But the argument by Rhodes’ defense team would flip on its head the way judges have previously interpreted ongoing lies about the outcome of the 2020 election.
For months, judges have cited Trump’s continuing false claims to suggest some Jan. 6 defendants are too dangerous to release pending trial. So long as leaders continue to promote those claims, they’ve argued, extremists open to violent action may heed them as a rallying cry to attack the government.
Despite the judges’ statements, Trump has escalated his defense of those charged on Jan. 6, even if doing so may keep suspects behind bars as they await trial.
Rhodes’ lawyers offered the snippet of his testimony to the House Jan. 6 committee as they urged U.S. District Court Judge Amit Mehta to release Rhodes ahead of a trial scheduled for later this year. Prosecutors say Rhodes masterminded a plan to violently prevent the transfer of power from Trump to Joe Biden.
Rhodes, they say, helped assemble a cache of firearms in Arlington, Va. that he intended to deploy to help storm the Capitol and prevent Congress from finalizing the election on Jan. 6, 2021. About 20 of his associates converged on the Capitol that day, with most breaching the building along with a mob of Trump supporters that threatened to disrupt the certification of the election.
Rhodes didn’t enter the building but was seen alongside many of those who did at a rally point. Later, Rhodes joined some of them at an Olive Garden to discuss the events of the day. Prosecutors say he told allies he intended to continue fighting to reverse the election, comparing the Jan. 6 assault to the battle of Lexington during the American Revolution — an opening bid.
Despite the Justice Department’s claims that Rhodes led the Oath Keepers’ conspiracy, prosecutors did not move to arrest him until last month.
Mehta, who has ordered the detention of many of the Oath Keepers involved in the alleged conspiracy, suggested that the delay didn’t do much to undercut the government’s claims that Rhodes is a danger.
“In a homicide case, we don’t say that murder happened a year ago and he hasn’t killed anybody since,” the judge said. He also said it wasn’t surprising that Rhodes had stayed out of trouble in the last year, given that many of his associates had been arrested and he knew he was under investigation.
“Maybe it’s not all that surprising because a lot of his comrades have been arrested, and they’re not allowed to talk to him on the phone,” said Mehta, an appointee of President Barack Obama.
However, the judge seemed uncertain whether prosecutors had presented enough evidence to justify detaining Rhodes pending trial. Defense attorneys said other Oath Keepers members have indicated Rhodes did not direct colleagues to enter the Capitol and that he never responded to requests from his associates to deploy a cache of weapons that the group had placed at a hotel in Arlington, Va.
Mehta said that if he does release Rhodes, it would be under strict conditions, including house arrest, 24-hour-a-day monitoring and a prohibition on internet access. Mehta opted against an immediate decision Wednesday.
After an extensive hearing featuring live testimony from an FBI agent working on the case, a magistrate judge based near where Rhodes was arrested in Texas denied pretrial release to him, concluding that he posed “a significant release of harm to others.”
George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism