A federal judge rejected Oath Keepers leader Stewart Rhodes’ efforts to fire his two attorneys and delay his weeks-away trial for seditious conspiracy relating to the January 6, 2021, attack on the US Capitol, telling the leader there was no “legitimate reason” to make the eleventh-hour change.
According to Rhodes, who has pleaded not guilty, he and his lawyers Phillip Linder and James Lee Bright had a “near-complete breakdown of communication” and have not spoken in nearly a month. Rhodes also alleged that his lawyers missed filing deadlines and failed to request evidence from prosecutors that Rhodes wanted to use in his defense.
During a contentious hearing on Wednesday, DC District Court Judge Amit Mehta rejected Rhodes’ allegations, saying that the claims were not consistent with what he had witnessed up to this point.
Linder and Bright, who were present at the hearing, both fiercely defended their representation of Rhodes so far, with Bright saying that the allegations were “fallacious at best,” but the two pledged to “make every effort” to rectify their relationship.
“Mr. Bright and Mr. Linder are going to be at that trial representing Mr. Rhodes,” Mehta said of Rhodes’ lawyers. “If Mr. Rhodes wants two other attorneys at that table with him, we can make room. It’s a big group.”
Mehta added that “there is no humanly possible way” for the new lawyer, Edward Tarpley, to prepare for the trial in the proposed 90 day delay and noted that even if he were to postpone Rhodes’ trial, the next available trial date is in the summer of 2023.
Mehta decried efforts by Tarpley to allege misconduct by Rhodes’ current attorneys, saying that they had “zealously” advocated for Rhodes.
“The idea that you have had all of 42 or 72 hours with Mr. Rhodes to characterize these proceedings is a little problematic,” Mehta said. “A little humility might not be a bad thing.”
The Justice Department charged Rhodes and several others with seditious conspiracy in January, accusing them of allegedly recruiting members, stocking up on weapons and organizing to disrupt Congress’ certification of the 2020 election.
Prosecutors have said some of the Oath Keepers also continued to plot “to oppose by force the lawful transfer of presidential power” after the Capitol riot.
As of July, the DOJ had secured at least seven cooperation agreements from members of the Oath Keepers, three of whom pleaded guilty to seditious conspiracy.
Rhodes and eight co-defendants have repeatedly tried to delay the trial, which is slated to begin on September 27. Mehta has repeatedly told defense lawyers that he would not push back the September date, despite relenting to delays earlier in the year.
“We came here in good faith,” Tarpley told CNN after the hearing, adding that he felt Mehta had made his decision before the hearing began.