PHOENIX — An Arizona man is among a group of defendants recently indicted by a grand jury for seditiously attempting to thwart the presidential transfer of power by storming the Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021.
Edward Vallejo, 63, of Phoenix was arrested Thursday on suspicion of coordinating teams of the Oath Keepers, a far-right anti-government group, during last year's insurrection.
Elmer Stewart Rhodes III, 56, the alleged leader of the Oath Keepers was taken into custody this week and has been charged with seditious conspiracy acts to overthrow the government.
In his first appearance Friday, Vallejo :
- Waived the formal reading of charges, but the indictment charges him and others with seditious conspiracy, conspiracy to obstruct an official proceeding, obstruction of an official proceeding (and aiding/abetting), conspiracy to prevent an officer from discharging any duties;
- Had Debbie Jang named as his court-appointed attorney for the Arizona portion of the case;
- Intends to plead not guilty to all charges, according to Jang; a judge noted it on the record, butthe official plea will not be made until arraignment at a later date.
- Was ordered by the judge to be temporarily detained.
- Had a detention hearing scheduled for Jan. 20
Unlike other rioters who have been charged only for their actions on Jan. 6, Vallejo, Rhodes, and their co-defendants have been charged for conspiring together in the weeks leading up to the event.
The defendants have been charged with seditious conspiracy, an offense that carries a statutory maximum penalty of 20 years in prison, according to the U.S. Attorney's Office.
Prosecutors claim the defendants opposed President Joe Biden's ascent to office by using websites, social media, text messaging and encrypted messaging applications to communicate with each other.
Court records show Vallejo allegedly oversaw the group's communications during the events of Jan. 6 as members allegedly breached the Capitol with the intention of overthrowing the results of the 2020 presidential election.
The riot resulted in multiple casualties and several injuries, including law enforcement officers who died by suicide after responding to the insurrection.
Vallejo was allegedly stationed at a nearby hotel and prepared to bring more weapons to the Capitol, court records show. While recording a podcast that morning, Vallejo allegedly discussed the possibility of "armed conflict" and "guerilla war" on Jan. 6.
After the riot, Vallejo allegedly met up with Rhodes at a restaurant to "celebrate their attack" and discuss their next steps, according to court records.
Throughout the evening, the co-conspirators allegedly sent each other messages about their next course of action.
"We have only (begun) to fight," Vallejo allegedly messaged the group.
Experts who have been tracking the Oath Keepers group say the recent arrests of Rhodes and Vallejo are significant.
“We’ve seen a number of people affiliated with this group (Oath Keepers) facing federal charges,” said Sam Jackson, author of "Oath Keepers, Patriotism and the Edge of Violence in a Right-Wing Antigovernment Group."
Jackson said the Oath Keepers are part of the broader patriotism-militia movement.
“It’s important to pay attention to the Oath Keepers and it’s important to understand them as a representative of the broader movement but we shouldn’t get hung up on them and think if we solve the problem of this one organization we are going to solve the problem of the broader movement,” Jackson explained.
Jackson said there are many Americans who hold similar beliefs to the insurrectionists who are not members of any formal movements at all.
However, Jackson also thinks it's significant that the indictments include the Oath Keepers' founder.
“Over the past almost thirteen years now, Rhodes has been careful to avoid putting himself in legal jeopardy,” Jackson said. “He’s a trained lawyer. He knows how to walk that line of avoiding law enforcement activity against him. He abandoned that caution pretty clearly based on the communications in the indictment.”
Over the last year, authorities have arrested more than 725 suspects accused of crimes related to the events on Jan. 6.
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