Legal experts explain the one charge that carries legal risks in the sedition conspiracy case against the Oath Keepers

Legal experts explain the one charge that carries legal risks in the sedition conspiracy case against the Oath Keepers
Charlottesville "Unite the Right" Rally. Far-right Oath Keepers patrol Emancipation Park. Credit: Anthony Crider

Legal experts are weighing in on the government's sedition conspiracy case against 11 Oath Keepers who were allegedly involved in the Capitol insurrection.

While it appears clear that the U.S. Department of Justice does have a solid case against the suspects, the experts believe there are "considerable risks" associated with one rarely-used charge being included in the indictment.

According to KSAT, the experts who have assessed the unsealed indictment believe the government's case has a strong foundation built on detailed documentation of how the alleged rioters "discussed their plans in encrypted chats, traveled to the nation's capital from across the country, organized into teams, used military tactics, stashed weapons outside Washington in case they felt they were needed and communicated with each other during the riot on Jan. 6, 2021."

Carlton Larson, a treason expert and law professor at the University of California - Davis, applauded prosecutors' case saying, "This is as a good a case as you could bring.”

However, history shows that sedition cases are not the easiest to win despite having evidence to support the claims. In order to win a sedition case, prosecutors must prove that a group really believed they could overthrow the government. While many cases of rebellion have been tried, prosecutors have had difficulty successfully proving their case.

Pointing to the last sedition case in 2010, Lawyer William Swor noted that prosecutors previously failed to prove that the members of the Michigan militia were more than just discussing a plot and were “actively planning to oppose the government.”

“It’s a substantial burden on the government and it is a substantial risk,” Swor said. “If the government fails to meet its burden, they’re out on the street.”

But Mark Pitcavage, a senior research fellow working for the Anti-Defamation League’s Center on Extremism, argues that the difference, in this case, is the evidence. Per KSAT he stated that there is a “tremendous amount of evidence about planning beforehand” in addition to compelling footage of the mob of angry Trump supporters storming the federal building.

“That sort of evidence was largely missing from all these previous cases,” Pitcavage said. “Sedition cases, in my opinion, are always inherently risky to a certain degree. But I do think prosecutors, in this case, have a far stronger case to make for the jury than some of their predecessors did.”

So far, more than 700 individuals including 11 Oath Keepers are facing federal charges in connection with the Jan.6 insurrection on the U.S. Capitol.


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