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Seditious conspiracy: 11 Oath Keepers charged in Jan. 6 riot

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WASHINGTON (AP) — Stewart Rhodes, the founder and leader of the far-right Oath Keepers militia group, and 10 other members or associates have been charged with seditious conspiracy in the violent attack on the U.S. Capitol, authorities said Thursday.

Despite hundreds of charges already brought in the year since pro-Trump rioters stormed the Capitol in an effort to stop the certification of President Joe Biden’s 2020 election victory, these were the first seditious conspiracy charges levied in connection with the attack on Jan. 6, 2021.

It marked a serious escalation in the largest investigation in the Justice Department’s history – more than 700 people have been arrested and charged with federal crimes – and highlighted the work that has gone into piecing together the most complicated cases. The charges rebut, in part, the growing chorus of Republican lawmakers who have publicly challenged the seriousness of the insurrection, arguing that since no one had been charged yet with sedition or treason, it could not have been so violent.

The indictment alleges Oath Keepers for weeks discussed trying to overturn the election results and preparing for a siege by purchasing weapons and setting up battle plans. They repeatedly wrote in chats about the prospect of violence and the need, as Rhodes allegedly wrote in one text, “to scare the s—-out of” Congress. And on Jan. 6, the indictment alleges, they entered the Capitol building with the large crowds of rioters who stormed past police barriers and smashed windows, injuring dozens of officers and sending lawmakers running.

Authorities have said the Oath Keepers and their associates worked as if they were going to war, discussing weapons and training. Days before the attack, one defendant suggested in a text message getting a boat to ferry weapons across the Potomac River to their “waiting arms,” prosecutors say.

On Jan. 6, several members, wearing camouflaged combat attire, were seen on camera shouldering their way through the crowd and into the Capitol in a military-style stack formation, authorities say.

The indictment against Rhodes alleges Oath Keepers formed two teams, or “stacks,” that entered the Capitol. The first stack split up inside the building to separately go after the House and Senate. The second stack confronted officers inside the Capitol Rotunda, the indictment said. Outside Washington, the indictment alleges, the Oath Keepers had stationed two “quick reaction forces” that had guns “in support of their plot to stop the lawful transfer of power.”

Rhodes, 56, of Granbury, Texas, is the highest-ranking member of an extremist group to be arrested in the deadly siege. He and Edward Vallejo, 63, of Phoenix, Arizona, were arrested on Thursday. The nine others were already facing criminal charges related to the attack.

Sedition charges are difficult to win and rarely used, but defendants face steep prison time of 20 years if convicted, compared with five for the other conspiracy charges. The last time U.S. prosecutors brought such a seditious conspiracy case was in 2010 in an alleged Michigan plot by members of the Hutaree militia to incite an uprising against the government. But a judge ordered acquittals on the sedition conspiracy charges at a 2012 trial, saying prosecutors relied too much on hateful diatribes protected by the First Amendment and didn’t, as required, prove the accused ever had detailed plans for a rebellion.

Among the last successful convictions for seditious conspiracy stemmed from another, now largely forgotten storming of the Capitol in 1954, when four Puerto Rican nationalists opened fire on the House floor, wounding five representatives.

Most of the hundreds of people charged in the violence are facing lower-level crimes. More than 150 people have been charged with assaulting police officers at the Capitol. Over 50 have been charged with conspiracy, mostly people linked to the far-right Proud Boys and anti-government Oath Keepers. There have been no sedition charges brought against the Proud Boys.

Rhodes did not enter the Capitol building on Jan. 6 but is accused of helping put into motion the violence. Jonathan Moseley, an attorney who said he represented Rhodes, said Rhodes was supposed to testify before the House committee investigating the Jan. 6 insurrection in a deposition but it got called off.

“He has been subject to a lot of suspicion to why he wasn’t indicted,” so far in the Jan. 6 riot, Moseley said. “I don’t know if this is in response to those discussions, but we do think it’s unfortunate. It’s an unusual situation.”

