The Department of Justice (DOJ) rarely uses seditious conspiracy charges. In fact, nearly 1,000 rioters have been charged with committing crimes at the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021; of those, less than 20 faced the rarely used charges. Instead, these individuals were identified as “not just participants in the violent mob but also leaders using brutality to further a political plot,” according to The Washington Post.
Early last week, a Justice Department press release indicated that a jury in the District of Columbia returned guilty verdicts on multiple felonies against five Proud Boys members. Jurors also returned guilty of seditious conspiracy against four of the defendants, including the group’s leader, Enrique Tarrio, for their actions before and during the attempted coup of the Capitol.
However, these were not the first far-right white supremacy group members to receive harsh convictions. In Jan. 2021, the DOJ charged three Oath Keeper members. The Washington Post reported these Oath Keepers were the first rioters charged with conspiring to obstruct a congressional proceeding, obstructing law enforcement, injuring officers, or some combination.
Additionally, the Justice Department charged 11 Oath Keepers with seditious conspiracy, including the group’s founder, Stewart Rhodes.
DOJ Definition of Seditious Conspiracy
The Justice Department says seditious conspiracy is one of the most difficult charges to prove because “the government must prove that the defendant, in fact, conspired to use force.” Whereas “simply advocating for the use of force is not the same thing,” FindLaw explained.
The Oath Keepers and Proud Boys assisted in “plotting to oppose by force the lawful transfer of presidential power and to prevent Members of Congress and the federal law enforcement officers who protect them from discharging their duties.”
The charged white supremacists coordinated travel to the Capitol. Furthermore, they equipped themselves with various weapons, wore combat and tactical gear, and were prepared to take up arms at their leader’s command.
Written by Cathy Milne-Ware
Department of Justice: Jury Convicts Four Leaders of the Proud Boys of Seditious Conspiracy Related to U.S. Capitol Breach (Press Release)
PBS: Proud Boys members convicted of seditious conspiracy in Jan. 6 case; by Amna Nawaz and Saher Khan
The Washington Post: Four other Oath Keepers found guilty of Jan. 6 seditious conspiracy; by Rachel Weiner
The Washington Post: Insurrection? Sedition? Incitement? A Legal Guide to the Capitol Riot; Analysis by Peter Blumberg