Stewart Rhodes, founder of the right-wing militia group, along with nine others who have been previously charged entered the not-guilty pleas at Tuesday’s pretrial hearing in a Washington, D.C., federal court. Eleven Oath Keepers were indicted on charges including seditious conspiracy earlier this month. One defendant, Edward Vallejo, was not present for the hearing and did not submit a plea.
Each faces a 20-year maximum prison sentence if convicted at the trial tentatively scheduled for July. The prosecutors and defense lawyers are exploring plea deal options, according to CNN. Prosecutors argued last week that Rhodes should remain in jail while awaiting trial.
Separately, a group of 22 Oath Keepers will begin trial in April, Judge Amit Mehta ruled Tuesday, despite prosecutors’ objections that the date did not give them enough time to sift through the mountains of digital evidence needed to make their case. Rhodes and his cohort’s trial will not begin until after the first concludes. A third Oath Keeper trial would follow in September.
Rhodes, an Army veteran and graduate of Yale Law School, was arrested Jan. 13 on seditious conspiracy charges for his role in coordinating the militia at the Capitol riot a year before. The Justice Department alleges that he and his group went to Washington with the goal of preventing President Joe Biden’s certification as the winner of the 2020 election.
According to the indictment, Rhodes was also charged with conspiracy to obstruct an official proceeding, obstruction of an official proceeding, obstruction of an officer from discharging his or her duties, and tampering with documents. During the riot, one group of Oath Keepers was at the Capitol while another acted as security, with a third group in nearby Virginia with a stash of weapons at the ready. Rhodes at one point told his followers during the preparation to be ready for “civil war.”