4 more Oath Keepers militia members found guilty of seditious conspiracy for Jan. 6 riot

The Civil War-era charge was rarely brought in the U.S. until Jan. 6.

January 23, 2023, 6:04 PM

A Washington, D.C., jury on Monday convicted four more members of the far-right Oath Keepers militia group for engaging in a seditious conspiracy to stop the certification of President Joe Biden's election victory on Jan. 6, 2021.

Roberto Minuta, Joseph Hackett, David Moerschel and Edward Vallejo were the second set of individuals associated with the Oath Keepers to be convicted in connection with the insurrection.

All four men were found guilty of conspiring to disrupt the electoral college certification, preventing a member of Congress from discharging their duties and conspiring and obstructing an official proceeding.

The group's leader, Stewart Rhodes, was convicted of seditious conspiracy along with another associate in November.

Three other members were found not guilty of seditious conspiracy in that trial, but were found guilty on a host of other felony charges connected to their actions around the Jan. 6 attack.

PHOTO: Members of the Oath Keepers extremist group stand on the East Front of the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021, in Washington. The defendants facing jurors in the latest trial are Joseph Hackett, Roberto Minuta, David Moerschel and Edward Vallejo.
Members of the Oath Keepers extremist group stand on the East Front of the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021, in Washington. The defendants facing jurors in the latest trial are Joseph Hackett, Roberto Minuta, David Moerschel and Edward Vallejo.
Manuel Balce Ceneta/AP, FILE

The Civil War-era sedition charge was rarely brought in the U.S. until Jan. 6 and carries a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison.

Members of the group have maintained their innocence throughout the trials and have vowed to continue fighting the judgments against them.

The jury's decision is the latest victory for the Justice Department, which has brought cases against more than 900 defendants in connection with the Jan. 6 assault over the past two years.

The jury returned a mixed verdict on charges the defendants wiped cellphone evidence to throw off investigators, acquitting Minuta and Moerschel on those charges.

While he was never accused of being at the Capitol on Jan 6., prosecutors alleged that Vallejo was "on standby" at a nearby Virginia hotel waiting for the orders from Rhodes to bring firearms into the city. Vallejo and another member discussed the possibility of "armed conflict" and "guerilla war" on a podcast the morning of Jan. 6, according to evidence produced by prosecutors.

PHOTO:President Donald Trump's supporters gather outside the U.S. Capitol in Washington, Jan. 06, 2021.
President Donald Trump's supporters gather outside the U.S. Capitol in Washington, Jan. 06, 2021.
Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

Defense attorneys stressed that those who amassed a cache of firearms at the Virginia hotel were mindful of Washington's strict gun laws and were merely exercising their rights in self-defense.

Hackett and Moerschel were seen in images as part of the now-infamous military style "stack" formation of Oath Keepers who moved throughout the mob together during the riot.

Minuta was previously been identified as having served as a bodyguard for Donald Trump adviser Roger Stone on Jan. 6 before he and another member of the Oath Keepers rushed to the Capitol in a golf cart to join other members of the militia.

Defense responds

Speaking with reporters on Monday after the verdicts, lawyers for two of the defendants made it clear that they felt their clients weren't able to get a fair trial due to the shadow of the Jan. 6 insurrection -- with one of the attorneys suggesting President Donald Trump was morally responsible for the attack.

"These are not evil insurrectionists that the media makes them out to be," Scott Weinberg, an attorney for Moerschel, said.

"These men were swept up by the 'stop the steal' nonsense that was pushed by the president," Weinberg added, vowing an appeal.

Bill Shipley, who represented Minuta, said "an argument could be made [that] the entire district was in some ways victimized by the event" of Jan. 6. "How do you have a trial when the only jurors you can draw from are in some meaningful way victims?" he said.

He didn't say whether Minuta would appeal but called the seditious conspiracy statute "ancient."

Separately, at a roundtable event at the Justice Department, Attorney General Merrick Garland celebrated the verdicts.

"I'm thankful to the prosecutors, agents and staff for their outstanding work in connection with this matter," he said.

ABC News' Beatrice Peterson contributed to this report.

Related Topics

ABC News Live

ABC News Live

24/7 coverage of breaking news and live events