Treason, conspiracy. Those big words are now being used in the January 6, 2021, Capitol rebellion criminal cases after prosecutors charged 11 people on Thursday.
But what do the terms mean anyway?
A seditious conspiracy occurs when two or more people in the US plot to “overthrow, bring down, or forcefully destroy” the US government, or wage war against it, or oppose by force and any law try to stop the execution. , If convicted, he faces 20 years behind bars.
But that Civil War-era charge is rarely used, because it’s hard to prove and hard to win.
Still, prosecutors filed seditious conspiracy charges on Thursday against the leader of the far-right Oath Keepers militia group and 10 suspected aides, one of the few in the country’s history.
The last such case was filed in 2010 against members of the Michigan militia, but they were acquitted two years later by a judge, who said their abhorrent diatribes did not prove they ever had detailed plans for a rebellion.
This is different from a conspiracy charge, stand alone where two or more people act together to commit a crime. Lots of people have been charged and convicted of conspiracy, and there are currently two major conspiracy cases in the January 6 riots.
However, seditious conspiracy is legally complex and there is a historical difficulty in securing conviction, and legal scholars say that prosecutors are sometimes reluctant to file charges. The overzealousness in implementing them going back centuries has also discredited their use.
In the case of January 6, it takes allegations of violence and terror that day seriously, and refutes claims by some Republicans that the riot was not as serious as no one had yet been charged with treason.
Stewart Rhodes, the founder and leader of Oath Keepers, is the highest-ranking member of the extremist group ever arrested. He did not enter the Capitol building that day, but is accused of helping to trigger the violence. A Rhodes lawyer called the allegations “unusual” and “unfortunate.”
There is also treason along those lines – which is to wage war against America or to “aid and comfort” American enemies. No one has been charged with treason in the January 6 riots and it is rarely used.
Although officials have said the oath-takers and their allies acted as if they were going to war, discussing weapons and training. Days before the attack, a defendant suggested in a text message to get a boat across the Potomac River to deliver the weapons to their “waiting weapons,” prosecutors say.
Here are some notable cases of sedition and sedition from the past few years:
The last time US prosecutors brought such a case was in 2010 in an alleged Michigan conspiracy by members of the Hutari militia to incite a rebellion against the government. But a judge ordered an acquittal on charges of conspiracy to commit treason in a 2012 trial, saying prosecutors relied heavily on the hateful diatribe protected by the First Amendment and, as required, did not prove that the accused ever had The rebellion had a detailed plan. Three members of the militia pleaded guilty to weapons charges.
Puerto Rican Nationalists
One of the last successful convictions for treason conspiracy charges was the largely forgotten storming of the Capitol building in 1954. Four pro-independence Puerto Rican activists attacked the building and opened fire on the floor of the House, injuring several delegates. He and more than a dozen others who aided in the attack were convicted of seditious conspiracy.
Oscar López Rivera, a former leader of a Puerto Rican independence group that launched a bombing campaign that killed or crippled dozens of people in the 1970s and 1980s, was a traitor before President Barack Obama reduced his sentence in 2017. Spent 35 years in prison for conspiracy.
Sheikh Omar Abdel-Rahman
The sedition law was last successfully used to prosecute Islamic terrorists who plotted the bombings of New York City sites in the 1990s. An Egyptian cleric, Sheikh Omar Abdel-Rahman, and nine followers were indicted in 1995 of seditious conspiracy and other charges of plotting to blow up the United Nations, the FBI building, and two tunnels and the bridge connecting New York and New Jersey Was. Abdel-Rahman, known as the “Blind Sheikh”, argued on appeal that he was never involved in planning actual attacks against the US and that his hostile rhetoric was given free speech. He died in federal prison in 2017.
Among the final sentences for treason was the American-born Iwa Toguri D’Aquino, known as Tokyo Rose for her anti-American broadcasts during World War II. He was convicted of “giving aid and comfort” to Japan in 1949. He served more than six years of a 10-year sentence before his release. President Gerald Ford pardoned him after reports of US officials pressuring some witnesses to lie. Some former prisoners of war in Japan also came forward to confirm that D’Aquino had smuggled food and medicine for them during their capture.
Japanese and many other Americans of German descent were convicted of treason for giving aid and comfort to Imperial Japan and Nazi Germany. Some even later received pardons or their sentences were reduced.
Adam Gedan, also known as Azam the American, was the only American to be charged with treason against America since the Second World Era. His 2006 federal indictment said he gave al-Qaeda “aid and comfort … with intent to deceive the United States.” Before he could be prosecuted, Gadan was killed in a US drone strike in Pakistan.