A second attorney representing the group, Kellye SoRelle, said she was issuing a statement later and said Mosley did not represent Rhodes.

Rhodes has said in interviews with right-wing hosts that there was no plan to storm the Capitol and that the members who did so went rogue. But he has continued to push the lie that the 2020 election was stolen, while posts on the Oath Keepers website have depicted the group as a victim of political persecution.

Other defendants in the conspiracy have argued in court that the only plan was to provide security at the rally before the riot or protect themselves against possible attacks from far-left antifa activists.

Rhodes, a former U.S. Army paratrooper and Yale Law School graduate, founded the Oath Keepers in 2009. The right-wing extremist group recruits current and former military, police and first responders. Several of those arrested are veterans.

Rhodes has appeared in court documents in the conspiracy case for months as “Person One.”

Authorities say he held a GoToMeeting call days after the election, telling his followers to go to Washington and let then President Donald Trump know “that the people are behind him.” Rhodes told members they should be prepared to fight antifa and that some Oath Keepers should “stay on the outside” and be “prepared to go in armed” if necessary.

“We’re going to defend the president, the duly elected president, and we call on him to do what needs to be done to save our country. Because if you don’t guys, you’re going to be in a bloody, bloody civil war, and a bloody — you can call it an insurrection or you can call it a war or fight,” Rhodes said, according to court documents.

Authorities have said Rhodes was part of an encrypted Signal chat with Oath Keepers from multiple states leading up to Jan. 6 called “DC OP: Jan 6 21” and it showed the group was “activating a plan to use force” that day.

On the afternoon of the 6th, authorities say Rhodes told the group over Signal: “All I see Trump doing is complaining. I see no intent by him to do anything. So the patriots are taking it into their own hands. They’ve had enough.”

Around 2:30 p.m., Rhodes had a 97-second phone call with Kelly Meggs, the reputed leader of the group’s Florida chapter, who was part of the military-style stack, authorities say. About 10 minutes later, Rhodes sent a photo to the group showing the southeast side of the Capitol with the caption, “South side of US Capitol. Patriots pounding on doors.” Around that same time, those in the stack formation forcibly entered the Capitol, prosecutors say.

He was expected in court on Friday in Texas.

More than 70 defendants remain detained on riot charges. At least 183 defendants have pleaded guilty to riot-related charges as of Jan. 11. At least 78 of them have been sentenced, including 35 people who received jail or prison sentences or time already served.

Copyright 2021 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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Polk deputies shoot man suspected in assaulting mother

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Polk County deputies fatally shot a man Sunday afternoon who was suspected of assaulting his elderly mother by pressing a pillow on her face to smother her.

The woman escaped and called 911, resulting in three deputies responding to the call, sheriff’s spokesperson Carrie Horstman said in a statement Sunday night.

“When the deputies arrived, the suspect barricaded himself in an upstairs bathroom,” Horstman said. After the suspect refused to come out, the deputies entered the bathroom and the suspect charged at them with a knife, stabbing a deputy on the top of his head.

After that deputy attempted to use his Taser the other deputies “were forced to shoot the suspect,” Horstman said. The suspect was a felon on probation and has a criminal history in Virginia. Further details are to be provided Monday. The injured deputy is expected to make a full recovery.

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Tom Brady’s return to the Bucs next season isn’t a lock

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TAMPA, Fla. (AP) — If Tom Brady played the last game of an unprecedented career, he ended with one of his toughest losses after a stunning comeback.

Bloodied and battered by the Los Angeles Rams, the 44-year-old seven-time Super Bowl champion rallied the Tampa Bay Buccaneers back from a 27-3 deficit, only to see the defense surrender a big play in the final minute to set up Matt Gay’s winning 30-yard field goal.

The Rams’ 30-27 victory Sunday sent Los Angeles home to host the San Francisco 49ers in the NFC championship game next week. They ended Tampa Bay’s bid to become the NFL’s first repeat champions since Brady led New England to consecutive titles following the 2003-04 seasons.

