PLANO, Texas — Two days after a detention hearing was held for the reported founder of the Oath Keepers, a federal judge has decided that the leader of the far-right militia group -- a man that the FBI says organized attacks on the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021 -- should remain detained as he awaits his trial.
Elmer Stewart Rhodes III, 56, of Granbury, is charged with “seditious conspiracy” for his alleged role on Jan. 6. Rhodes was supposed to have a detention hearing last week, but it was postponed after he tested positive for COVID.
In Monday’s hearing, a federal judge said any ruling on Rhodes remaining in custody until his trial date would take 48 hours to come to. On Wednesday, that decision was finally handed over, citing the evidence against Rhodes, the nature of the charges, his lack of permanent residence and the danger and "significant harm to others" posed by his release.
Rhodes' ex-wife in Montana also said the thought of having him released "is a living nightmare."
Prosecutors accuse Rhodes of sending the following text and chat messages to his alleged co-conspirators in advance of Jan. 6:
"[We] need to scare or intimidate members of congress."
"About a million [of us] surrounding them should do the trick."
"The only chance we have is if we scare the sh*t out of them... to do the right thing."
Rhodes is also accused of texting his followers on the day of the insurrection, saying “we aren’t getting through this without a civil war.” Additionally, the FBI says Rhodes purchased $40,000 worth of ammunition and equipment ahead of the attack.
In a separate court appearance on Tuesday, Rhodes pleaded not guilty to the seditious conspiracy charge.
Due to the amount of evidence, the Department of Justice said "there are no conditions of release that can reasonably assure the safety of the community or the defendant's appearance in court."
But during Monday's hearing, defense attorneys argued that Rhodes doesn’t pose a flight risk and that Rhodes hasn't threatened anyone in the year it's taken the government to indict and arrest him.
Defense attorneys also said Rhodes voluntarily handed over his personal phone to the FBI, and said Rhodes "very much" wants this case to go to trial.
"Whether you believe in what he stands for or not, he has a very public platform that he wants to put forth -- and for him to duck and run and avoid a trial thwarts all of that," said defense attorney Phillip Linder.
Rhodes faces up to 20 years if he is convicted of seditious conspiracy.
Ten other people, including 37-year-old Roberto Minuta of Prosper, Texas, are also charged with seditious conspiracy in connection with the attack on Jan. 6.
In the year since Jan. 6, more than 725 people have been arrested in nearly all 50 states for crimes related to the deadly insurrection. More than 225 people have been charged with assaulting or impeding law enforcement.
At least 35 arrests have been made by the FBI's Dallas field office so far, the highest number for any field office in the country.