Phoenix man charged with 10 others in riot conspiracy in Capitol break-in Jan. 6
PHOENIX — An Arizona man and 10 others were indicted by a federal grand jury on Jan. 6, 2021, on seditious conspiracy and other charges related to a violent burglary of the U.S. Capitol, authorities said Thursday.
According to a US Department of Justice press release, Edward Vallejo, 63, of Phoenix, was charged for the first time in connection with Jan. 6, as was Elmer Stewart Rhodes III, 56, of Granbury, Texas.
Vallejo was arrested in Phoenix on Thursday morning. Rhodes, founder and leader of the far-right militia group Oath Keepers, was arrested in Little Elm, Texas.
This is the first time seditious conspiracy charges have been filed after the Capitol was stormed by supporters of then-President Donald Trump while Congress was in session to confirm President Joe Biden’s 2020 election victory. The indictment carries a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison.
The other defendants named in the new indictment have previous charges dated January 6: Thomas Caldwell, 67, of Berryville, Virginia; Joseph Hackett, 51, of Sarasota, Fla.; Kenneth Harrelson, 41, of Titusville, Fla.; Joshua James, 34, of Arab, Alabama; Kelly Meggs, 52, of Dunnellon, Fla.; Roberto Minuta, 37, of Prosper, Texas; David Moerschel, 44, of Punta Gorda, Fla.; Brian Ulrich, 44, from Guyton, Georgia; and Jessica Watkins, 39, of Woodstock, Ohio.
The indictment alleges that Vallejo and Caldwell coordinated “rapid response forces” teams from Oath Keepers and affiliates who “were prepared to expeditiously transport firearms and other weapons to Washington, DC, to support operations aimed at them.” to forcefully stop the lawful transfer of the President energy.”
The latest indictments partly refute the growing chorus of Republican lawmakers who have publicly questioned the severity of the attack, arguing that it could not have been as violent as no one has yet been charged with sedition or treason.
The prosecution alleges that Oath Keepers spent weeks discussing an attempt to overturn the election results and prepare for a siege by buying arms and making battle plans.
A seditious conspiracy occurs when two or more persons in the United States conspire to “overthrow, suppress, or destroy by force” the United States government, or to wage war against it, or to violently resist and attempt to to prevent the execution of a law.
But charges under this civil war law are rarely used because they are harder to prove and harder to win.
The last seditious conspiracy case was filed against members of a Michigan militia in 2010, but two years later they were acquitted by a judge who said their hateful diatribes did not prove they ever had detailed plans for a rebellion.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
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