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2022 is off to a rough start for the right wing.
In the last week, several prominent right wing figures have found themselves behind bars. First up, Proud Boy Tiny Toese, arrested in his home state of Washington and held without bail on – count ’em – 15 charges. Three of the charges related to a trespassing incident on January 6 2021, when Toese was allegedly among a crowd that breached the perimeter of the Washington Governor’s mansion; Toese was arrested for those on January 5. At his arraignment the following day, he was arrested again and charged with an additional 12 offenses in Oregon, including six charges of assault. Bail was denied and an extradition hearing will take place January 27.
In Idaho, meanwhile, Kyle Chapman, who once reveled in his ‘based stickman’ alter ego, was arrested and charged with battery on a healthcare worker, according in part to a police report obtained by LCRW. His bail was set at $100,000. Chapman, in hospital for pneumonia, is alleged to have forcibly seized a nurse who was treating him and to have harassed her further after his release from hospital. If the charges stick, his lawyers will be busy; Chapman is already on parole from Texas until July arising from an assault conviction following a 2017 barroom brawl, and separately on parole from the state of California until 2024 on weapons charges. If a court determines his transgression violates parole in the Texas case, he could face a custodial sentence of up to 20 years. Chapman was able to post bail and is free in Boise – for now.
But here at LCRW we like to save the best for last.
After months of speculation (not least by us), Oath Keepers founder and leader Stewart Rhodes has been arrested and charged with Seditious Conspiracy. DOJ prosecutors have combined his case with that of other Oath Keepers members who were previously facing conspiracy charges for their participation in J6. The sedition charges are rare, and were last used successfully in the 1990s. Specifically, prosecutors allege that Rhodes and his 10 co-defendants conspired ’to oppose the lawful transfer of presidential power by force.’
Rhodes was arrested Wednesday in Texas, where he remains in jail after being denied bail at his arraignment Friday afternoon.
WHEN THE GOING GETS TOUGH
The allegations in the indictment begin immediately after the 2020 election, with a message Rhodes sent to a Signal group called ‘Leadership Intel Chat’ in which he said ‘We aren’t getting through this without a civil war. Too late for that. Prepare your mind, body, spirit.’ A couple of days later he began citing a Serbian scientist named Aleksandar Savic, popular on the American right wing for his video diatribes against socialism and practical instructions on a civil disobedience campaign in that country which toppled the dictator Slobodan Milosevic.
On November 9 Rhodes convened a members-only conference call and laid out a basic plan to prevent the transfer of power from going ahead, including the use of force. Others on the call included previous indictee and co-defendant Kelly Meggs of Dunellon, FL, who was the state chapter leader for Florida – until Rhodes replaced him the day after J6, as described in our previous article.
Over the following 6 weeks, Rhodes and his alleged fellow conspirators focused on getting in fighting shape and drawing up operational plans – while doing their best to maintain secrecy. One Florida member, Joseph Hackett, sent an email containing a photograph of handwriting on a lined notepad with the text “Secure Comms Test. Good talk tonight guys! […] Comms – work in progress. Messages in cursive to eliminate digital reads.”
By late December 2020, the core conspirators appeared confident in their plan. One sent a message to the ‘Leadership Intel’ Signal chat stating ‘[South East] Region is creating a NATIONAL CALL TO ACTION FOR DC JAN 6TH…4 states are mobilizing.’ Nobody replied at first, leading him to follow up with a post saying ‘DID NO ONE HEAR ME!!!! 3 STATES ARE MOBILIZING TO DC!!! Everyone in this channel should understand the magnitude i just sent!!’ A day later, Rhodes gave an interview to a regional Oath Keepers leader stating that if Biden were to take power “We will have to do a bloody, massively bloody revolution against them. That’s what’s going to have to happen.”
