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Joshua James, Oath Keepers member, pleads guilty to seditious conspiracy in January 6 investigation

Oath Keepers leader to seek jail release
Oath Keepers leader, facing seditious conspiracy charge in January 6 attack, seeks jail release 03:44

Washington – An Alabama Army veteran who deployed to Iraq in 2007 pleaded guilty to the serious charge of seditious conspiracy for his admitted role in the January 6 Capitol attack on Wednesday.

Joshua James, who is linked to the far-right Oath Keepers militia group, admitted to joining a conspiracy with leader Stewart Rhodes and others to forcibly attempt to stop the transfer of power from former President Donald Trump to President Joe Biden.

As part of Wednesday's agreement, James admitted that in November 2020, he met with Rhodes and others to conspire to halt the peaceful presidential transition before attempting to forcibly execute those plans on January 6. 

Leading up to the attack, plea papers reveal James and other alleged Oath Keepers communicated and planned via encrypted messages before traveling to the nation's capital on January 4, 2021. 

Supporters of U.S. President Donald Trump gather in Washington
An explosion caused by a police munition is seen while supporters of U.S. President Donald Trump gather in front of the U.S. Capitol Building in Washington, U.S., January 6, 2021. LEAH MILLIS / REUTERS

James admitted that Rhodes instructed him and others to prepare to use "lethal force" if called upon against anyone who attempted to remove Trump from office. Those potential targets included, "the National Guard or other government actors who might be sent to remove President Trump as a result of the Presidential Election," according to the plea agreement. 

James admitted that while in Washington D.C. on January 6, he and some of his codefendants drove golf carts around the city, past barricades, and up to the Capitol building, court documents say. The group then formed a military-style "stack" as they unlawfully entered the Capitol.

James admitted to then grabbing an officer and yelling, "Get out of my Capitol," before being sprayed with chemical irritants. 

The defendant also pleaded guilty to obstructing Congress' counting of the electoral college votes. 

Each count carries a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison and a $250k fine, but due to his lack of criminal history and acceptance of responsibility in this case, the sentencing guidelines call for far less. Judge Amit Mehta, who accepted James' guilty plea, will impose the sentence. 

James also agreed to cooperate with the government in its ongoing investigation into the Capitol assault, a major win for the Justice Department.  Ten other individuals, including Rhodes, have been charged with the serious seditious conspiracy charge. They have pleaded not guilty, and are set to stand trial in July. 

James, Rhodes and their co-defendants were indicted in January on the seditious conspiracy charge for alleging working to stop the presidential transfer of power.

"They coordinated travel across the country to enter Washington, D.C., equipped themselves with a variety of weapons, donned combat and tactical gear, and were prepared to answer Rhodes's call to take up arms at Rhodes's direction," according to the indictment. "Some co-conspirators also amassed firearms on the outskirts of Washington, D.C., distributed them among 'quick reaction force' teams, and planned to use the firearms in support of their plot to stop the lawful transfer of presidential power."

After weeks of planning, mostly over messaging apps, prosecutors say the members of the Oath Keepers and its affiliates formed two "stacks" to breach the Capitol building on the day of the attack.

Meanwhile, the charging documents and subsequent filings allege a separate team of Oath Keepers remained outside Washington and was "prepared to rapidly transport firearms and other weapons into Washington, D.C., in support of the operations." Such a transport was never ordered by Rhodes or any other leaders, prosecutors said. 

"Rhodes stood at the center of the seditious conspiracy," the government alleged in court documents, "orchestrating plans to use force, recruiting and financing co-conspirators, purchasing weaponry and tactical gear, inciting support and action, and endeavoring to conceal his and other co-conspirators' crimes." 

James remains free pending sentencing while Rhodes is jailed ahead of his trial. 

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