The trial begins this week at WashingtonD.C., is the biggest test yet in the Justice Department’s efforts to bring to justice those responsible for the January 6, 2021, attack on the Capitol, a violent attack that challenged the foundations of American democracy.

Extremist leader Stuart Rhodes, the founder, is on trial Oath keepers extremist group and four associates. Prosecutors and defense attorneys will make their opening statements on Monday, and the trial will continue for several weeks. Here’s a look at what’s to come:


The anti-government group was founded in 2009 by Rhodes, who attended Yale Law School and briefly served as a paratrooper in the US Army before injuring his back in a training accident.

The group was named for its stated goal of forcing former and current military, first responders and police officers to honor their pledge to defend the Constitution against enemies. They issued a list of orders that its members would not obey, such as disarming citizens, conducting warrantless searches and detaining Americans as enemy combatants in violation of their right to a jury trial.

That relatively benign makeup and use of social media helped the group grow into one of the largest anti-government groups in U.S. history, but the internal dialogue was often darker, experts say. Oath keepers were involved in a standoff with federal officials at the Bundy ranch in Nevada in 2014 and later on rooftops in Ferguson, Missouri, after a grand jury declined to indict a police officer in the death of 18-year-old Michael Brown.

The group would eventually adopt the rhetoric of then-candidate Donald Trump and his false claims that the 2020 election was stolen.


On trial with Rhodes are Kelly Maggs, leader of the Florida chapter of Oath Keepers; Kenneth Harrelson, another Florida Oath Keeper; Thomas Caldwell, a retired U.S. Navy intelligence officer from Virginia; and Jessica Watkins, who led the Ohio militia group.

They were charged with seditious conspiracy in one of the most high-profile cases to emerge from the January 6 riots at the US Capitol.

Prosecutors say they spent weeks stockpiling weapons, organizing paramilitary training and training armed groups outside Washington to prevent Joe Biden from becoming president. The plot unfolded on January 6, 2021, when Oath Keepers wearing helmets and other combat gear were caught on camera wading through a crowd of angry Trump supporters and storming the Capitol, military-style.

Prosecutors will say that the Oath Keepers uprising was not a spontaneous protest but part of a serious week-long plot to stop the transfer of power.

Oath keepers, for their part, say prosecutors twisted their words and insist there was never a plan to attack the Capitol. They say they were in Washington to provide security and training, training, gear and weapons to protect themselves from potential violence from left-wing anti-fa activists or to be ready if Trump invokes the Insurrection Act to call out the militia.


The Sedition Act was passed after the Civil War to arrest Southerners who might continue to fight the US government. Charges have rarely been brought in recent history, with mixed results.

In that case, prosecutors will try to prove that Rhodes and his associates conspired to violently oppose the authority of the federal government and to forcibly block the implementation of laws governing the transfer of presidential power.

This can be difficult to prove because prosecutors must show that the defendants not only talked about using force, but also conspired to use it.

The most recent sedition cases were brought in 2010 and ended in acquittals. The last successful sedition trial was in 1995, when the Egyptian cleric Sheikh Omar Abdel-Rahman and nine of his followers were convicted of conspiring to bomb several landmarks in New York and New Jersey.

This is punishable by up to 20 years in prison.