Stewart Rhodes is charged with inciting conspiracy in connection with the US Capitol attack on January 6 last year.
The founder of the far-right Oath Keepers militia group has pleaded not guilty to charges of provocative conspiracy for his alleged role in the deadly attack last year in the capital of the United States.
With handcuffs and bone irons, Stewart Rhodes made a brief initial appearance in federal court in Plano, Texas, on Friday in the custody of U.S. marshals.
Rhodes (56) is the most high-profile accused of more than 725 charged so far because he allegedly participated in the January 6, 2021 attack on the Capitol building in Washington, DC.
A crowd of Donald Trump’s supporters stormed the Capitol that day shortly after the former Republican president delivered an infectious speech in which he repeated his false claims that the 2020 U.S. election was violated by widespread fraud.
The U.S. Department of Justice will request that Rhodes be detained while awaiting trial, a prosecutor said during Friday’s trial.
James Lee Bright, a Rhodes lawyer, told reporters his client was planning to fight the charges.
“He believes he will be acquitted,” Bright said, adding that Rhodes would oppose the government’s request for pre-trial detention. “He has no reason to flee. He has no passport. “He has nowhere to go,” said Bright.
Rhodes was charged earlier this week along with more than a dozen other members and associates of the Oath Keepers, who according to authorities came to Washington, DC, with the goal of stopping the certification of President Joe Biden’s election victory.
The indictment portrayed Rhodes as a main leader who warned his members to prepare for a “bloody and desperate battle” to prevent Biden from becoming president.
Prosecutors said Rhodes used private encrypted communications at the end of December 2020 to plan to travel to the U.S. capital on January 6, 2021. He and others planned to bring weapons to the area to help support the operation, they said.
“While some Oath Keepers members and affiliates violated the Capitol grounds and building, others were stationed just outside the city in rapid reaction force (QRF) teams,” the Justice Department said in a statement Thursday.
“According to the indictment, the QRF teams were prepared to quickly transport firearms and other weapons to Washington, DC in support of operations aimed at using force to stop the lawful transfer of presidential power.”
The indictment also says Rhodes spent thousands of dollars setting up equipment and weapons, including an AR-15 rifle, night-vision goggles and ammunition.
The Oathholders focuses on recruiting current and former police, emergency services and military members. The far-right group believes the federal government is infringing on its rights.