Jury deliberations begin in Oath Keepers conspiracy trial
A Washington, DC, federal jury will continue deliberations on Monday in the conspiracy trial against six people affiliated with the right-wing Oath Keepers militia group for their alleged actions on January 6, 2021.
Prosecutors and defense counsel concluded their closing arguments on Friday, after which jurors debated for about 30 minutes before being sent home.
While six members and affiliates of the group, including leaders Stewart Rhodes and Kelly Meggs, have been convicted by juries in Washington, DC, of seditious conspiracy, this group – an assortment of disparate individuals who joined others in the Oath Keepers that day – faces a lesser charge of conspiracy to obstruct an official proceeding. All have pleaded not guilty.
Prosecutor Troy Edwards argued that the defendants “ignored the will of the people” by storming the US Capitol grounds “because they hated the outcome of the 2020 election.”
“These six people believed they were above the law. No one is,” Edwards said on Friday.
According to the Justice Department, members and affiliates of the Oath Keepers joined together in a stack formation on the steps of the Capitol, snaking their way through the crowd and into the building.
Defendants Sandra Parker, Laura Steele, Connie Meggs and William Isaacs entered the Capitol, prosecutors say, and some of them allegedly tried to make their way to the Senate chamber before being deterred by pepper spray and police officers in the building.
Isaacs, 22, joined the Oath Keepers group at the behest of his aunt, who thought the militia might help him fight off the depression he faced after his dad passed away, according to his attorney, Eugene Rossi.
Rossi also said that Isaacs is on the autism spectrum, a condition that is especially triggered by stressful events like those at the Capitol that day. Isaacs, Rossi argued, was “even less than a pawn” on January 6, “he was a minnow.”
But the government alleges Isaacs was part of a mob that pushed against officers and forced its way into the Capitol.
“Being on the autism spectrum and especially on the low end does not excuse a person’s conduct. Autism is not a defense,” Edwards said. “William Isaacs knew exactly what he was doing, and he knew it was wrong.”
While other defendants in the trial – Michael Greene, a military veteran, and Bennie Parker, the husband of Sandra – are not alleged to have entered the Capitol itself, the government says they were still part of the conspiracy.
Despite Greene’s arguments that he was hired by the Oath Keepers, specifically Rhodes, to run security on January 6, Edwards said that during the riot, Greene wasn’t with anyone the Oath Keepers were offering security for.
While the attack was unfolding, Greene was on the west side of the Capitol and texted someone, “We’re storming the Capitol,” according to prosecutors.
An attorney for Greene, Britt Redden, told the jury that if Greene – an experienced combat veteran – “had wanted to hunt down members of Congress on January 6” he would have had a much more meticulous plan at the ready, instead of being a passive bystander.
Greene “was there doing a security job he was hired to perform,” Redden said.
Prosecutors also played video of Bennie Parker on January 6 outside the Capitol, saying that “there’s not a whole lot they can do with this many people” and that the building “belongs to us.”
“And if we need to, it will come to a civil war, and a lot of people are willing to take up their arms,” Parker added.