In this Sunday, June 25, 2017 file photo, Stewart Rhodes, founder of the citizen militia group known as the Oath Keepers speaks during a rally outside the White House in Washington.
See the messages Oath Keepers leader sent to followers
02:59 - Source: CNN
Plano, Texas CNN  — 

A federal judge said Monday that she will issue a ruling in the next two days on whether or not to release Oath Keepers leader Stewart Rhodes as he awaits trial for seditious conspiracy charges related to the attack on the US Capitol on January 6, 2021.

Rhodes appeared in court for a detention hearing in Plano, Texas, on Monday.

Federal prosecutors say Rhodes is a danger to society, a flight risk and his release would allow the Oath Keepers leader to obstruct the continuing investigation of the January 6 insurrection.

“It’s difficult to imagine a greater risk to society,” Assistant US Attorney Kathryn Rakoczy said. “He has the military background and legal training to further the goals of this conspiracy.”

The Justice Department charged Rhodes and 10 other defendants earlier this month with seditious conspiracy related to the attack on the Capitol. They staged “quick reaction forces” around Washington, DC, with a cache of firearms and tactical gear, prosecutors allege. Rhodes has not yet entered a formal plea but is expected to plead not guilty.

Federal Magistrate Judge Kimberly C. Priest Johnson occasionally asked prosecutors, defense attorneys and witnesses questions that offered a window into the issues that might influence her decision whether to keep Rhodes in jail until his trial.

Rhodes’ attorneys argued that the Oath Keeper leader is not a flight risk because he doesn’t have a passport and he’s more interested in watching his case go to public trial. The attorneys also fired back at prosecutors, who describe Rhodes as a danger to the community, asking why if investigators thought he was so dangerous it took them a year to arrest Rhodes.

“He’s not going to run,” defense attorney James Lee Bright said Monday. “He wants a speedy public trial. It’s not in the best interest for him to run.”

Bright repeatedly pointed out that Rhodes did not breach the Capitol, like other Oath Keepers that day, nor did he assault law enforcement officers.

“But how is he any different (than the other Oath Keeper defendants)?” Judge Johnson asked.

The attorneys said Rhodes didn’t have a firearm with him at the Capitol and that attempts to describe him as a danger are overblown. The defense says if investigators thought Rhodes was so dangerous they should have arrested him sooner. “Saying he’s a danger now is disingenuous,” Bright said.

But Rakoczy alleged that Rhodes, as the head of the Oath Keepers, has a nationwide network of contacts and supporters and that “he could go underground if he wanted to.”

Johnson also showed interest in the possibility that Rhodes cold be allowed out on bond and into the watch of a “third person custodian” who would be responsible for reporting Rhodes to the authorities if he violates any court-ordered conditions on his release.

Defense attorneys first volunteered Brian Bodine, a friend of Rhodes. The two met in late March 2020 at a rally outside of the hair salon belonging to Shelly Luther. Luther became a prominent figure in the anti-shutdown protests during the Covid-19 pandemic in Texas. Bodine described himself as driver for a ride-share company and grassroots political consultant.

The judge said she was skeptical of allowing Rhodes to stay at Bodine’s home. Defense attorneys then suggested that Rhodes could stay at the home of a cousin named Benjamin in California.

The cousin, whose last name was not given in the courtroom, said that his family owns a four-acre property in California. Rhodes’ uncle also lives on that property. The cousin said the family members who live on the California property are not Oath Keeper members.

Last week, a federal judge ordered that another Oath Keepers defendant, Edward Vallejo, be kept in jail until trial. Prosecutors say Vallejo was with a stash of firearms in a Virginia hotel.