- Oath Keepers member Edward Vallejo was accused of overseeing a “quick reaction force” on January 6.
- He’s among 11 militia members charged with seditious conspiracy in connection with the Capitol riot.
- The Arizona man was charged the same day as Oath Keepers leader Edward Stewart Rhodes.
A member of the far-right Oath Keepers group will remain behind bars as he awaits trial on a seditious conspiracy charge and other allegations tied to what prosecutors have described as a wide-ranging plot to storm the Capitol and forcibly disrupt the handoff of presidential power from Donald Trump to Joe Biden.
At a court hearing Thursday in Phoenix, Magistrate Judge John Boyle granted federal prosecutors’ request for Edward Vallejo to remain in custody as he faces some of the most serious charges stemming from the Justice Department’s expansive investigation into the January 6 attack.
“Undoubtedly here, this indictment alleges a conspiracy to threaten the very fabric of democracy,” Boyle said.
Vallejo and Oath Keepers leader Elmer Steward Rhodes were arrested last week and charged — along with nine previously arrested members of the militia group — with seditious conspiracy. Prosecutors on Thursday emphasized Vallejo’s alleged role overseeing a stash of weapons the Oath Keepers kept in a hotel room outside Washington, DC. The weapons were allegedly available for a so-called “quick reaction force” that would be deployed at the direction of Rhodes.
Boyle said that while Rhodes is not alleged to have given the order mobilizing the quick reaction force, “I’m convinced that had it been given, you believe so passionately in this cause that you would have responded on that day and followed out that order.”
Vallejo and Rhodes have both been in custody since their arrests last week in Arizona and Texas, respectively. Rhodes, a Yale-educated military veteran, is set to appear in federal court on Monday for a hearing on whether he will remain detained ahead of trial.
The arrests marked a significant development in the Justice Department’s sprawling investigation into the attack on the Capitol. Rhodes, Vallejo, and their 9 co-defendants are the first to face sedition charges among the more than 700 accused rioters charged so far with participating in the assault on the seat of American democracy.
“This is not an individual staying at home yelling at his television screen,” one of the federal prosecutors told Boyle, asking the judge to “recognize the danger Mr. Vallejo presents to the United States.”
The prosecutor described the stash of weapons as an “arsenal” and said Vallejo “stood ready for deployment” during the deadly siege. Vallejo said he was prepared to engage in guerilla warfare and was “calling for bloody massive revolution,” the prosecutor said.
A public defender appointed to represent Vallejo, Debbie Jang, said Vallejo does not have a passport, has never left the country, and is “neither a flight risk nor a danger.” Jang suggested that Vallejo was willing to accept an ankle monitor and restrictions on his possession of firearms, among other conditions for release.
“There are 11 named defendants in this indictment listed in descending order of culpability,” Jang said. “At the very bottom of that list is Mr. Edward Vallejo.”
Vallejo can appeal his pre-trial detention to Judge Amit Mehta in Washington, DC.
The prosecutor disputed Jang’s claim about the order of defendants, calling Vallejo a “key member of this conspiracy.”
The seditious conspiracy charges came a week after Attorney General Merrick Garland delivered remarks urging patience as the Justice Department conducts its Capitol riot inquiry, which Garland described as “one of the largest, most complex, and most resource-intensive investigations in our history.
“Those involved must be held accountable, and there is no higher priority for us at the Department of Justice,” he said on the eve of the first anniversary of the deadly siege.
Legal scholars pointed out that Thursday’s indictment confirmed Garland’s remarks.
“Those who say DOJ hasn’t delivered on the most serious charges have to be quieted today,” the former federal prosecutor Harry Litman wrote after the indictment was unsealed. “Seditious conspiracy is about as serious as it gets.”
If convicted, a seditious conspiracy charge carries a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison. The Justice Department last brought a sedition charge in 2010, when it accused members of a Michigan militia of plotting to provoke an armed conflict with the government. The militia members were acquitted, underscoring the challenges of proving such a case.
In their 48-page indictment, prosecutors detailed the Oath Keepers’ activities in the immediate aftermath of Biden’s victory, quoting from encrypted messaging apps the militia group used to communicate ahead of January 6.
“We aren’t getting through this without a civil war,” Rhodes wrote on the encrypted chat app Signal, according to the indictment. “Too late for that. Prepare your mind, body, spirit.”
Prosecutors alleged that, within days of the 2020 election, Rhodes presided over a plot “to oppose the lawful transfer of presidential power by force.” On January 6, some Oath Keepers members stormed the Capitol in a military-style “stack” formation and went looking for the office of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.
The nine other Oath Keepers named in the indictment had previously been charged in connection with the January 6 attack. Prosecutors have described the Oath Keepers as a large but loosely organized group that focuses its recruitment on current and former military, law enforcement, and first-responder personnel.