Sedition conspiracy defendant spars with prosecutor over violent messages in Oath Keepers Jan. 6 case

Washington – a high-profile defendant Case of seditious conspiracy against those who took the oath dismissed incendiary communications prosecutors say he sent in the days surrounding January 6 Capitol Attack The suspect as “unwise” and told jurors he played no role in the riot, attempting to refute the government’s evidence displayed in court on Tuesday.

Thomas Caldwell – one of the five men charged seditious conspiracy Currently on trial – took the stand in his own defense to convince a Washington, D.C. jury that he had no plans to prevent the January 6 peaceful transfer of power from then-President Donald Trump to then-President-elect Joe Biden. Government’s allegation. He also testified that several painful health conditions – including chronic back and hip issues – prevented him from posing any sort of threat that day.

During questioning by his defense attorney, David Fischer, a 68-year-old Virginia resident who described himself as a “moving disaster” because of his health, said he first became acquainted with the far-right Oath Keepers group. they were finished. 2020 presidential election, eventually inviting some people to stay at his ranch before the November 2020 pro-Trump demonstrations and acting as “tour guides” for members of the group at various times in Washington, D.C.

Prosecutors allege that Caldwell and his co-defendants, including Oath Keepers founder Stewart Rhodes, conspired to use force to prevent a peaceful transfer of power, allegedly stockpiling weapons at a Virginia hotel and using their firearms throughout the attack. coordinated movements. Caldwell, a Navy veteran and former FBI employee, and four members oath keepers has pleaded not guilty to all charges and Caldwell says — despite frequent communications with the group between the 2020 election and Jan. 6 — that he was not a member of the Oath Keepers. Caldwell has not been charged with actually entering the capitol building.

capitol riot oath keepers
Members of the oath taking ceremony on the east front of the US Capitol on January 6, 2021 in Washington.

Manuel Bales Seneta / AP

The government has charged Caldwell – one of the first high-profile individuals to be arrested after the riot – on several counts of failing to use a boat to ferry weapons from the group’s Virginia hotel base to Washington, D.C. Coordinating jury message showing Caldwell and other Oath Keepers members discussing the same topic.

“Whose stupid idea is this,” Caldwell said Tuesday, describing his reaction to the alleged Marine scheme under direct examination from his attorney. He told the jury that he and his wife, Sharon – who testified in court on Monday – traveled to Washington, D.C., on January 6 to speak to Trump.

The couple made their way up to the inauguration scaffolding outside the Capitol that day and “were taking it all in,” he testified. And when asked about the many incendiary and violent messages she sent him — some allegedly advocating violence against then-Vice President Mike Pence, Nancy Pelosi and members of Congress — Caldwell told the jury that his The language was top-notch, but he was acting like “a little bit of a mess.”

Under cross-examination from Assistant US Attorney Louis Manzo, Caldwell continued to explain his violent messages as calls to take violent action, nothing more than violent rhetoric.

The prosecutor presented Caldwell with some of his most violent messages at the time, discussing topics such as “hunting” ANTIFA, his ability to “burn down Congress” if [they] wanted”, and “killed some traitors.”

The mention of “hunt” was a euphemism for surveillance, Caldwell said Tuesday, and the group didn’t torch Congress because they didn’t want to, he said, emphasizing the “if” in a message prosecutors said they sent. was. and the comments on hanging traitors, Caldwell argued, were “harsh”, but sent among individuals who

Knew not to take his violent comments seriously.

Many of the messages the jury saw Tuesday were already part of the government’s evidence record and were presented again after Caldwell decided not to testify.

Another message displayed in court purportedly shows Caldwell and another person discussing on January 1, 2021 that Pence wanted to overturn the election results.

“If he expects to live until Friday, he better stand up,” prosecutors alleged Caldwell wrote back. When confronted with the message in court on Tuesday, Caldwell described it as a “joke” and said the recipient understood it was written in jest.

According to other messages displayed in court on Tuesday, following the events of January 6, the defendant called that day “a good time” and referred to the “attack” on the Capitol.

“It’s a great exaggeration like the allegations against me,” Caldwell shot back on Tuesday. This was one of those occasions when he used an impatient tone and immediately fired back at the prosecutor who was questioning him. At one point he received a message discussing violence against Democrats, calling the author of the message “what a goof”.

Despite the wrangling over the messages and the violent language used – which he rejected – Caldwell maintained that he did not conspire against Congress, did not coordinate parts of the Capitol breach, and was not a member of the Oath Keepers.

He was only the second of five defendants currently on trial to take the stand. Last week, Rhodes himself testified They had no plans for the group to actually enter the Capitol as some of them did and were instead there to provide security that day, a common defense for those sworn in on trial.

“Our goal was to make sure no one got wrapped up in a Charlie Foxtrot around the Capitol,” Rhodes testified last week, adding that “Charlie Foxtrot” is military slang for “clusterf***”. However, prosecutors argued that their evidence showed that he and his co-defendants were part of a months-long conspiracy to use force to keep Trump in office.

Prosecutors and Rhodes also argued over interpretations of messages and communications, with their attorneys having previously dismissed the inflammatory and violent language as “bravery”.

The seditious conspiracy trial is currently in its seventh week and final arguments are expected in the coming days.

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