FORT WORTH, Texas — A North Texas man who is known as the founder and leader of the Oath Keepers was arrested Thursday in connection to the breach of the U.S. Capitol last January.

A federal grand jury returned an indictment charging 11 people with seditious conspiracy and other charges connected to the Capitol attack seeking to stop the certification of President Joe Biden’s election defeat of Donald Trump.

Oath Keepers leaders Elmer Stewart Rhodes III, 56, of Granbury, was arrested Thursday morning in Little Elm, according to a Justice Department news release.

A 63-year-old Arizona man, Edward Vallejo, was arrested Thursday as well.

The others named in the indictment are nine previously charged defendants and include one other North Texas man. They are Thomas Caldwell, 67, of Berryville, Virginia; Joseph Hackett, 51, of Sarasota, Florida; Kenneth Harrelson, 41, of Titusville, Florida; Joshua James, 34, of Arab, Alabama; Kelly Meggs, 52, of Dunnellon, Florida; Roberto Minuta, 37, of Prosper, Texas; David Moerschel, 44, of Punta Gorda, Florida; Brian Ulrich, 44, of Guyton, Georgia; and Jessica Watkins, 39, of Woodstock, Ohio. In addition to earlier charges filed against them, they now face additional counts of seditious conspiracy and other offenses, federal authorities said in the release.

“Eight other individuals affiliated with the Oath Keepers, all previously charged in the investigation, remain as defendants in two related cases. All defendants — except Rhodes and Vallejo — previously were charged in a superseding indictment,” the news release from the Department of Justice said. “The superseding indictment has now effectively been split into three parts: the 11-defendant seditious conspiracy case, a seven-defendant original case, and a third case against one of the previously charged defendants.”

According to the indictments, the Oath Keepers are a large but loosely organized collection of individuals, some of whom are associated with militias. “Though the Oath Keepers will accept anyone as members, they explicitly focus on recruiting current and former military, law enforcement, and first-responder personnel,” the release said.

Eighteen of 19 defendants connected to the three indictments are facing charges of conspiring to obstruct an official proceeding and conspiring to prevent an officer of the United States from discharging a duty. Eleven individuals were charged with seditious conspiracy.

“The seditious conspiracy indictment alleges that, following the Nov. 3, 2020, presidential election, Rhodes conspired with his co-defendants and others to oppose by force the execution of the laws governing the transfer of presidential power by Jan. 20, 2021,” the news release said. “Beginning in late December 2020, via encrypted and private communications applications, Rhodes and various co-conspirators coordinated and planned to travel to Washington, D.C., on or around Jan. 6, 2021 ... (and) made plans to bring weapons to the area to support the operation.”

The group allegedly organized teams to transport firearms, knives, batons, camouflage combat uniforms, helmets, radio equipment and eye protection to the Capitol, alongside recruiting members and training them in paramilitary combat tactics in an attempt to take control of the area on Jan. 6.

Rhodes reportedly entered a restricted area of the Capitol and told others to meet him around 2 p.m. that day.

Various Oath Keepers, and affiliates, wore paramilitary uniforms with patches with the Oath Keepers name, logo, and insignia, the news release said. The individuals “marched in a ‘stack’ formation up the east steps of the Capitol, joined a mob, and made their way into the Capitol,” the release said.

A second “stack” soon followed suit, marching from the west side to the east side of the Capitol building, authorities said.

“While certain Oath Keepers members and affiliates breached the Capitol grounds and building, others remained stationed just outside of the city in quick reaction force (QRF) teams,” the Department of Justice said. “According to the indictment, the QRF teams were prepared to rapidly transport firearms and other weapons into Washington, D.C., in support of operations aimed at using force to stop the lawful transfer of presidential power.”

Individuals, including Rhodes, may face up to 20 years in prison if convicted of the seditious conspiracy charge.

In the related indictments charges remain pending against James Beeks, 49, of Orlando, Florida; Donovan Crowl, 51, of Cable, Ohio; William Isaacs, 22, of Kissimmee, Florida; Connie Meggs, 60, of Dunnellon, Florida; Sandra Parker, 63, of Morrow, Ohio; Bernie Parker, 71, of Morrow, Ohio; Laura Steele, 53, of Thomasville, North Carolina; and Jonathan Walden, 57, of Birmingham, Alabama.

Since the attack last January, more than 725 people were charged and arrested in connection to the Capitol breach. More than 225 of those arrested face charges of assaulting or impeding law enforcement. Investigations remain ongoing.

Copyright 2022 Tribune Content Agency.

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