A member of the Oath Keepers right-wing militia group charged in the Jan. 6 siege at the U.S. Capitol has pleaded guilty to seditious conspiracy and obstruction of an official proceeding of Congress. He vowed to “fully cooperate” with the federal investigation into the attack.
Joshua James, 34, is the first member of the militia group charged with seditious conspiracy to plead guilty to that charge. At a hearing Wednesday, he confirmed that under the plea agreement, he will “fully cooperate” with the government’s prosecution and testify before a grand jury and at trial.
The seditious conspiracy and obstruction charges, both felonies, carry potential jail sentences of 20 years each. The seditious conspiracy charge is the most serious charge yet in the federal government’s sprawling prosecution of those who participated in the Jan. 6 siege.
James was named in a 17-count indictment that also charged Oath Keepers founder Stewart Rhodes. According to prosecutors, James and the other Oath Keepers made plans to bring a variety of weapons to support the mob of Donald Trump supporters who violently overran police to swarm the Capitol building in an attempt to stop Congress from certifying Joe Biden‘s win in the 2020 presidential election.
At Wednesday’s hearing before U.S. District Judge Amit Mehta, James confirmed the Statement of Offense submitted in connection with his plea, which outlines the actions James took in support of the plan to overturn the election and keep Trump in office, including:
In advance of and on January 6, 2021, James and others agreed to take part in the plan developed by Rhodes to use any means necessary, up to and including the use of force, to stop the lawful transfer of presidential power.
[. . .]
In the weeks leading up to January 6, 2021, Rhodes instructed James and other coconspirators to be prepared, if called upon, to report to the White House grounds to secure the perimeter and use lethal force if necessary against anyone who tried to remove President Trump from the White House, including the National Guard or other government actors who might be sent to remove President Trump as a result of the Presidential Election.
[. . .]
On January 8, 2021, James met with Rhodes and others at a restaurant in Alabama. There, James showed Rhodes a video of James’s physical altercation with law enforcement officers inside the Capitol on January 6, 2021. Rhodes expressed gratitude for James’s actions and told James to alter his physical appearance to conceal his identity.
[. . .]
James departed Texas in February 2021. At Rhodes’s instruction, James took with him multiple firearms, thousands of rounds of ammunition, multiple burner phones, scopes, magazines, night-vision equipment, and other tactical gear. Rhodes told James to be prepared to transport and distribute the equipment to others upon Rhodes’s instruction and to be prepared for violence in the event of a civil war. James stored this equipment in a storage shed in Alabama and awaited Rhodes’s instructions.
James also admitted to assaulting a police officer.
Prosecutors say James spent weeks planning an assault on the Capitol, coordinating when and where to make strategic moves to the building and where to keep weapons. He and co-defendant Roberto Minuto allegedly used a golf cart to evade barriers and approach the Capitol itself.
A line of Oath Keepers did breach the building on Jan. 6 after executing a military-style “stack” approach to the doors. A key issue in the case is whether Rhodes issued the order for the “stack” maneuver; Rhodes has denied this.
Prosecutors say that the group, many of whom are ex-military, were prepared to ferry weapons and firearms across the Potomac.
James’ co-defendants, including Rhodes, currently have a July trial date. A separate case against seven alleged Oath Keepers linked to Rhodes is set to go to trial no earlier than November.
The news of James’ plea is not likely to please Rhodes, who recently complained about the fact that nearly 200 Jan. 6 defendants have taken plea offers from the government.
James and Minuta have reportedly served as bodyguards for Roger Stone, who was convicted of obstructing the 2016 investigation into the Trump campaign and possible ties to Russia. Trump commuted Stone’s sentence and later pardoned him. Stone, while apparently connected to multiple people who allegedly stormed the Capitol on Jan. 6, has not been charged in connection with the siege, although he has been named in a lawsuit brought by a group of police officers who were attacked while guarding the Capitol that day.
Unlike Rhodes, James has been out on bail since April of last year, when Mehta determined that the government had failed to show that James planned or engaged in violence.
James is also charged with witness tampering; assaulting, resisting, or impeding officers; civil disorder; conspiring to impede or injure an officer; obstruction of an official proceeding of Congress; and conspiracy to obstruct an official proceeding of Congress. Those charges will presumably be dismissed when James is sentenced.
Because James is cooperating with the government, Mehta didn’t set a sentencing date at this time.
Read the plea agreement and the statement of offense, below.
[Images via FBI court filing.]
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