WASHINGTON (AP) — The trial of a far-right extremist group leader and four associates indicted in the Jan. 6, 2021 attack on the United States Capitol was postponed Monday after the leader of the Oath Keepers tested positive for the coronavirus.
Jurors to begin hearing the fourth week of testimony in the case against Stewart Rhodes and four others accused of conspiring to stop the transfer of power from Republican Donald Trump to Democrat Joe Biden.
The judge told lawyers and jurors to return on Tuesday morning, but it is unclear when and how they will continue the case.
A lawyer for Rhodes, Ed Tarpley, said he was told by prison officials that his client was in “total isolation” in prison and could not even be reached for a phone call. Rhodes will be available in court next week at the earliest if he tests negative on Sunday, but may also waive his appearance in court to allow some witnesses’ testimony to continue.
Prosecutors would drop their case by the end of this week and then Rhodes’ lawyers would begin their defense. Rhodes’ lawyers have said their client will take the stand to… testify that all of his actions were in anticipation of orders he expected from Trump—orders that never came.
The defendants are the first of hundreds charged in the Capitol bombing to stand trial on charges of: seditious conspiracy, a rare Civil War-era indictment that carries a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison.
Prosecutors have said Rhodes and his extremist group are planning an “armed uprising” to keep Trump in power. Authorities say they stationed “quick reaction force” teams at a Virginia hotel to quickly get weapons into town if they were needed, and that the group was prepared to stop Biden from running for president by any means necessary.
Defense attorneys have accused prosecutors of squeezing messages, saying they came to provide security for political figures like Roger Stone, not to carry out a plan to attack the Capitol.
Testimony began October 3rd and the judge had said witnesses could extend to the week of November 14. The stakes are high for the Justice Department, which last received an inflammatory conspiracy conviction at trial nearly 30 years ago and plans to try two more groups later this year. year.
The disruption comes nearly a week after a juror was fired after testing positive for COVID. The federal courthouse in Washington, where the trial is being held last week, lifted its mask mandate, but the judge overseeing the trial still required those who did not speak to wear masks to prevent an outbreak. Still, lawyers and defendants were occasionally seen with bare noses or masks under their chins.
On trial with Rhodes, of Granbury, Texas, are Kelly Meggs, leader of the Florida division of the Oath Keepers; Kenneth Harrelson, another Florida Oath Keeper; Thomas Caldwell, a retired United States Navy intelligence officer from Virginia; and Jessica Watkins, who led a militia group in Ohio. They are also facing several other charges.
They are among about 900 people charged in the attack, which temporarily halted certification of Biden’s victory, displaced lawmakers and injured dozens of police officers.
Richer reported from Boston.
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