Oath Keepers founder arrested in Texas for role in Jan. 6 insurrection, charged with sedition

Oath Keepers founder Stewart Rhodes spoke during the 2017 Patriots Day Free Speech Rally in Berkeley, California. (Reuters/Jim Urquhart, Reuters/Jim Urquhart)

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The founder and leader of Oath Keepers — a far-right fringe group popular with current and former law enforcement officers and military veterans — was arrested Thursday for his role in the Jan. 6, 2021, insurrection at the U.S. Capitol.

Stewart Rhodes was arrested in Little Elm and is charged with seditious conspiracy, the U.S. Justice Department revealed Thursday. Along with Rhodes, 10 others — none of whom are Texans — have been charged with seditious conspiracy.

These are the first charges of seditious conspiracy levied against the more than 725 people who have been arrested in connection with the siege. The charge carries a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison.

Rhodes is accused of conspiring with members of his organization and others to oppose the transfer of presidential power by force. Investigators said they discovered messages describing his and various co-conspirators’ plans for that day.

A mob of people supporting former President Donald Trump stormed the U.S. Capitol last year and interrupted Congress’ certification of the 2020 election, which Trump lost.

Rhodes is a former U.S. Army paratrooper, a Yale Law School graduate and a former staffer for Republican U.S. Rep. Ron Paul, according to the Southern Poverty Law Center. The civil rights organization lists Rhodes as a known extremist. The U.S. Justice Department lists Rhodes as 56 years old and being from Granbury.

He and others arrested are accused of organizing paramilitary combat tactics training — and bringing knives, batons and combat equipment onto the Capitol grounds — among other actions contributing to the chaos.

Rhodes has said that although he was present at the riot, he never entered the Capitol that day, according to KXAN-TV in Austin.

The U.S. Justice Department describes the Oath Keepers as a “large but loosely-organized collection of individuals” with a focus on recruiting current and former military members, law enforcement officers and other first-responder personnel.

Over 60 Texans have been charged for their roles in the Jan. 6 siege. Texas has among the highest concentration of people arrested in the nation for charges related to the insurrection.

Disclosure: Southern Poverty Law Center has been a financial supporter of The Texas Tribune, a nonprofit, nonpartisan news organization that is funded in part by donations from members, foundations and corporate sponsors. Financial supporters play no role in the Tribunes journalism. Find a complete list of them here.