His public statements were more moderate, such as an open letter on the Oath Keepers website published a few days later which said only that members might have to “take to arms in defense of our God given liberty.” But conversations between Meggs and Rhodes in an ‘OKFL Hangout’ chat showed a remarkably accurate forecast of j6 events. Meggs wrote ‘We need to make those Senators very uncomfortable with all of us being a few hundred feet away,’ to which Rhodes responded ‘I think Congress will screw [President Trump] over. The only chance we/he has is if we scare the shit out of them and convince them it will be torches and pitchforks time [if] they don’t do the right thing…’
THE TOUGH GO SHOPPING
As January approached, Rhodes went on a buying spree. It began with him spending $7000 on night-vision goggles and a rifle sight which he had shipped to a friend in Virginia. Over the next few days he purchased a shotgun, rifle, scopes, magazines, ammunition and numerous firearms accessories, spending a further $15,500.
The minute-by-minute events of January 6 have been written about a hundred times over – if you want an in-depth tactical examination we suggest James Scaminacci’s exhaustively detailed analysis. Here we’ll just focus on some of the interesting new details to emerge from the indictment.
Around 1:30 pm, an Oath Keepers affiliate suggested in the Leadership Signal chat that Antifa had breached the Capitol, but Rhodes quickly replied ‘Nope. I’m right here. These are Patriots.’
While Rhodes waited outside, two separate groups of Oath Keepers – in the by-now-famous ‘stack’ formation – had entered the capitol building, with different objectives. One group, which included Florida state chapter leader Kelly Meggs, moved towards the House of Representatives with the specific objective of locating the Speaker, Nancy Pelosi, though as things turned out they never got close.
Group two was led by Roberto Minuta of new Jersey. Around 2:30 he and the rest of his squad were live-streaming on Facebook as they rushed toward the capitol in the first vehicles they could commandeer. Minuta narrated the scene to viewers:
‘Patriots are storming the Capitol building…there’s violence against patriots by the DC police…so we’re en route in a grand theft auto golf cart to the Capitol building right now…it’s going down guys, it’s literally going down right now, patriots storming the Capitol building…fucking war in the streets right now…word is they got in the building…let’s gooo.’
Though the insurrection petered out within hours, the Oath Keepers were undaunted and several of them joined Rhodes that evening at a restaurant in Virginia to celebrate their success. Rhodes posted in the ‘Leadership Signal Chat that ‘Thousands of ticked off patriots spontaneously marched on the Capitol,’ modestly omitting to mention the months of planning that he and his fellow Oath Keepers had invested. He concluded ‘You ain’t seen nothing yet.’ Another member, Edward Vallejo, added ‘We’ll be back at 6am to do it again. We got food for 30 days,’ while Florida state Leader Kelly Meggs – unaware that he would be relieved of that title by Rhodes the following day – posted ‘We aren’t quitting!! We are reloading!!’
Rhodes concluded the online pep talk with the ominous warning that ‘Patriots entering their own Capitol to send a message to the traitors is NOTHING compared to what’s coming.’ As we saw in a previous article, the Oath Keepers website and chat room were taken offline almost immediately after the Capitol riot, and system administrators Edward Durfee and Bret Wynkoop spent long days trying to bring it back online. As soon as they succeeded, Rhodes picked up where he left off, trying to stoke the Oath Keepers into rising up against what he considered to an illegitimate regime installed by treachery.
The following morning, Vallejo posted to the same Signal group that he was leaving the hotel to ‘probe their defensive line’ and inviting Rhodes to call him when he was awake. It’s unclear from the indictment whether he actually received the go ahead or carried out his reconnaissance mission, but by the morning of January 7th, the Capitol was already surrounded by a ring of steel.
Details of the Oath Keepers movements immediately after January 6 remain murky. In one signal message, Jessica Watkins said ‘We’ve been organizing a bugout plan if [Biden] is installed…Something like 20+ Oathkeepers going to Kentucky mountains on hundreds of acres apparently…be like the [North Vietnamese Army]’. Whatever their actual plan was, over the following two weeks Stewart Rhodes would spend a further $17,500 on firearm parts, ammunition and accessories. While Ed Durfee Jr was desperately trying to keep the organization’s funding alive, Rhodes spent a cool $40,000 of the Oath Keepers budget on weaponry.
Rhodes passed through and eventually ended up in Texas with several fellow Oath Keepers, and Rhodes began working on his larger plan, as we have documented previously. It appears he was still working on it when he was arrested on Wednesday. For now the leadership has been taken over by Kelly SoRelle, the organizations long-standing attorney.