Outcome in Oath Keepers Trial Could Hold Lessons for Coming Jan. 6 Cases

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Complicating matters even further, a third Oath Keepers trial is set for February, though the eight defendants in that case have not been charged with sedition. This group counts among its ranks Mr. Meggs’s wife, a middle-aged couple from Ohio and a former Broadway actor.

In between the two Oath Keepers trials is another seditious conspiracy trial: that of five members of the far-right nationalist Proud Boys, which is set to begin on Dec. 19. As in Mr. Rhodes’s trial, the Proud Boys case will focus on the organization’s leaders — among them, Enrique Tarrio, the group’s former chairman, and some of his top lieutenants from Florida, Washington State and Pennsylvania.

Prosecutors are likely to base their case against the Proud Boys on hundreds, if not thousands, of encrypted text messages that the government believes show how the group moved increasingly toward using violence to keep Mr. Biden out of office in the weeks between the election and Jan. 6. They are also likely to call some former Proud Boys as government witnesses, perhaps including two high-ranking members, Charles Donohoe and Jeremy Bertino, who pleaded guilty in the case.

But prosecutors plan to use a different — and novel — strategy in their efforts to prove the sedition charges against the Proud Boys, suggesting that Mr. Rhodes’s trial may not be as much of a model.

In convicting Mr. Rhodes, the government focused on the storehouse of weapons in Virginia, claiming that they formed the basis for the central element of the sedition charge: that the Oath Keepers plotted to use force to stop the lawful transfer of power. Mr. Rhodes and most of his co-defendants did not commit any serious acts of violence themselves on Jan. 6, but the jury apparently found that the weapons stashed across the river presented a threat of force sufficient to convict.

Prosecutors at the Proud Boys trial intend to argue that Mr. Tarrio and his four co-defendants — Ethan Nordean, Joseph Biggs, Zachary Rehl and Dominic Pezzola — instigated other members of the group and ordinary rioters to attack the police, leading to a series of consequential breaches of the Capitol’s security.

“On Jan. 6, the defendants sought to harness the actions of others to achieve their objective of forcibly opposing the lawful transfer of presidential power,” prosecutors wrote in recent court papers. “In so doing, the defendants used these individuals as ‘tools.’”

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