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Oath Keepers lawyer who made infamous ‘Lord of the Rings’ argument in pro-Trump lawsuit deemed ‘mentally incompetent’ for her Jan. 6 trial

Kellye SoRelle, Stewart Rhodes

Kellye SoRelle, Stewart Rhodes

The attorney for the right-wing anti-government Oath Keepers group currently facing conspiracy and obstruction charges in the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol has been deemed mentally incompetent to stand trial.

Kellye SoRelle was arrested in September 2022 for her alleged role in the Jan. 6 riot, when mobs of Donald Trump supporters overran police and violently breached the Capitol as Congress began to certify Joe Biden’s 2020 electoral win. Lawmakers and staffers were forced to flee or shelter in place for hours until the certification process could be safely resumed.

SoRelle is alleged to have urged suspected participants in the riot to “withhold records, documents, and other objects” from a grand jury investigation into the Jan. 6 attack, and to “alter, destroy, mutilate, and conceal objects with intent to impair the objects’ integrity and availability for use in such a Grand Jury investigation,” according to prosecutors.

She’s also accused of illegally entering the Capitol that day and has been charged with conspiracy to obstruct an official proceeding, obstructing an official proceeding, entering and remaining in a restricted building or grounds, and obstruction of justice by tampering with documents. The obstruction charge alone carries a potential 20-year prison sentence.

“[T]he Court finds by a preponderance of the evidence that Defendant is presently suffering from a mental disease or defect rendering her mentally incompetent, to the extent that she is unable to understand the nature and consequences of the proceedings against her or to assist properly in her defense,” U.S. District Judge Amit Mehta wrote in an order issued Monday.

Mehta based his determination on SoRelle’s “motion for competency restoration” and reports from both the prosecution and defense that had separately concluded that SoRelle was “presently incompetent to stand trial.”

Those reports also indicated that SoRelle would likely regain competency “in the foreseeable future,” and Mehta found that there is a “substantial probability” that she will “attain the capacity to permit the proceedings to go forward.”

Mehta, a Barack Obama appointee, ordered SoRelle to be committed to federal authorities for “hospitalization for treatment in a suitable medical facility for the purposes of competency restoration” once space in such a program becomes available. Reports on her condition must be submitted to the judge every 60 days thereafter until she has “recovered to such an extent” that she can proceed with her trial.

SoRelle, who has been released on her own recognizance, was supposed to face trial before Mehta in July alongside Oath Keepers members Donovan Crowl and James Beeks. It was not immediately clear whether that trial would proceed in light of Mehta’s order.

Prosecutors and SoRelle’s defense attorney reportedly told Mehta, a Barack Obama appointee, during a June 8 hearing that SoRelle had been deemed incompetent to stand trial. As recently as June 13, SoRelle appears to have been making social media posts about her mental competency status.

SoRelle took over leadership of the Oath Keepers in January 2022 after Rhodes’ arrest. In January 2021, she was one of the lawyers behind a pro-Trump election fraud lawsuit that memorably drew from “The Lord of the Rings,” comparing Trump to the “true king” of the fictional kingdom of Gondor and Biden, his administration, and lawmakers as “a group of individuals calling themselves the President, Vice President and Congress who have no rightful claim to govern the American People.”

SoRelle was reportedly romantically involved with Oath Keepers founder Stewart Rhodes, who was convicted in November of seditious conspiracy and other felonies relating to Jan. 6 and sentenced in May to nearly two decades behind bars. Her relationship with Rhodes was revealed in sharp relief during Rhodes’ trial in October 2022 when some of the one-time couple’s explicit text messages that indicated a romantic entanglement between attorney and client were shown to jurors.

Read Mehta’s order, below.

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