By Chris Gallagher

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Prosecutors are expected to call new witnesses on Thursday as they make their case in the trial of Oath Keepers chief Stewart Rhodes and four co-defendants for their alleged roles in the January 6, 2021 assault on the U.S. Capitol . .

In the first two days of testimony, FBI Special Agent Michael Palian read text messages in court showing the defendants planning to travel to Washington and preparing for violence, as they vowed to reject Joe Biden as the winner of Donald Trump in the 2020 presidential election. .

“We’re not going through this without a civil war. Too late for that. Prepare your mind, your body, your spirit,” Rhodes said in a message to members of the far-right group that was shown in court.

“Trump has one last chance, right now, to run. But he’ll also need us and our guns,” Rhodes, a Yale-trained lawyer and former US Army paratrooper, said in another post. .

Rhodes and four others, Thomas Caldwell, Kenneth Harrelson, Kelly Meggs and Jessica Watkins, are accused of conspiring to prevent Congress from certifying the election victory of Biden, a Democrat, in a failed attempt to keep Trump, a Republican, in the power.

Some of the defendants are among Trump supporters who stormed the Capitol building on Jan. 6 after the former president falsely claimed the election was stolen from him through widespread fraud, prosecutors say.

The five defendants are charged with multiple crimes, including seditious conspiracy, a Civil War-era law that is rarely prosecuted and carries a maximum legal sentence of 20 years in prison.

Prosecutors said the defendants trained and planned for Jan. 6 by stockpiling weapons outside the capital at a northern Virginia hotel for a ‘quick reaction force’ that would be ready if called upon. to transport weapons to Washington.

Lawyers for the defendants said the evidence will show that the defendants did nothing illegal and that the oath keepers are simply a peacekeeping group that performed security work at events across the country. country in recent years.

The prosecution had not yet completed the examination-in-chief of Palian, the government’s first witness, at the end of Tuesday’s session. The court did not sit Wednesday on the occasion of Yom Kippur.

(Reporting by Chris Gallagher; editing by Richard Pullin)