The lawyer and alleged de facto head of the right-wing Oath Keepers extremist group has pleaded not guilty to conspiracy and other charges related to the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol.
Kellye SoRelle, 43, entered her plea Friday during her arraignment before U.S. District Judge Amit Mehta. She was indicted last week on charges relating to the group’s alleged conspiracy to obstruct Congress’ certification of Joe Biden‘s electoral win on Jan. 6 and install Donald Trump as president.
SoRelle 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. According to the indictment, SoRelle urged an unidentified number of “other persons” 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.”
SoRelle was released from custody after her arrest, and the government on Friday didn’t ask for her to be detained.
Prosecutor Louis Manzo did, however, ask Mehta to restrict SoRelle’s internet use to communications regarding her criminal case.
“The defendant has already posted memes about Your Honor,” Manzo told Mehta at Friday’s arraignment. He added that the social media posts were about not only her case but others. He also alleged that SoRelle has urged other people, through electronic means, to delete evidence relating to Jan. 6.
SoRelle’s attorney Horatio Aldrege opposed, saying that most of SoRelle’s online communications “do not approach criminal conduct” and are protected by the First Amendment.
Mehta, a Barack Obama appointee, denied the government’s request, saying he would leave it up to SoRelle’s attorneys to decide “whether it’s in her best interests” to make such posts.
“I’m not sure whether that alone is a basis to impose restrictions,” the judge added.
SoRelle has said that she stepped in as leader of the Oath Keepers group after the January arrest of Oath Keepers founder and leader Stewart Rhodes. Rhodes has been charged with seditious conspiracy in connection with the Jan. 6 siege at the Capitol; he and four co-defendants are set to go to trial on Sept. 27.
Mehta is overseeing Rhodes’ case as well as a second multi-defendant case of other members of the group facing lesser charges in connection with the Capitol riot.
On Friday, prosecutors told Mehta that they do not intend to add SoRelle to the existing Oath Keepers cases.
“We’re not planning on superseding Ms. SoRelle into any of the larger conspiracies,” Manzo said.
Manzo did offer to brief the judge, however, on how SoRelle’s case “relates to the larger Oath Keeper cases overall.”
Although SoRelle’s is a “standalone case,” Manzo said, discovery in her case “does span the case files of a number of people in the larger Oath Keepers conspiracy.”
Mehta set the next hearing in the case for Nov. 15.
SoRelle was among the team of lawyers who pursued litigation in an effort to overturn Biden’s electoral win. In one particularly memorable brief, SoRelle invoked the epic fantasy The Lord of the Rings, alleging that Biden had “no rightful claim to govern the American People” and stating that “Gondor has no King.”
(Screenshot from YouTube)
Have a tip we should know? [email protected]