Jurors convict a Florida Oath Keeper of sedition. Miami's ex-Proud Boy, take note | Opinion




  • In US
  • 2022-11-30 20:34:26Z
  • By Miami Herald
 

Reality finally came calling this week - and in a big way - for Kelly Meggs, the head of Florida's chapter of the Oath Keepers. Miami's own far-right extremist, former Proud Boy Henry "Enrique" Tarrio, may want to take note.

Meggs and Stewart Rhodes, the bombastic founder of the anti-government organization whose members were among those who stormed the U.S. Capitol, were convicted of seditious conspiracy for their part in the Jan. 6 attack fueled by Donald Trump.

All five Oath Keepers in the Washington, D.C., case - including another Florida Oath Keeper, Kenneth Harrelson - also were convicted of obstructing Congress as it tried to confirm the 2020 election results. Each charge carries a punishment of up to 20 years in prison.

Jurors made the right decision, and so did prosecutors. Almost two years have passed since the attempt to overthrow the legitimate election of President Joe Biden. It is past time for those who participated in the attack to feel the full weight of the law.

No doubt, Tarrio is swallowing hard. He has good reason. He faces the same Civil War-era sedition charge, one that connotes a serious political crime. In essence, it means planning to use force to stop the lawful transfer of power. Jury selection in Tarrio's trial is set to begin in December.

Jurors in the Meggs and Rhodes case deliberated for three days. In the nearly two-month-long trial, they heard evidence from dozens of encrypted messages, recordings and surveillance video. Meggs, an auto dealership manager from Dunnellon, wrote messages to other Oath Keepers, as reported by the Washington Post: "We are Militia! We don't have to play by their rules! We make the rules." The Post also reported he said he'd met with the Proud Boys and "orchestrated a plan."

Rhodes, who did not enter the Capitol, had warned repeatedly that "bloody civil war" might be required to keep Trump in office if the election results were not overturned. On a recording played in court, he threatened House Speaker Nancy Pelosi: "I'd hang (expletive) Pelosi from the lamppost."

'Stupid,' off-mission'

He claimed in court - he took the witness stand - that the plans for Jan. 6 did not include entering the Capitol. He called it "stupid" and "off-mission." But this is the same guy who told his followers to be ready for an "armed rebellion," wrote an open letter to Trump urging him to take extreme measures to stay in office, including invoking the Insurrection Act, and stockpiled guns. And that's nowhere near all the evidence against him.

This case is notable and important for a number of reasons. It shows that "force and violence are no match for our country's justice system," as Steven M. D'Antuono, assistant director in charge of the FBI Washington Field Office, told the Associated Press.

It also means the gamble by prosecutors to press sedition charges - and all the political freight that comes with it - has paid off. The result of this trial will likely build momentum in the conga line of upcoming trials for other participants in that shameful day in January. In particular, Tarrio, who is supposed to have directed his group from Baltimore, may want to think about the fact that even though Rhodes stayed out of the Capitol, he'll be going to the slammer.

The House Jan. 6 Committee examined the actions of both Rhodes and Tarrio during their hearings earlier this year. The two far-right leaders met in an underground garage on Jan. 5, according to a federal indictment, which also said Tarrio was involved in discussions about occupying buildings, including the Capitol complex. The indictment against Tarrio is long and chilling, including a string of text messages on Jan. 6 urging those in the building to stay.

Democracy won

When Congressional lawmakers had been chased from the Capitol, Tarrio's indictment says he posted on social media: "Proud of My Boys and my country."

After the Oath Keepers' trial, defense attorneys tried to paint the mixed results - some of the defendants were acquitted on some of the other charges - as a partial victory for the defendants.

But this is a government victory, and it's a victory for the people. This was a planned, organized violent assault on the peaceful transfer of power and on democracy itself.

Those charged in this case have been held accountable, as our system of laws requires. But there are many more cases to come, Tarrio's among them. Way back in September 2020, Trump infamously fueled the Proud Boys with a televised message to "Stand back and stand by."

Well, we are the ones standing by now, watching justice finally being done.

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