A judge ruled on Thursday that U.S. prosecutors may introduce potentially incriminating texts exchanged between the general counsel of the far-right organization Oath Keepers and the group’s leader. The judge noted that the texts were personal in nature and did not fall under the attorney-client privilege.
Before the defense raised a concern last week, prosecutors had briefly showed the court a correspondence from founder Stewart Rhodes dated December 2020 to attorney Kellye SoRelle. Rhodes is one of five Oath Keepers who are being tried for their alleged involvement in the attack on the US Capitol on January 6, 2021.
“This will be DC rally number three. Getting kinda old. They don’t give a shit how many show up and wave a sign, pray, or yell. They won’t fear us till we come with rifles in hand,” Rhodes said in the Dec. 29, 2020 message to SoRelle, according to testimony by FBI Special Agent Byron Cody.
The prosecution argued that there was no proof of an attorney-client relationship between Rhodes and SoRelle prior to January 6, 2021 in a petition they filed this week to admit correspondence sent between the two in December 2020. In response, the defense stated that SoRelle was an admitted lawyer who had worked pro gratis for the Oath Keepers at Rhodes’ request in 2020.
The action makes it possible for the government to recall Cody and provide the communications between Rhodes and SoRelle from December 2020 as proof.
SoRelle was accused of instructing others to withhold, alter, and conceal information from a federal grand jury, which led to her being charged last month with obstruction of justice and conspiracy to obstruct an official process in connection with the unrest on January 6.
In an unsuccessful attempt to keep then-President Donald Trump in office, Rhodes and four co-defendants, Jessica Watkins, Thomas Caldwell, Kenneth Harrelson, and Kelly Meggs, are accused of attempting to use force to prevent Congress from certifying President Joe Biden’s election victory.
Seditious conspiracy, a rarely tried offense under a Civil War-era law that is defined as an attempt “to overturn, bring down, or destroy by force the government of the United States,” is one of the allegations against the five.
On January 6, Trump supporters attacked the Capitol’s security forces and broke through to gain entry, forcing lawmakers, Vice President Mike Pence, and other people to escape for their safety. Three law enforcement officers were among the seven victims who “ultimately lost their lives,” according to a bipartisan Senate investigation on the attack.