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Prospective jurors in Oath Keepers trial compare Jan. 6 Capitol attack to 9/11

World Sep 27, 2022 08:56PM ET
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2/2 © Reuters. FILE PHOTO: Police clear the U.S. Capitol Building with tear gas as supporters of U.S. President Donald Trump gather outside, in Washington, U.S. January 6, 2021. REUTERS/Stephanie Keith/File Photo 2/2

By Sarah N. Lynch and Chris Gallagher

WASHINGTON (Reuters) -The trial of Oath Keepers founder Stewart Rhodes and four associates in connection with the Jan. 6, 2021 attack on the U.S. Capitol on Tuesday heard some prospective jurors express fears that reliving that day would be too traumatic for them to be impartial.

The case against the followers of the far-right militia, whose membership includes current and former U.S. military and law enforcement personnel, marks the most high-profile prosecution so far in the Justice Department's investigation into the deadly attack.

Supporters of former President Donald Trump, a Republican, stormed the U.S. Capitol in a failed attempt to overturn his 2020 election loss to Democrat Joe Biden after Trump falsely claimed the election had been stolen from him. Five people died during and shortly after the riot, and about 140 police were injured.

Rhodes and his co-defendants Kelly Meggs, Thomas Caldwell, Jessica Watkins and Kenneth Harrelson are the first people in more than 10 years to face federal charges of seditious conspiracy under a Civil War-era statute that is rarely prosecuted and carries a statutory maximum sentence of 20 years in prison.

Seditious conspiracy is defined as two or more people plotting "to overthrow, put down or to destroy by force the government of the United States."

Nearly 30 of the more than 130 people in the jury pool were quizzed by Judge Amit Mehta, prosecutors and defense attorneys on Tuesday on their views on guns, Trump supporters and whether they had closely followed news coverage of the Jan. 6 attack.

At least two people compared the trauma of the events of Jan. 6 to the al Qaeda attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, while another man said he was so triggered by television footage of the riot that he would need prescription medication to get through the trial.

Other jurors, meanwhile, told the court they were concerned their strongly held political views could make it too difficult to be impartial.

"I think the Capitol is a sacred space. It is more sacred than a church," yet another prospective juror told the court.

VIDEO CLIPS, TEXT MESSAGES

In addition to seditious conspiracy, the five accused Oath Keeper defendants also face charges of conspiring to obstruct and of obstructing an official proceeding, which carries a sentence of up to 20 years in prison, and conspiring to prevent an officer from discharging duties.

The defendants who physically entered the Capitol building - Watkins, Meggs and Harrelson - are also charged with property destruction. Watkins separately faces a civil disorder charge, while the other four are each charged with tampering for allegedly trying to destroy evidence.

The indictment against the five alleges they plotted to use force to oppose the peaceful transfer of power from Trump to Biden. Prosecutors have also said the defendants trained and planned for Jan. 6, the day Congress met to certify Biden's win.

Prosecutors say Rhodes led and coordinated the alleged plot, which involved the defendants setting up a "quick reaction force" and stockpiling weapons at a northern Virginia hotel.

Earlier on Tuesday, Mehta denied a request by the defense to move the trial to a different venue amid concerns they could not find enough impartial jurors in Washington, D.C.

He noted that of the 150 prospective jurors who filled out a questionnaire, 40% indicated they had never heard of the Oath Keepers, while another 45% said they have not watched any of the televised congressional hearings on the Jan. 6 attack.

Mehta ordered all of the prospective jurors on Tuesday to avoid watching or reading any coverage about the congressional probe. A hearing scheduled for Wednesday was postponed by the committee, citing the approach toward Florida of Hurricane Ian.

The trial, which is expected to last between six and seven weeks, will feature testimony from dozens of witnesses, as well as video clips from the day of the attack, and both audio and text message exchanges among the defendants.

Prospective jurors in Oath Keepers trial compare Jan. 6 Capitol attack to 9/11
 

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Comments (4)
gab nea
gab nea Oct 03, 2022 7:42AM ET
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Republicans embrace violence instead of a vision, to lure potential voters? vote the violent maga gangsters out!
gab nea
gab nea Sep 29, 2022 6:55AM ET
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January 6 is so much worse than 9/11, nothing trumps an attempt to overturn our elections violently to overturn the elected government! traitors? vote them out!
Ric Later
riclater211 Sep 29, 2022 6:55AM ET
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Great news! no matter how hard she cries, gab nea will still be a loser! yay!!
Forex Harbingers
ForexHarbingers Sep 28, 2022 12:25PM ET
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One of the most disrespectful comparisons I have ever heard. They are truly getting desperate now.
Brad Albright
Brad Albright Sep 28, 2022 12:25PM ET
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They who?
gab nea
gab nea Sep 28, 2022 8:11AM ET
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trump tried to overthrow the government of the united states by force? and the violent maga Republicans make him their Qanon orange messiah? do no vote Republican if you like america!
 
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