After the US Capitol attack on January 6, 2021, members of the Oath Keepers met for a late-night dinner at an Olive Garden in suburban Virginia and spent hundreds of dollars on an Italian feast.
“ALCON: Going to eat at Olive Garden,” Oath Keepers leader Stewart Rhodes allegedly said to an encrypted Signal chat for the militia group the evening of the Capitol riot using what prosecutors say is a military abbreviation for “all concerned.”
Rhodes said that anyone available was welcome to join him, according to messages shown by prosecutors, and sent the address for the Olive Garden in Vienna, Virginia.
Prosecutors did not divulge the details of what Stewart Rhodes, Edward Vallejo and other militia members ate, but noted they were able to rack up a $408.82 tab, paid on a credit card tied to an Oath Keepers bank account.
Defense lawyers say the evidence does not show a celebration of violence.
Joshua James, an Oath Keeper who pleaded guilty to seditious conspiracy in March, went to the dinner, according to his plea agreement. He heard Rhodes discuss saving “the Republic” by keeping President Donald Trump in power, and the group began to discuss how they might oppose Joe Biden’s inauguration around the country.
Another alleged member of the Oath Keepers, Vallejo, called the Olive Garden soon after the invite from Rhodes went out, according to phone records. The call, which was placed at 9 p.m., lasted just over one minute.
“Declaration of illegitimacy is step 1” Rhodes messaged the same Signal group chat around the same time.
As the check grew, so did Rhodes’ alleged paranoia. In his plea agreement, James said Rhodes and others came to believe that law enforcement was searching for them as a result of the assault on the Capitol.
Worried, the members including Rhodes and James allegedly fled Olive Garden, returned to their hotel, grabbed their belongings, and regrouped at a nearby gas station. Rhodes divvied up the cache of firearms and equipment he had between three different cars, according to court documents, gave his phone to someone else, and the cars drove off in three separate directions.
Defense lawyers for Rhodes have previously addressed the dinner, saying that prosecutors’ theory of the episode is incorrect. Rhodes’ lawyers said in a court filing the dinner is evidence that the militia leader wasn’t working to foment a revolution.
“The conditions would never be better. Yet, Rhodes and the others left the Capitol grounds and went to Olive Garden for dinner,” lawyers for Rhodes wrote. “The answer is quite simple: because stopping the certification, overthrowing the government, was not Rhodes’ intent. It was not the Oath Keepers’ intent.”