The federal government wants Oath Keeper founder Stewart Rhodes detained, without bail, pending his trial on the charges of seditious conspiracy for attempting to block the ascension of Joe Biden to the White House by force.
“The weight of the evidence of Rhodes’s dangerousness is immense,” government lawyers argue in a memo filed Thursday in district court (embedded below). Insisting that Rhodes “spearheaded” the conspiracy to block the peaceful transfer of power, the government writes that Rhodes needs to be jailed to “protect the community, ensure his return to court, and safeguard the integrity of evidence and the proceedings.”
The filing offers choice new details, including a text Rhodes allegedly sent a co-conspirator on Christmas Day 2020, discussing their plan to intimidate Congress on Trump’s behalf during the proceedings on Jan. 6: “The only chance we/he has is if we scare the shit out of them,” Rhodes wrote, “and convince them it will be torches and pitchforks time if they don’t do the right thing.”
The new memo offers an overview of the indictment against Rhodes, describing how Rhodes riled up followers to join him in Washington, D.C., for the events of Jan. 6, for which he personally purchased thousands of dollars of firearms that were kept across the river with a “Quick Reaction Force” in Virginia. It reprises how Rhodes allegedly later coordinated the actions of Oath Keepers who infiltrated the Capitol building, seeking to disrupt the certification of the Electoral College. The memo also describes Rhodes’ alleged endorsement of violence to prevent a Biden presidency: “From November 2020 through January 2021,” it states, “Rhodes regularly used the terms ‘civil war’ and ‘revolution’ to describe the necessary path forward.”
The memo also offers new details on Rhodes’ actions after Jan. 6, including his alleged efforts to cover his tracks: “Rhodes also took steps to destroy evidence of his involvement in this conspiracy,” the government claims. It says that when the government seized Rhodes’ cell phone with a warrant, it found evidence that Rhodes had deleted key texts detailing his planning and coordination from the messaging app Signal. The memo also quotes Rhodes’ texts to an alleged co-conspirator showing awareness that the government likely had access to their communications, including this message to Edward Vallejo, who allegedly oversaw the Oath Keepers’ stockpile of weapons: “Ed, keep in mind that is NOT a secure chat, Contains at least one turn-coat snitch,” Rhodes wrote. “Keep that in mind. Please confirm you got this.”
Additionally, the feds reveal their interest in an “associate” of the Oath Keepers founder “with whom Rhodes is very close and with whom Rhodes may have been living” after the insurrection. The government alleges this person texted “co-conspirators” on a group chat of Oath Keeper leaders “and told them to delete incriminating messages from their phones.”
Citing this behavior, the government argues that if Rhodes were released there is “a significant risk” that he “would seek to tamper with key witnesses or evidence as these are identified for him through the discovery process”.
At the core of the memo, the government argues for Rhodes pretrial detention because he was “the central leader and coordinator of this conspiracy” and because “there are no conditions of release that can reasonably assure … the defendant’s appearance in court.” Citing Rhodes’ bloody and revolutionary rhetoric it adds: “There is every reason to credit Rhodes’s own words and deeds and fear that he has or will plan additional violence if not detained.”
The government cites two primary factors in arguing why Rhodes needs to stay locked up. His access to weapons and his contempt for government authority. The memo underscores the long potential sentence Rhodes faces — up to 20 years on conspiracy charges — and his peripatetic lifestyle, having no fixed address. “The defendant has associates located throughout the United States, and he is known to possess many firearms and related equipment,” the memo says. “These factors all combine to give Rhodes the incentive and means to flee and attempt to evade prosecution.”
The memo concludes by highlighting Rhode’s unusual biography, training, and intelligence:
“He is a graduate of Yale Law School and has previously served in the military. Those experiences highlight that Rhodes should have and did know better,” the government asserts. “They support that his words were deliberate, that his deeds were calculated, and that his intent was criminal. Rhodes used his legal and military training to lead an attack on our core democratic traditions,” the memo argues, adding that Rhodes’ “statements and conduct” in the aftermath of Jan. 6, “suggest he would continue to encourage and coordinate violence.”