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Oath Keepers guilty of sedition in Capitol riot trial

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A member of the Oath Keepers during protests in Ferguson, Missouri in 2015./AFP
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Jan 24, 2023 - 08:39 AM

WASHINGTON — Four members of the far-right Oath Keepers militia group were found guilty Monday of sedition for taking part in the January 6, 2021 attack on the US Capitol.

A jury convicted Roberto Minuta, Joseph Hackett, David Moerschel and Edward Vallejo of conspiring against the US government when they sought to block Congress’s certification of Joe Biden’s victory over Donald Trump in the November 2020 election.

In a separate Washington courtroom Monday, meanwhile, Richard Barnett, the man famously photographed on January 6 with his feet on a desk in House speaker Nancy Pelosi’s office, was convicted of disrupting Congress and other crimes.

The convictions brought to around 530 the number of people who have been found guilty or pleaded guilty for taking part in what prosecutors have called an insurrection to keep Trump in the White House after his election loss.

More than 950 people have been arrested for taking part, most on lesser charges of illegally entering the Capitol or causing property damage.

But more than 280 have been charged with assaulting law enforcement officers and 50 with serious conspiracy crimes.

Monday’s verdicts came two months after the conviction of two January 6 Oath Keepers for seditious conspiracy. It is extremely rare for prosecutors to press this charge, and conviction can bring up to 20 years in prison.

The verdicts appeared to increase the chance for a similar ruling in the ongoing trial of another far-right group, the Proud Boys, for their roles in the attacks.

Trump under investigation 

The success of federal prosecutors in obtaining convictions for sedition among the January 6 rioters could raise the stakes for Trump and his advisors in the Justice Department’s investigation into whether they plotted or fomented the Capitol attack.

Barnett, 62, was not accused of conspiring against the government. He became one of the faces of the January 6 attack for the pictures of him leaning back in a chair and propping his boots on the desk in the office of Democrat Pelosi, the most powerful politician in Congress at the time.

He had joined other Trump supporters crashing through the Capitol’s offices and halls to shut down the legislature as it convened to certify Biden as the next president.

He was convicted on eight counts including obstructing Congress’s certification of the election, illegally entering the Capitol and disorderly conduct with a dangerous weapon, the latter referring to an electric stun weapon disguised as a walking stick.

But while in Pelosi’s office he wrote a crude message to her and then took with him an envelop she had signed.

After he left the room he told media that he had bled on the desk.

“I put a quarter on her desk even though she ain’t f…ing worth it,” he said, according to a court filing.

“And I left her a note on her desk that says ‘Nancy, Bigo was here, you Bitch,'” he said, using his nickname.

Barnett, described in court filings as a supporter of the QAnon conspiracy theory alleging a global liberal plot to kidnap children, had defended his actions as an exercise of his constitutional right to protest.

He faces in total up to 47 years in prison.

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