On Wednesday afternoon, a federal judge in Plano, Texas, agreed with prosecutors that Rhodes, the founder of the right-wing Oath Keepers militia, poses a danger to society and should be denied bail. Magistrate Judge Kimberly Priest Johnson announced her decision in a 17 page decision (embedded below). Johnson wrote that Rhodes’ “authoritative role in the conspiracy, access to substantial weaponry, and ability to finance any future insurrection, combined with his continued advocacy for violence against the federal government, gives rise to a credible threat that Defendant’s release might endanger others.”
Judge Johnson heard arguments on whether Rhodes should stay in jail on Monday. She took two days to mull her decision, but was ultimately receptive to arguments laid out by prosecutors in court and in a memo released late last week. The feds alleged Rhodes “spearheaded” the Oath Keeper conspiracy to stop Joe Biden from becoming president, an effort that peaked during the insurrection of Jan. 6 but continued for weeks afterward. Rhodes “stood at the center of the seditious conspiracy,” the government argued, “orchestrating plans to use force, recruiting and financing co-conspirators, purchasing weaponry and tactical gear, inciting support and action, and endeavoring to conceal his and other co-conspirators’ crimes.”
That memo highlighted Rhodes’s alleged intent to intimidate Congress on Jan. 6, reprinting a text-message exchange from Christmas Day, 2020, in which Rhodes wrote that the “only chance” to block the congressional certification of the Electoral College vote “is if we scare the shit out of them, and convince them it will be torches and pitchforks time if they don’t do the right thing.”
The memo underscored that Rhodes purchased thousands of dollars of firearms and tactical equipment and alleges that he was in command of heavily armed “Quick Reaction Forces” positioned across the river in Virginia on Jan. 6. The memo argued that Rhodes — a Yale educated lawyer — knew the ramifications of his actions, insisting “that his words were deliberate, that his deeds were calculated, and that his intent was criminal.”
In court on Monday, Assistant U.S. Attorney Kathryn Rakoczy insisted Rhodes still poses a danger: “It’s difficult to imagine a greater risk to society,” she said, insisting Rhodes could “further the goals of this conspiracy” if released.
Rhodes formally entered a plea of not guilty in the case on Tuesday. One of his lawyers told reporters that, “He intends to fight the charges until the very, very end.” Rhodes, 56, founded the Oath Keeper militia in 2009, actively recruiting members with military and law enforcement experience, seeking to stand up to perceived government “tyranny.” Rhodes’ lawyers had pointed to the fact that federal authorities waited to charge the militia boss for more than a year after the insurrection at the Capitol, without losing tabs on him, as evidence that Rhodes was not a flight risk.
The government cited Rhodes’ contempt for the federal government, his easy access to weaponry, his lack of a fixed address, his network of militants across the nation, as well as his alleged efforts to tamper with evidence (Rhodes faces a separate charge for destroying incriminating messages from his Signal app) as reasons the Oath Keepers’ leader needed to be detained until trial. “Rhodes showed a contempt for the laws and Constitution of this country that make it impossible to trust that he would comply with any conditions” of his release, prosecutors wrote.
The continued detention of Rhodes is not a surprise. Last week, a different federal judge denied bail to Edward Vallejo, an alleged Oath Keepers co-conspirator whom the feds say oversaw a stockpile weapons in a hotel in Virginia as part of a Quick Reaction Force. In evidence cited in that proceeding, Vallejo texted Rhodes with messages that revealed the military-style structure of the alleged conspiracy. On Jan. 7, Vallejo wanted to run a recon mission into D.C. to probe whether further action would be fruitful: “I’ll depart when cleared by my Commander Sir,” he texted Rhodes.
Later that same day, Vallejo allegedly appeared on a podcast, vowing to continue the effort, while again citing Rhodes as his leader: “I’m never done,” Vallejo said. “I’m waiting for orders from Stewart Rhodes.”