Four members of the far-right Oath Keepers militia group were found guilty of seditious conspiracy by a federal jury Monday for their role in a plan to keep President Donald Trump in power by halting the certification of the 2020 election results.
Joseph Hackett, 52; Roberto Minuta, 38; David Moerschel, 45; and Edward Vallejo, 64, were all found guilty of seditious conspiracy, according to The Associated Press. The four were also convicted on a pair of conspiracy charges, as well as obstructing an official proceeding -- the congressional election certification.
The verdict is the second in a series of trials stemming from the original 11 indictments that included the group's leader, Stewart Rhodes. The results for these four men stand in contrast to the first trial, which ended with a sedition conviction for Rhodes and Kelly Meggs but split verdicts for the other three defendants and didn't convict them of the sedition charge.
Experts who have studied the Oath Keepers, former members, and even Rhodes’ own estranged wife, Tasha Adams, have noted that the group targets veterans and used the credibility and leadership talent that they possessed to achieve its goals.
In a previous interview with Military.com, Adams remarked that “these people were manipulated" but was quick to add that “they allowed it to go too far."
Vallejo, an Army veteran, becomes the second person with a military background to be convicted on a seditious conspiracy charge related to Jan. 6; it carries a penalty of up to 20 years in prison.
Debbie Jang, a lawyer for Vallejo in the early days of the trial, confirmed to Military.com that he served in the Army "in the late '70s at Fort Polk in Louisiana and was medically discharged."
In court documents, Vallejo was described as one of two men in charge of a quick reaction force or "QRF" that the Oath Keepers positioned at the Comfort Inn Ballston in Arlington, Virginia, eight miles from the U.S. Capitol.
Typically, the term QRF is used by the military to describe a small team that can quickly respond when troops are engaged by enemy forces.
The other man in charge of this group -- Thomas Caldwell, a retired Navy lieutenant commander -- was convicted of obstruction of an official proceeding and tampering with documents or proceeding in November 2022 at the same trial as Rhodes.
According to court documents, Vallejo played a key role in setting up the weapons cache that the men planned to use in their plot.
In a filing arguing for Vallejo's detention earlier in the trial, prosecutors noted that the Army veteran "and other members of the Arizona QRF team wheeled in bags and large bins of weapons, ammunition, and essential supplies to last 30 days."
Hackett, who was convicted alongside Vallejo, was also caught on the hotel's security cameras wheeling in large cases that prosecutors said contained rifles.
According to a variety of court documents that were filed in this case, the idea behind the QRF and the loads of guns and ammo was that the Oath Keepers would bring them into the Capitol on Jan. 6 to assist others who might be entangled with law enforcement or National Guard troops. There were also plans for a follow-on insurgency, presumably in Washington, D.C., and northern Virginia.
According to court documents, Vallejo was eager to deploy on the day of the riot. Prosecutors say that, at 2:24 p.m., shortly after rioters first began to breach the Capitol, he posted in group chat: "Vallejo back at hotel and outfitted. Have 2 trucks available. Let me know how I can assist."
And then again 14 minutes later: "QRF standing by at hotel. Just say the word ..."
Around this time, a group of unarmed Oath Keepers clad in paramilitary garb, including five named in the original sedition indictment, had breached the Capitol building after marching up the east steps in formation, according to documents. The "ground team lead" for this group was Kenneth Harrelson – also an Army veteran – who was convicted of obstructing an official proceeding, conspiracy to prevent an officer from discharging duties, and tampering with documents or proceedings in the same trial as Rhodes and Caldwell.
At one point on Jan. 6, Vallejo tried, but failed, to launch a "drone with a 720p cam for recon [reconnaissance] use," court documents said.
The Associated Press reported that Vallejo's lawyer, Matthew Peed, told the court that the 64-year-old veteran "wears his heart on his sleeve and has no guile."
"No one was counting on Mr. Vallejo as part of a QRF," Peed added.
According to court records, the jury had been deliberating the charges in this case since last Thursday. Now, with a verdict in place, The AP reports that all four men have been placed on house arrest while they await sentencing.
-- Konstantin Toropin can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @ktoropin.