The leader of far-right anti-government militia group Oath Keepers and nine others accused of plotting to overturn the results of the 2020 presidential election with an armed insurrection against members of Congress have pleaded not guilty to seditious conspiracy and other charges in connection with the attack on the US Capitol on 6 January, 2021.
The charges of seditious conspiracy – the most-serious yet filed in the wake of the assault on the halls of Congress – carry a sentence of up to 20 years in prison if convicted.
Oath Keepers founder Stewart Rhodes, among the most prominent figures charged in the US Department of Justice probe, remains jailed in Texas pending a bond decision by a US magistrate judge.
The 56-year-old US Army veteran and graduate of Yale Law School claims he did not enter the Capitol and has denied any wrongdoing.
Another man charged in the indictment, Edward Vallejo, was not present for a virtual arraignment on 25 January but is expected to enter a plea at a later date.
The 11 defendants will stand trial on 11 July in US District Court in Washington DC.
According to federal prosecutors, the group “coordinated travel across the country to enter Washington DC, equipped themselves with a variety of weapons, donned combat and tactical gear, and were prepared to answer Rhodes’s call to take up arms” at his direction.
Others charged in the 48-page, 17-count indictment “amassed firearms” outside the city and “distributed them among ‘quick reaction force’ teams … in support of their plot to stop the lawful transfer of presidential power,” according to an indictment.
Members coordinated their plans on messaging apps in the days leading up to the assault, dispatching two “stacks” to initiate the breach, prosecutors said.
One “stack” broke through law enforcement barriers outside the US Senate chamber and another broke through the House side of the Capitol looking for House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, according to an indictment.
The members “did not find Speaker Pelosi and ultimately left the building,” prosecutors said.
In September, Oath Keepers member and former US Marine Jason Dolan Jason Dolan pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy and one count of obstruction of an official proceeding in charges connected with the Capitol riots. He has agreed to cooperate with federal investigators.
Members of the Oath Keepers also are targeted in a civil suit filed by the attorney general of the District of Columbia and other groups last month. The case is the first civil lawsuit from a government entity against people connected to the attack.
In November, the House select committee investigating the events leading up to and surrounding the attack issued a subpoena to Mr Rhodes and other far-right groups for “relevant information about how violence erupted at the Capitol and the preparation leading up to this violent attack,” according to committee chair Bennie Thompson.