The far-right group and militia, much like the Proud Boys, emerged as prominent organizers and extremists in the insurrection investigation. Federal agents reportedly have investigated the group since the Spring, mounting a significant amount of evidence to file the first charge of sedition in the Jan. 6 attack.
According to The New York Times, Stewart Rhodes is a former Army paratrooper and Yale law school graduate. He wears a black right patch over his left eye since he was harmed in a gun accident, but the accessory has become a big part of his image.
Against the advice of his lawyer, following the Jan. 6 Capitol attack, he sat down for an interview with investigators back in July. The interview lasted roughly three hours, and he told the FBI that his militia did not plan to overthrow the results of the election. He alleged that members of the Oath Keepers, excluding himself, only went into the building to offer aid and make sure that people were safe.
“I did express frustration that some of my guys went in,” Rhodes told investigators at the time, adding that they had “gone off mission.”
Members of the Oath Keepers alleged that they were hired as additional security detail in Washington D.C. by Trump ally Roger Stone, though still part in the Capitol attack on Jan. 6.
“There were zero instructions from me or leadership to do so,” Stewart Rhodes claimed.
Federal agents later seized his cellphone outside a Texas hotel under search warrant and found multiple messages on various communication apps with people as they were partaking in the Capitol assault.
House committee members remarked in a subpoena letter to Rhodes that they uncovered texts he sent calling the election votes dishonest, and that a recount was necessary to ensure a victory for former President Donald Trump.
He referred to Trump as the “duly elected president,” and later told members at a meeting that, “You can call it an insurrection, or you can call it a war or fight.”
On multiple separate occasions, Rhodes invoked Trump supporters to violence, stating that a “bloody war” might be necessary. The New York Times reported that he called on the Oath Keepers to “stock up on ammo” and prepare for a “full-out war in the streets.”
Stewart Rhodes, and 10 others charged, were accused of not only forcing their way into the Capitol building, but also planning a “quick reaction force” in a hotel in Virginia, armed and ready to move if need be. Other members of the Oath Keepers, such as Edward Vallejo, allegedly stashed weapons at the Virginia hotel.
Rhodes also spoke about the Virginia militia with conspiracy theorist and InfoWars host Alex Jones, who is also under investigation for his role in inciting the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol.
“We aren’t going through this without civil war. Too late for that. Prepare your mind, body and spirit,” Rhodes said on the messaging app Signal. “There is no standard political or legal way out of this.”
“All I see Trump doing is complaining. I see no intent by him to do anything,” he wrote after the attack began on Jan. 6. “So the patriots are taking it into their own hands. They’ve had enough.”
He has repeatedly denied all wrongdoing and called the charges “made-up crimes.”
Kelly Meggs, leader of the Florida chapter of Oath Keepers, is also facing multiple charges. The group was accused of seeking out Nancy Pelosi with the intention to cause harm, later leaving the building when the House Speaker could not be found.
If convicted, charges of sedition conspiracy carry a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison each.