 20 years in jail.

“These defendants banded collectively and agreed to do no matter was essential, as much as and together with utilizing pressure and violence, to cease the election consequence from changing into finalized, after which on Jan. 6, they struck,” prosecutor Kathryn Rakoczy informed the jury.

“They noticed the riot unfolding on the Capitol they usually threw their our bodies to the trigger, they usually took it,” Rakoczy added.

The Capitol assault adopted false claims by Trump, a Republican, and his allies that the November 2020 presidential election was stolen from him by way of widespread voting fraud. Biden, a Democrat, took workplace two weeks later.

The rioters attacked police and despatched lawmakers, workers and even Trump’s personal vice chairman, Mike Pence, fleeing for security.

Prosecutors introduced video of the riots, textual content messages, audio recordings, surveillance footage and excerpts from the testimony of confessed co-conspirators. Three of the 5 defendants additionally took the witness stand in their very own protection.

As Rakoczy recapped the proof on Friday, she sought to persuade the jury that the defendants’ inflammatory banter in regards to the 2020 election was extra than simply bluster.

So as to receive a conviction on the cost of seditious conspiracy, prosecutors should show past an inexpensive doubt that two or extra individuals plotted to make use of pressure to oppose the U.S. authorities.

The prosecution has mentioned members of the Oath Keepers conspired to make use of pressure to maintain Trump in energy by stopping Congress from certifying Biden’s election victory, with defendants Meggs, Watkins and Harrelson coming into the Capitol clad in tactical gear.

Prosecutors even have mentioned the Oath Keepers staged a “fast response pressure” in a close-by Virginia resort that featured a stockpile of firearms that might be taken into Washington if wanted.

The protection painted a special image.

“There was no assembly of the minds. There was no plan,” James Lee Brilliant, one in every of Rhodes’ attorneys, informed jurors.

Rhodes, Caldwell and Watkins testified in their very own protection. They denied plotting any assault or looking for to dam Congress from certifying the election outcomes, although Watkins admitted to impeding law enforcement officials defending the Capitol.

Throughout cross-examination, prosecutors tried to undermine the credibility of the defendants by displaying examples of violent rhetoric they used earlier than, throughout and after the riot in messages on the Zello “walkie-talkie” app, cellphone calls, texts and on social media.

Protection attorneys downplayed the importance of that proof.

“It was heated rhetoric. Horrible heated rhetoric. Bombast. Inappropriate. However that’s not indicative of an settlement of a gathering of the minds,” Brilliant mentioned.

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