A federal judge on Wednesday night ordered Oath Keepers leader Stewart Rhodes jailed pending trial on charges of taking part in a seditious conspiracy on Jan. 6.
Rhodes’ release “might endanger others by fostering the planning and execution of additional violent events,” wrote Magistrate Judge Kimberly C. Priest Johnson, of the Eastern District of Texas.
Rhodes and other Oath Keepers are charged with plotting to disrupt the peaceful transfer of power by force on Jan. 6, through a mix of coordinated military-style “stack” formations of group members that entered the Capitol itself, and a “quick reaction force” with a cache of weapons standing by in Virginia. Rhodes is alleged to have coordinated the efforts via text message and other means, though he’s not accused of entering the Capitol himself.
On the way to D.C., Johnson noted, Rhodes allegedly purchased $20,000 in firearms and accessories, part of a buying spree before and after the attack.
The judge spent much of her opinion discussing the reasons she considered Rhodes a flight risk: An FBI agent testified that Rhodes no longer resides with his family in Montana, and instead has been “somewhat of a transient,” in the judge’s words, after moving to Texas in 2020.
Johnson noted that Rhodes claimed to be in a relationship with Kellye SoRelle, an attorney who has represented the Oath Keepers, and who said this month that she is serving as interim president of the organization. But Pretrial Services couldn’t reach SoRelle, the judge noted. BuzzFeed News reported separately that SoRelle denied any relationship.
“I think Stewart just wanted to have a place to stay,” SoRelle told a reporter from the outlet, speculating that Rhodes may have told the court about a relationship in a bid to be released to her home.
Notably, Johnson wrote, Rhodes’ estranged wife Tasha Adams — who has a pending divorce proceeding with Rhodes — contacted the court after Rhodes’ detention hearing this week, asking to share information with the court about him.
Adams said that Rhodes “would often brandish firearms in the family home to control her behavior and that Defendant would physically abuse his children under the guise of participating in ‘martial arts practice,’” Johnson wrote.
Rhodes, Adams alleged, would invite his children to practice martial arts when he was angry, then hit them and claim that it was accidental. In one instance, Rhodes choked his daughter until his adult son intervened, Adams said. Rhodes’ estranged wife said her greatest fear was that Rhodes would commit murder-suicide against the family, Johnson wrote.
Spurred by a fear of being arrested by federal agents, Rhodes installed “elaborate escape tunnels” in the couple’s backyard, Adams testified, according to the judge’s opinion. He also allegedly “hid unregistered cars in the woods, and purchased hundreds of dollars of razor wire, which Defendant intended to install around the perimeter of the property, concealed from view, ‘in case the feds ever came to his door.’”
The evidence presented was enough for Johnson: On balance, the judge wrote, “the evidence in the record overall indicates Defendant’s release could endanger the safety and wellbeing of others. This factor weighs in favor of detention.”