Oath Keepers Defendants Attack U.S. Evidence ‘manipulation’: Lawyers for the defendants allege that the Oath Keepers did not plot an attack on the Capitol building and claim that the prosecutors intentionally suppressed evidence to deceive the jury.
Oath Keepers Defendants Say That the U.S. Is “Manipulating” Evidence
On Monday, attorneys for three of the five Oath Keepers members on trial for seditious conspiracy in the January 6, 2021 Capitol riot finished their closing arguments and accused federal prosecutors of manipulating evidence by omitting key messages and overstating their clients’ involvement in the attack.
Meanwhile, the prosecution argued that the “overwhelming” evidence “standing in front of your eyes” should be enough to condemn Oath Keepers founder Stewart Rhodes and four co-defendants. Assistant U.S. Attorney Jeffrey S. Nestler emphasized that there should be no doubt that Rhodes intended to ignite a civil war. As they saw it, the government was not legitimate, thus they sought to overthrow it. Their own words lend credence to the government’s argument.
After eight weeks of trial, 46 witnesses, and hundreds of exhibits, United States District Judge Amit P. Mehta sent the matter to the jury. Starting at 9:30 a.m. on Tuesday, the jury will deliberate until a decision is made or Thanksgiving break ends, whichever comes first.
On January 6, Bradford Geyer, a defense attorney, portrayed his client Kenneth Harrelson as a follower rather than a leader. Harrelson’s messages were not shown to the jury, but not because he erased them, as the prosecution claimed; rather, as Geyer said, this was because Harrelson had no role in the planning process.
It’s bad enough that this is no longer, as Geyer put it, “about terrifying words.” Now you have to condemn him based on his possible mental state.
He said that Harrelson was politically apathetic, had just consented to come to Washington on January 4, 2021, and had no plans to enter the Capitol, despite having done so as part of a group of Oath Keepers on the east side of the structure.
In a critical statement, Geyer and Jonathan Crisp, the defense counsel representing Jessica Watkins, called the prosecution’s presentation of the films and evidence “government manipulation or fraud.”
He pointed out that the prosecution had shown screenshots of group chats on the Signal app, which Rhodes and many other members had used prior to and on the sixth of January, but had withheld some entries and falsely indicated Watkins responded to messages she did not answer. On the witness stand, Watkins confirmed that she had entered the Capitol building and expressed regret for her actions.
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Crisp and David Fischer, the attorney representing Thomas Caldwell, a Virginia resident, both stated their clients believed the confirmation was complete by 2:20 p.m. on January 6, when members of Congress were evacuated. Watkins and Caldwell, therefore, had no plans to interfere with the Electoral College tally.
NEW: The seditious conspiracy case against members of the Oath Keepers has been sent to the jury. Opening arguments began in the trial on Oct. 3.
— Ryan J. Reilly (@ryanjreilly) November 21, 2022
The question is, “Can you stop something that has already stopped?” Asks Crisp. How do you dispose of a corpse? However, the Electoral College tally was only temporarily put on hold before being resumed some six hours later.
To which Nestler replied, “Congress is not dead.” He said that the unfinished headcount was known of by Watkins and Caldwell because they were in contact with persons from outside the city.
After about the middle of November, Fischer noticed that Caldwell and Rhodes stopped exchanging messages. According to Fischer, prosecutors first claimed Caldwell was a leader of the Oath Keepers and had entered the Capitol, but then recanted these claims. Fischer claims that Caldwell only connected with an Oath Keepers offshoot in North Carolina that had already broken away from Rhodes and was not present at any Signal conversations or phone sessions.
Caldwell is accused of leading an armed “Quick Reaction Force” out of an Arlington hotel, but “why would the Oath Keepers have a non-Oath Keeper organize the QRF?” It was Fischer who posed the question. There was no communication between Mr. Caldwell and Stewart Rhodes. On January 6th, he did not interact with any Oath Keepers. None. So, he’s the man in charge of the QRF? Can you explain how that operates?