A defendant in the Oath Keepers Jan. 6 seditious conspiracy case has filed a motion asking the judge to put the brakes on the trial so the defendant can take the deposition of one of the military-style group’s “longest tenured members.”
Kelly Meggs, the alleged leader of the Florida chapter of the Oath Keepers and one of five members whose trial is currently underway, filed a motion Sunday asking U.S. District Judge Amit Mehta to allow him to depose John L. Siemens, described in the filing as an Oath Keepers member who can testify as to the “lawful reasons” why some of the group’s top leaders were in Washington, D.C. on Jan. 6.
Meggs is facing trial alongside co-defendants Jessica Watkins, Kenneth Harrelson, Thomas Caldwell, and Oath Keepers founder and leader Stewart Rhodes. Four other co-defendants — Roberto Minuta, David Moerschel, Joseph Hackett, and Edward Vallejo — will go to trial in November.
They are accused of plotting to block the transfer of presidential power from Donald Trump to Joe Biden on Jan. 6, when Congress is required by the constitution to certify the Electoral College vote. According to federal prosecutors, the Rhodes and his accused co-conspirators communicated ahead of time as to how they planned to help keep Trump in power, allegedly going so far as to prepare a “Quick Reaction Force” to ferry a cache of weapons stored at a hotel in Virginia across the Potomac River to the Capitol that day.
The motion, filed by Meggs’ attorney Stanley Woodward, signals the defendant’s intent to argue that his presence in the capital that day was in line with what Oath Keepers members had done in the past: serve as “security” for high-profile gatherings of conservative and right-wing groups.
Woodward says that while the federal government describes the Oath Keepers as a “large but loosely organized collection of individuals, some of whom are associated with militias,” with a focus on recruiting former law enforcement and military, prosecutors left out some important details.
“Yet nowhere in the operative indictment does the government acknowledge that the Oath Keepers, including Mr. Meggs, had provided security services at numerous events including for Roger Stone in Florida, at protests surrounding the death of Breonna Taylor in Louisville, Kentucky, and in Washington, DC,” Meggs’ motion says.
Siemens’ testimony, the motion says, can support the defendants’ position that their decision to go to Washington was nothing less — or more — than what they had already done multiple times.
“Mr. Siemens is in a unique position as one of the longest tenured members of the Oath Keepers organization, with close association with co-defendant Rhodes on at least one occasion, who can speak to both the organization’s past security detail jobs as well as the lawful reasons for Mr. Meggs and his co-defendants’ presence on January 6, 2021 in Washington, D.C.,” the motion says. “Further, Mr. Siemens does not stand accused of any crimes relating to his involvement with the Oath Keepers, and therefore he can speak freely about the actions of the Oath Keepers without any fear of self-incrimination.”
Siemens emerged as a potential boon for the defense only recently, when Rhodes filed his Sept. 6 motion to substitute counsel.
“Siemens was Rhodes’ most important organizer for many Oathkeeper operations and events,” Rhodes’ attorney Edward Tarpley wrote in that motion, which Mehta largely rejected. “Prior attorneys promised to depose Siemens but did not do so.”
Woodward said that Rhodes’ investigator interviewed Siemens in May, and that a written summary of that interview says that Siemens can provide “significant background” on events where Oath Keepers have acted as a security force.
“Specifically, Siemens can testify that between October 2019 and November 2019, the Oath Keepers were recruited to assist with security details for Trump rallies in Texas and Mississippi,” the motion says. “Further, Mr. Siemens can testify that, because of the Oath Keepers’ reputation for providing a competent security detail, beginning in May 9, 2020, Mr. Siemens repeatedly provided the security detail for Allen West, then-chairman of the Republican Party of Texas.”
The motion continues:
In summary, Mr. Siemens’s testimony will corroborate the assertion that the Oath Keepers have long served to provide security services as well as disaster relief, including having provided security for rallies in Ferguson, Missouri and Louisville, Kentucky; assistance with Border Patrol Operations; engagement with local law enforcement as community liaisons, as well as hurricane and disaster relief in Houston and Puerto Rico. Mr. Siemens can also testify that the Oath Keepers have strict rules of engagement and a vetting process designed to ensure that members of the group abide by these rules, as well as the longstanding Oath Keepers policy to obey each state’s respective gun laws when the Oath Keepers travel to or perform any sort of security functions.
Woodward says Siemens’ testimony is “inherently material evidence” in the case, but that the man is unable to provide it in-person due to “multiple health issues” Siemens developed earlier this year. Although specifics of Siemens’ condition are redacted from Woodward’s filing, Rhodes described him in his Sept. 6 motion as being “in nurses’ care due to two recent strokes and two heart attacks.”
Woodward acknowledges the last-minute nature of the motion, but says that he has a solution: delaying the trial.
“To the extent the government opposes the taking of Mr. Siemens[‘] deposition because the trial in this matter is poised to begin, the appropriate remedy for any prejudice to the government is not to preclude the admission of Mr. Siemens testimony for Mr. Meggs’s benefit, but to continue the trial so as to allow the deposition to be taken at a time more convenient for the government,” Woodward proposes. “Nor can the government claim that defense counsel had an opportunity to previously propose the taking of Mr. Siemens’ deposition — defense counsel did not learn of Mr. Siemens’s existence until September 6, 2022, with the filing of Mr. Rhodes’s motion to substitute counsel. Moreover, defense counsel was unaware of the existence of the summary notes taken by Mr. Rhodes’s investigator until September 28, 2022, the same day they were provided to the government [emphasis in original].”
Woodward, who said that prosecutors do not appear to have made contact with Siemens regarding his role with the Oath Keepers, accuses the government of deliberately ignoring Siemens as a possible witness.
“The fact of the matter is that defense counsel has now repeatedly demonstrated to the Court that it has been the government’s investigative prerogative to avoid knowledge of the true purpose of the Oath Keepers’ presence in Washington, DC on January 6, 2021 — to provide a security detail at the ‘Stop the Steal’ rally that morning,” the motion says. “To whit [sic], the government has far greater access to potential witnesses and digital evidence in this case, should long have known of Mr. Siemen’s [sic] participation in the Oath Keepers, and yet to date has neither contacted him nor sought his knowledge of the Oath Keepers or its purpose in this investigation.”
Meggs isn’t the only defendant trying to postpone the trial: at the end of jury selection on Thursday, Caldwell’s attorney David Fischer told Mehta that he would be renewing the motion to change venue. Mehta, a Barack Obama appointee, has repeatedly rejected recent defense efforts to postpone the trial.
You can read Meggs’ motion, below.
[Image of Rhodes via Collin County (Tex.) Jail. Image of Meggs via FBI court filing.]
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