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The Washington Post

Defendants assault U.S. ‘manipulation’ of proof in Oath Keepers trial


Wrapping up closing arguments Monday, attorneys for 3 of 5 Oath Keepers associates dealing with trial for seditious conspiracy within the Jan. 6, 2021, Capitol riot accused federal prosecutors of manipulating proof by omitting key messages and overstating their involvement within the assault.

Prosecutors countered by urging jurors to convict Oath Keepers founder Stewart Rhodes and 4 co-defendants, citing “overwhelming” proof “proper in entrance of your eyes.”

“Make no mistake, he [Rhodes] wished to start out a civil struggle,” Assistant U.S. Lawyer Jeffrey S. Nestler mentioned. “They wished to assault what they noticed as an illegitimate authorities. Their very own statements show the federal government’s case.”

U.S. District Decide Amit P. Mehta submitted the case to the jury after eight weeks of trial, 46 witnesses and tons of of displays. The jury is about to start deliberations at 9:30 a.m. Tuesday, take off the remainder of Thanksgiving week if no verdict is reached, and resume deliberations subsequent week.

Feds: Oath Keepers sought ‘violent overthrow’ of government

Protection lawyer Bradford Geyer solid shopper Kenneth Harrelson as a follower, not a frontrunner on Jan. 6. The jury didn’t see Harrelson’s communications — not as a result of he deleted them, as prosecutors alleged, however as a result of he didn’t take part in planning, Geyer argued.

“That is now not about scary phrases,” Geyer mentioned, “which is unhealthy sufficient. Now you’re requested to convict based mostly on what he might need been pondering.”

He mentioned Harrelson was apolitical, solely agreed to journey to D.C. on Jan. 4, 2021, and by no means had any intention of getting into the Capitol, although he did in order a part of a stack of Oath Keepers on the east facet of the constructing.

Geyer and Jonathan Crisp, the lawyer for defendant Jessica Watkins, criticized how prosecutors offered movies and proof, calling it “authorities manipulation or deception.” He famous that prosecutors confirmed group chat discussions on the Sign app, utilized by Rhodes and lots of different members earlier than and through Jan. 6, however omitted sure posts and wrongly implied Watkins responded to messages she didn’t reply.

Watkins admitted on the stand that she went into the Capitol, and apologized for it.

Crisp famous that prosecutors by no means requested Watkins, throughout her testimony, if there was “a plan to cease the certification. A plan to overthrow the federal government. … She was by no means requested about that.”

He mentioned prosecutors “will put something in entrance of you, to lie and twist it. If they may go to this excessive for his or her narrative, for his or her context, they’re entitled to no credibility.”

Crisp and David Fischer, lawyer for Virginia resident Thomas Caldwell, each mentioned their purchasers believed that by 2:20 p.m. on Jan. 6, when members of Congress had been evacuated, that the affirmation had been accomplished. Due to this fact, Watkins and Caldwell had no intention of disrupting the electoral school depend.

“Are you able to cease one thing that’s already stopped?” Crisp requested. “How do you kill a lifeless physique?” However the electoral school depend had solely been postponed, and was restarted about six hours later.

Nestler responded that Congress wasn’t lifeless. He argued that Watkins and Caldwell had been speaking with individuals exterior the town and knew the depend hadn’t been accomplished.

Fischer famous that Caldwell had no communication with Rhodes after mid-November. Fischer additionally mentioned the federal government initially accused Caldwell of being an Oath Keepers chief who went into the Capitol, allegations that prosecutors later rescinded. Caldwell wasn’t discovered on any of the Oath Keepers’ Sign chats or telephone conferences, and solely communicated with a North Carolina Oath Keepers group that had break up off from Rhodes, Fischer mentioned.

Caldwell is accused of coordinating a “Fast Response Drive” with an arsenal of weapons based mostly at an Arlington resort, however “why would the Oath Keepers have a non-Oath Keeper coordinate the QRF?” Fischer requested. “Mr. Caldwell had no contact with Stewart Rhodes. He had no contact with Oath Keepers on Jan. 6. None. He’s the coordinator of the QRF? How’s that work?”

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