Prosecutors on Friday began connecting the disparate threads of five alleged Oath Keepers and how they prepared for January 6, 2021, in the final hours of the second week of their trial.
Over the past two weeks, the government has shown a Washington, DC, jury dozens of messages discussing a civil war, killing politicians, and the Insurrection Act as part of the Justice Department’s historic effort to prove that members of the Oath Keepers conspired to stop the peaceful transfer of power from then-President Donald Trump to Joe Biden.
The messages, introduced by several FBI agents, have helped prosecutors argue that the five defendants – Stewart Rhodes, Jessica Watkins, Kelly Meggs, Thomas Caldwell and Kenneth Harrelson – individually turned toward violence in the months and weeks preceding the Capitol riot. Rhodes, Meggs, Harrelson, Watkins and Caldwell have all pleaded not guilty.
Now, prosecutors have begun to show how the defendants allegedly worked together to create a clear, articulated plan to reverse what they saw as a stolen election – a key aspect of the “seditious conspiracy” charge they have brought against the group.
On Friday, prosecutors introduced evidence that Rhodes, Meggs, Harrelson and other Oath Keepers attended three virtual meetings the first week of January 2021. The “planning calls,” as prosecutors called them, lasted up to two hours and discussed plans for an armed “quick response force.”
Meggs and Rhodes began messaging on January 2 about establishing the force, eventually settling on staging in hotel rooms rented out by Meggs in Virginia, according to messages shown by prosecutors.
The two discussed rally points, street closures and road access for the quick response force (QRF) into Washington, and, according to prosecutors, Rhodes mentioned reimbursing Meggs for hotel rooms.
Meggs also helped coordinate with a larger group of Oath Keepers preparing to travel to Washington, saying that leaders had a “good call last night” and that he would “get with (North Carolina) team today and find our QRF location.”
Caldwell, according to prosecutors, sent at least six detailed maps of northern Virginia and Washington, DC, to the alleged leader of the force, Paul Stamey, who has not been charged.
“And fear not: if you are getting overwhelmed (I know that feeling) know that I will have hard copies of these maps for you and all drivers,” Caldwell allegedly said in an email to Stamey.
Meggs also sent maps to a large Oath Keepers group message created for January 6 planning, including travel routes the quick response force could take into Washington and rally points for groups in the nation’s capital.
“1 if by land North side of Lincoln Memorial 2 if by sea Corner of west basin and Ohio is a water transport landing,” Meggs wrote in a message shown to the jury.
Using cell phone data, prosecutors showed the jury how Caldwell, Meggs, Rhodes, Harrelson, Watkins and at least five other Oath Keepers traveled toward Washington between January 1 and 5. At least five members, including Meggs and Harrelson, spent the night of January 4 camping out together, according to cell phone data.
Between January 5 and 7, at least 10 members of the Oath Keepers spent time at the Comfort Inn in Ballston, Virginia – the hotel Caldwell suggested as the base for the force, according to phone data presented by the government.
In the early morning hours of January 6, Rhodes allegedly wrote to the group message of Oath Keeper leaders: “We will have several well equipped QRFs outside DC. And there are many, many others from other groups, who will be watching and waiting on the outside in case of worst case scenarios.”