“Even advocating for violence per se is not illegal unless it calls for immediate action,” said Mehta, an appointee for President Barack Obama. “But Mr. Rhodes is not accused of just talking. … If anyone thinks it’s speaking, he’s mistaken.
Rhodes is accused of being the ringleader of a plot to prevent the transfer of presidential power from Donald Trump to Joe Biden. Prosecutors say Rhodes assembled a team of dozens of oath keepers — some of whom were brought in to provide security for Trump allies attending ‘Stop the Steal’ events — and laid out a plan to stop Congress from certify Biden’s victory.
As part of the plan, prosecutors say the oath keepers amassed a stockpile of firearms which they hid at a Comfort Inn in Arlington, Virginia. Rhodes claimed the weapons were defensive and would only be deployed if Trump invoked the Insurrection Act and deputized oath keepers. as an authorized federal militia. Mehta called this explanation “dubious”.
Mehta said that despite some conflicting evidence as to whether Rhodes specifically ordered the oath keepers into the Capitol, he considered it highly unlikely that the militarist group would charge into the Capitol in unison. without the blessing of Rhodes.
“It is unlikely that Mr. Rhodes did not at least inform, if not encourage, if not order” others to enter the Capitol, the judge said. “These are not people who do things out of order.”
Rhodes specifically spoke with alleged co-conspirator Kelly Meggs moments before Meggs led the group to the Capitol, Mehta noted. Although Rhodes did not go inside himself, he was in Washington and was seen outside the Capitol huddling with the Oath Keepers after they exited.
Afterwards, Rhodes and some of the oath keepers discussed reuniting and coming up with new plans, according to messages obtained by prosecutors.
Mehta also dismissed Rhodes’ argument that he was no longer a danger because Trump was no longer in power. But Mehta noted that many of Rhodes’ plans were being considered out of frustration with Trump for refusing to invoke the Insurrection Act and take other extreme measures.
Mehta also said Rhodes’ continued association with his alleged co-conspirators in the hours and weeks after the attack suggested he was okay with their behavior. Many of them dined together at an Olive Garden restaurant in Vienna, Va., just hours after the unrest at the Capitol.
Mehta also said he was concerned about the thousands of dollars worth of weapons and other equipment Rhodes bought in the days leading up to January 6. Rhodes’ lawyers argued that all the guns were legal, but the judge said they contributed to the idea that Rhodes was preparing to fight, even though the hidden weapons were never brought to Washington, D.C.
“What worries me is the quantity and the timing,” Mehta said. “These are not purchases, I dare say, that are compatible with individual self-defense.”
Mehta also raised concerns about where Rhodes should stay in jail while awaiting trial, noting that transporting him to the DC jail would put him alongside several of his alleged Oath Keeper allies. “His ability to communicate and organize are his greatest weapons,” Judge said.
Rhodes is currently being held in Oklahoma City, a key hub for transferred federal inmates across the country. Prosecutors and defense attorneys have reached an unusual agreement that he should stay there, where he will be close to his Texas-based attorneys.