In the seditious conspiracy case of Oath Keeper ringleader Elmer Rhodes and 10 other members of the far-right group alleged to have attacked the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, prosecutors and defense attorneys spent Friday hashing out issues in federal court over evidence as they prepare the contours of a trial that will begin this summer.
Appearing before U.S. District Judge Amit Mehta in Washington, D.C., assistant U.S. Attorney Kathryn Rakoczy announced that the government is nearing the end of its discovery process ahead of trial in July. They have collected and sorted nearly all of the data found on digital devices belonging to accused Oath Keepers, except those belonging to Rhodes and alleged co-conspirator, Edward Vallejo.
Review on their devices specifically is still underway, but should be complete in the next few weeks; most of the pertinent information is believed to have been found already.
Defense attorneys pushed back on the trial schedule, arguing that a massive global database set up by the Department of Justice for defendants to review and prep evidence has not been helpful at all, but rather, one big headache.
The DOJ’s “Capitol Siege global discovery plan”—set up so that all Jan. 6 defendants and their legal teams can have access to exculpatory material with supervision—is a huge trove of resources tied to the department’s sweeping investigation of the attack.
It contains thousands of hours of surveillance footage from U.S. Capitol and Metropolitan Police on duty on Jan. 6.
There are hours of radio transmissions and footage from the Secret Service, the U.S. Senate, and the House of Representatives. There’s also location history data for thousands of devices tied to the Capitol’s cell infrastructure, and an avalanche of tips and other search results that were scooped up from devices obtained by law enforcement after arrests.
With over 750 arrests so far in the department’s Jan. 6 investigation, the database is bursting. To wit, there are over 24,000 files consisting of closed-circuit video from U.S. Capitol Police alone in the database. The massive 752-page spreadsheet that tries to make sense of it all took more than 60 people at the DOJ to map out.
Phil Linder, a defense attorney for Rhodes, said their team hired help to resolve a laundry list of technical problems they have had accessing the database. But even if they resolved access issues by the end of April, Linder said, it would still take defense another month to sort through what they’re looking at.
“If the first phase of this case doesn’t get tried in July, it’s not going to be tried for a while,” Mehta lamented Friday, noting that the next open block for a trial involving nine defendants in the sedition indictment would be December.
U.S. attorney Rakoczy had to remind Judge Mehta there were actually 10 defendants in the seditious conspiracy indictment.
“And we are in active discussions about their thoughts of whether they want to resolve before trial,” she added, hinting that prosecutors may have more plea agreements in the works with other conspirators.
On Wednesday, Joshua James, the Alabama Oath Keeper charged along with Rhodes, entered a guilty plea, admitting to sedition and obstruction of an official proceeding. His admissions of guilt dramatically undercut Rhodes' defense.
Judge Mehta ordered the next hearing in Rhodes' case for April 8. By that point, prosecutors said they should have an idea of who among the Oath Keepers in the seditious conspiracy indictment will stand trial.
The Rhodes Oath Keeper sedition case is separate from another multi-defendant prosecution of Oath Keepers Donovan Crowl, Laura Steele, Connie Meggs, Bennie Parker, Sandra Parker, and William Isaacs. They are facing a series of charges, including conspiracy but not sedition.
Judge Mehta set Nov. 28 as the trial date for that case.
Published with permission from Daily Kos.