More Oath Keepers found guilty in US Capitol riot
WASHINGTON (AP) - Four people associated with the Oath Keepers were convicted on Monday of conspiracy and obstruction charges stemming from the attack on the U.S. Capitol in the latest trial involving members of the far-right antigovernment extremist group.
A Washington D.C. jury found Sandra Parker, of Morrow, Ohio, Laura Steele, of Thomasville, North Carolina, William Isaacs, of Kissimmee, Florida, and Connie Meggs, of Dunnellon, Florida, guilty of conspiracy to obstruct an official proceeding and other felony charges.
In a rare loss for prosecutors, Sandra Parker's husband, Bennie Parker, was acquitted of obstruction as well as one conspiracy charge, and a sixth defendant — Michael Greene, of Indianapolis — was acquitted of two conspiracy charges.
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Jurors said they couldn't reach a verdict on another conspiracy charge for Bennie Parker and the obstruction charge for Greene, so the judge instructed them to keep deliberating. All six defendants were convicted of a misdemeanor trespassing offense.
Conspiracy to obstruct Congress and obstruction of Congress both carry a sentence of up to 20 years behind bars.
They were the third group of Oath Keepers members and associates to be tried on serious charges in the riot that temporarily halted the certification of President Joe Biden's victory and left dozens of police officers injured. Unlike other Oath Keepers, they were not charged with seditious conspiracy — the most serious offense prosecutors have levied so far in the attack.
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The verdict comes as the prosecution on Monday rested its case in another high-profile Capitol riot trial against former Proud Boys leader Enrique Tarrio and four lieutenants who are charged with seditious conspiracy for what prosecutors say was a plot to forcibly overturn Biden’s election victory.
In November, Oath Keepers leader Stewart Rhodes and Kelly Meggs — who led the Oath Keepers' Florida chapter — were convicted of seditious conspiracy. Three other Oath Keepers were cleared of the charge in that case but were found guilty of other serious crimes. After a second trial, four additional Oath Keepers were convicted of seditious conspiracy in January. Seditious conspiracy calls for up to 20 years in prison. None of the Oath Keepers have been sentenced yet.
Connie Meggs is the wife of Kelly Meggs.
Authorities alleged Oath Keepers prepared for weeks leading up to Jan. 6, attended training sessions and recruited others to come to Washington. Authorities have said the extremist group stashed weapons at a Virginia hotel in case they were needed, donned tactical vests and helmets and moved in an organized fashion as they advanced on the Capitol.
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The Oath Keepers have denied there was any plot to storm the Capitol or stop the certification. Defense lawyers have argued that their clients came to Washington only to watch then-President Donald Trump speak or provide security for speakers at events prior to the riot, and that those who entered the Capitol did so spontaneously.
Greene took the witness stand for the defense at Rhodes' trial in November and told jurors that he never heard anyone discussing plans to storm the Capitol. Rhodes told jurors during that case that he tapped Greene as an "operation leader" for Jan. 6 after meeting Greene in 2017, when they helped with disaster relief after Hurricane Harvey.
Greene said he wasn’t a dues-paying member of the Oath Keepers but worked essentially as a contractor, providing security services, and was asked to come to Washington to help with security operations for events around the Capitol before the riot.
Authorities said Sandra Parker, Connie Meggs, Issacs and Steele were part of the group of Oath Keepers who stormed into the Capitol after marching in military-style "stack" formation up the steps of the building.
Bennie Parker, who didn't go inside, told a reporter: "We had just had a presidential election and it’s been stolen from us ... all of these people out here are patriots. And if we need to, it’ll come to a civil war, and a lot of people are willing to take up their arms," according to the indictment.
Bennie Parker's attorney, Stephen Brennwald, said after the verdict that his client would rather have been convicted of the serious charges than his wife, saying "it's tearing him up."
Attorneys for the other defendants either declined to comment or didn't immediately respond to emails on Monday.
More than half of the roughly 1,000 people have been charged with Capitol riot-related federal crimes have pleaded guilty, including more than 130 who pleaded guilty to felony crimes. Of the 400 who have been sentenced, more than half have gotten terms of imprisonment ranging from seven days to 10 years, according to an Associated Press tally.
Richer reported from Boston.