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A Titusville member of the far-right group Oath Keepers has been indicted on a seditious conspiracy charge along with the founder of the extremist group and nine others for their role in the Jan. 6 Capitol riot.
The charge alleging seditious activity is the most serious charge filed yet in the federal case against the rioters.
A federal grand jury indicted 11 defendants, including Kenneth Harrelson, a Titusville man and member of the paramilitary group, implicated in connection with the U.S. Capitol breach as members of Congress were certifying the electoral votes for the presidential election. Harrelson is one of four Floridians among the 11 charged with seditious conspiracy.
Harrelson, 41, was first indicted in February last year by a grand jury and arrested in Florida in March. The probable cause affidavit for charging Harrelson at the time named him as a co-conspirator along with other members seen in a "stack" formation near the Capitol, dressed in tan and camouflage tactical gear adorned with Oath Keeper insignia.
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Harrelson and his fellow co-conspirators at the time were initially charged with conspiracy to defraud the United States and damage of government property. The new sedition charge is more serious and carries a penalty of up to 20 years in federal prison, according to U.S. sentencing guidelines.
Oath Keepers are known to "explicitly focus on recruiting current and former military, law enforcement, and first-responder personnel." Harrelson is a veteran of the United States Army, according to last year's affidavit.
Others indicted this week with Harrelson include Thomas Caldwell, 67, of Berryville, Virginia; Joseph Hackett, 51, of Sarasota, Florida; Joshua James, 34, of Arab, Alabama; Kelly Meggs, 52, of Dunnellon, Florida; Roberto Minuta, 37, of Prosper, Texas; David Moerschel, 44, of Punta Gorda, Florida; Brian Ulrich, 44, of Guyton, Georgia; Jessica Watkins, 39, of Woodstock, Ohio and Edward Vallejo, 63, of Phoenix, Arizona. All now face additional counts for seditious conspiracy and other offenses along with charges stemming from earlier indictments.
Kelly Meggs is the Florida leader of the Oath Keepers, according to the FBI. He allegedly referred to former President Donald Trump directly in a Facebook campaign to draw more recruits to the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol.
"Trump said It's gonna be wild!!!!!!! It's gonna be wild!!!!!!! He wants us to make it WILD that's what he's saying," Meggs allegedly wrote weeks before the Capitol siege. "He called us all to the Capitol and wants us tomakeitwild!!! SirYesSir!!! Gentlemen we are heading to DC pack your s---!!"
Oath Keepers founder Elmer Rhodes arrested
Also indicted in the latest round of sedition charges was Elmer Stewart Rhodes III, the eye-patch-wearing, 56-year-old leader and founder of the Oath Keepers. Rhodes is a high-profile leader in the larger, antigovernmental patriot movement. He was arrested in Little Elm, Texas.
Federal investigators now say the group had members stationed around the city, ready to distribute firearms in support of the mob attacking the Capitol - all in a bid to stop the certification of Joe Biden's electoral victory.
Some Oath Keepers believe that a group of shadowy, elite leaders have seized control of the U.S. government in a bid to strip Americans of their Constitutional rights, prosecutors point out.
Federal investigators say that following the Nov. 3, 2020 presidential election, Rhodes used encrypted and private communications to relay messages to other members about traveling to Washington, D.C. on Jan. 6, the date Congress was set to certify the results of the election.
"It is critical that all patriots who can be in DC get to DC to stand tall in support of President Trump's fight to defeat the enemies foreign and domestic who are attempting a coup, through the massive vote fraud and related attacks on our Republic," an individual identified as person one by federal authorities posted to other members of the Oath Keepers.
Person One, as he was called was listed as the leader of the Oath Keepers, federal authorities said before Thursday's indictment.
"We Oath Keepers are both honor-bound and eager to be there in strength," the person said, according to investigators.
President Trump and others had called a rally a short time before rally-goers marched to the Capitol. Five people - including one pro-Trump rioter who was shot - died that day.
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The Oath Keepers members who turned up were then organized into teams and discussed using force and transporting arms to Washington for the event.
The group - dressed in paramilitary clothing with distinctive patches - was a part of several hundred rioters who stormed the Capitol, attacked police officers, broke through barricades, rammed doors and entered restricted grounds in a bid to stop the Constitutional duty of U.S. Congressmembers, prosecutors say.
Prosecutors say the Oath Keepers members, including Harrelson, marched in a "stack" formation toward the east steps of the Capitol along with other demonstrators.
Harrelson was arrested March 10 after federal agents identified him as being at the U.S. Capitol during the attack on Congress. He was also named as part of a cadre of 17 members who were at the Capitol.
Since Jan. 6, 2021, more than 725 people from across the U.S. have been arrested in connection with the Capitol breach. About 70 of those arrested were from Florida, with seven from Brevard County.
J.D. Gallop is a Criminal Justice/Breaking News Reporter at FLORIDA TODAY. Contact Gallop at 321-917-4641 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Twitter: @JDGallop.
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This article originally appeared on Florida Today: Florida Oath Keeper indicted on sedition in Capitol riot insurrection