HELENA — Oath Keepers founder Elmer Stewart Rhodes has been denied pretrial release after a hearing on Friday before Judge Amit Mehta in the United States District Court for the District of Columbia.
Rhodes has been accused of committing seditious conspiracy related to the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the U.S. Capitol. He had been a practicing lawyer in Montana before his disbarment in 2015. In the years following his disbarment, Rhodes relocated to Texas.
Mehta said Friday that although Rhodes has cooperated with Congress and law enforcement and was not a flight risk, he was a potential danger to the community.
Lawyers for Rhodes have been arguing for weeks to have Rhodes released from prison pending trial. He has been in prison since he was arrested in Texas just over a month ago.
Federal prosecutors stated that Rhodes should not be released due to being a flight risk, at risk of obstruction and a danger to the community.
At a Wednesday hearing, prosecutors pointed to the “Quick Reaction Force” (QRF) the Oath Keepers had assembled on Jan. 6, 2021 with the staging of a gun cache across the river from D.C. in Virginia. The government doesn’t say the possession of guns was illegal, but rather the “intended use.” The prosecution claims the reason the QRF wasn’t used was that the Capitol was breached already without the need for firearms.
Lawyers for Rhodes argued that Oath Keepers were in D.C. for security reasons and that having a QRF was a regular part of their planning at events. They also went on to say that had former President Trump enacted the Insurrection Act, the Oath Keepers would have been able to lawfully carry and use the firearms as a militia.
Judge Mehta noted that the Insurrection Act specifically refers to state militias. “The fact that [an Oath Keepers branch] label themselves the Ohio militia doesn’t make it so,” he noted.
In court filings, the defense also claimed the reason Oath Keepers had entered the Capitol Building was to assist after the fatal shooting of Ashli Babbitt. However, at the Friday hearing Judge Mehta noted the timeline doesn’t match up with the Oath Keepers being pictured inside the building before Babbitt was shot.