WASHINGTON (AP) — Oath Keepers founder Stewart Rhodes took the witness stand Friday in his high-stakes seditious conspiracy trial as he tries to counter allegations that his far-right extremist group planned an armed rebellion to stop the transfer of presidential power.

Rhodes began to testify after prosecutors spent weeks laying out their case against him and four others charged with a violent conspiracy to keep Democrat Joe Biden out of the White House.

Rhodes’ attorneys have signaled they will mount a new defense with former President Donald Trump at the center. Rhodes is expected to argue that his actions leading up to Jan. 6, 2021 were in anticipation of orders he expected from Trump, a Republican. Those orders never came.

Rhodes’ decision to speak out carries enormous risks and will expose him to fierce cross-examination by prosecutors, who will try to shake him down or catch him in the act of lying.

Prosecutors say Rhodes, who is from Granbury, Texas, spent weeks mobilizing his group of extremists, stockpiling weapons and preparing for violence in an effort to prevent Biden from becoming president after the election. of 2020. On January 6, 2021, oath keepers dressed in combat gear stormed the Capitol alongside hundreds of other angry Trump supporters.

Rhodes and his co-defendants are the first people arrested in the January 6 attack to stand trial for seditious conspiracy, which carries a sentence of up to 20 years in prison if convicted.

Others on trial are Kelly Meggs, head of the Florida chapter of the Oath Keepers; Kenneth Harrelson, another Florida Oath Keeper; Thomas Caldwell, a retired US Navy intelligence officer from Virginia; and Jessica Watkins, who led a militia group in Ohio.


Follow AP coverage of the January 6, 2021 insurrection at the United States Capitol at https://apnews.com/hub/capitol-siege.