Phoenix Oath Keeper Edward Vallejo convicted of seditious conspiracy; weeks after group leader’s conviction
Three others alongside Vallejo were also convicted on Monday.
WASHINGTON (AP) — Four members of the Oath Keepers were convicted Monday of seditious conspiracy in the Jan. 6, 2021, Capitol attack in the second major trial of far-right extremists accused of plotting to forcibly keep President Donald Trump in power.
The verdict against Joseph Hackett of Sarasota, Florida; Roberto Minuta of Prosper, Texas; David Moerschel of Punta Gorda, Florida; and Edward Vallejo of Phoenix, comes weeks after a different jury convicted the group’s leader, Stewart Rhodes, in the mob’s attack that halted the certification of President Joe Biden’s electoral victory.
It’s another major victory for the Justice Department, which is also trying to secure sedition convictions against the former leader of the Proud Boys and four associates. The trial against Enrique Tarrio and his lieutenants opened earlier this month in Washington and is expected to last several weeks. They are some of the most serious cases brought so far in the sweeping Jan. 6 investigation, which continues to grow two years after the riot. The Justice Department has brought nearly 1,000 cases, and the tally increases by the week.
Defense attorneys sought to downplay violent messages as mere bluster and said the Oath Keepers came to Washington to provide security at events before the riot. They seized on prosecutors’ lack of evidence that the Oath Keepers had an explicit plan to storm the Capitol before Jan. 6 and told jurors that the extremists who attacked the Capitol acted spontaneously like thousands of other rioters.
Experts say conspiracy is a charge you see often. But sedition - they say that’s rare and far more serious. “Sedition is the tough one. That’s similar to treason or overthrowing the government,” said retired supervisory FBI special agent Lance Leising.
Leising said for Vallejo - this isn’t about the actual day of January 6. “It’s more going to be proven by the conspiracy and the planning and the preparation before and after January 6th within that organization,” said Leising. That’s exactly what the prosecutors in this case did. The jury heard some podcast audio of Edward Vallejo before the day of the insurrection. “The American people are going to be told today that we have liberty and justice for all, or they’re gonna be told, ‘f*** you.’ okay. And if, and if they’re told, ‘f*** you,’ that’s going to be the declaration of a guerilla war,” Vallejo can be heard saying on a podcast.
Recently, two high-profile insurrectionists from Arizona were convicted and sentenced - a man known as ‘Baked Alaska,’ and another known as the ‘Q Anon Shaman.’ But their charges were far less than Vallejo’s. Why? “The level of intent is what separates these two things,” said Chandler attorney Tom Ryan.
Ryan said strategically, federal investigators will go for the lesser charges on defendants first because those cases will often help build the more complex cases like Vallejo’s with the evidence needed to show there was a calculated plan. “A seditious conspiracy is very rare because we have a longstanding history and tradition that we respect the results of elections,” said Ryan.
Copyright 2023 KTVK/KPHO. All rights reserved.