Judge weighs request to release Oath Keeper founder from jail pending trial

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FILE PHOTO: Stewart Rhodes of the Oath Keepers poses during an interview session in Eureka

By Sarah N. Lynch

WASHINGTON -A federal judge on Wednesday said he needs more time before ruling on whether right-wing Oath Keepers militia founder Stewart Rhodes should be released from jail as he awaits trial on a charge of seditious conspiracy for his alleged role in plotting the deadly Jan. 6, 2021, assault on the U.S. Capitol.

During a court hearing that lasted over 90 minutes on Wednesday, U.S. District Judge Amit Mehta said he wants pretrial services to vet a proposal by Rhodes’ defense team for their client to live with third-party custodians before making a decision.

He added that even if he does let Rhodes out of jail before trial, he would not be allowed to hold down a job during the day or travel freely.

“If I were to release him, it would be under the same strict conditions, which is 24-hour house arrest, no access to the Internet,” Mehta said. “It would be about as strict as it gets, without being behind bars.”

Rhodes, 56, is the most high-profile defendant of the more than 725 people charged with playing a role in the attack by then-President Donald Trump’s supporters.

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He is one of 11 members or associates of the Oath Keepers facing a seditious conspiracy charge.

He is accused of spearheading a conspiracy to block the certification of the presidential election by recruiting co-conspirators and even stationing armed “quick-reaction force” units outside of Washington to be ready to stop the peaceful transfer of power.

His attorneys disputed claims that Rhodes poses a danger and should be detained.

“There was no conspiracy to overthrow the government,” Rhodes’ attorney James Bright said.

Prosecutors argued on Wednesday that Rhodes poses a risk of flight and a threat.

Even though Rhodes did not ultimately activate the quick-reaction forces that were staged outside the city, the intent to attack was there, federal prosecutor Kathryn Rakoczy said.

(Reporting by Sarah N. Lynch; Editing by Mark Heinrich and Mark Porter)