Have the Rams also ended Brady’s career?

Brady is under contract for 2022 but his return isn’t definite.

He said in late September he plans to play at least one more season, but he’s indicated several times since that returning will be a family decision.

Asked last month when he’ll know it’s time to retire, Brady said:

“That’s a good question. I don’t know. I think I’ll have to just, after every year, think about what the situation looks like for me, personally and professionally. Obviously, I love playing; I don’t think my love will go away. I think I’ll be able to do it, it’s just the other things are kind of happening in my life, in regard to family situations. My kids are not getting younger, and I want to make sure that they get what they need, too.”

Brady’s agent, Don Yee, told The Associated Press last week he doesn’t know when Brady will hang it up.

“He can do it as long as he wants, because his intangibles really are very much off the charts,” Yee said for an upcoming episode of the AP Pro Football Podcast. “I’ve been around professional athletes since 1974 and I’ve seen a lot of different types of athletes. And I think all the very best will tell you the intangible part is critical. There are a lot of great, physical specimens, but to keep trying to do something for a long period of time and to do it well, you have to have other intangibles. … you have to want to get up every morning to be great.

“And so he still possesses all of that and more. And so I don’t. … It’s going to be his decision, and I would never, ever speak on his behalf on this issue. But he clearly is still performing very well.”

Brady was playing at an elite level until running into the Rams. He didn’t complete a pass on his first two drives for the first time in his 47 playoff starts, going 0 for 4.

He got called for the first unsportsmanlike penalty of his career in the first half for arguing a call after a hit busted his lip.

Brady misfired on several passes, had two turnovers and was sacked three times. But his 55-yard touchdown pass to Mike Evans with just over three minutes left got the Buccaneers within 27-20.

After the Rams lost their fourth fumble, Brady drove Tampa to the tying score as Leonard Fournette ran in from the 9.

But defensive breakdowns allowed Matthew Stafford to lead the Rams in position to win it.

Brady finished 30 of 54 for 329 yards and one TD, but the offense got going far too late.

Brady overcame losing two of his top three receivers, Chris Godwin and Antonio Brown,- and top two running backs, Fournette and Ronald Jones, down the stretch and didn’t need them last week against Philadelphia. But losing All-Pro right tackle Tristan Wirfs last week was a huge problem Sunday. Fournette returned this week, still the Bucs had no answer for Aaron Donald, Von Miller and L.A.’s ferocious rushers without Wirfs.

After leading the Buccaneers to their second Super Bowl title in his first season in Tampa after 20 years with New England, Brady led the NFL in yards passing (5,316), touchdowns (43), completions (485) and attempts (719) while guiding the Bucs to their first NFC South title since 2007.

Coach Bruce Arians told the Tampa Bay Times on Friday that he would be “shocked” if Brady didn’t return for another season based on the fun he’s having playing the game and practicing all week.

Rob Ninkovich, who played with Brady on the Patriots from 2009-16, created a stir this week when he said it “wouldn’t surprise” him if Brady called it quits after this season.

“Tom is playing at a high level. I’ll leave it at that,” Buccaneers offensive coordinator Byron Leftwich said Thursday in response to a question about Ninkovich’s comments.

Brady is the NFL’s all-time leader in many categories, including yards passing (84,520) and TDs (624). He’s the only player to win more than five Super Bowls and was MVP of the Super Bowl five times.

Brady led the Patriots back from a 28-3 deficit to beat Atlanta in the Super Bowl following the 2016 season. His defense didn’t give him a chance at the end to do it again.

Copyright 2021 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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‘Spider-Man’ comes back swinging, takes No. 1 from ‘Scream’

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(AP) — After spending one weekend in second place, “Spider-Man: No Way Home” proved it still had some fight left. Sony’s superhero juggernaut swung back to first place in its sixth weekend in theaters and became the sixth highest grossing film of all time, globally.

The film topped the North American charts with $14.1 million, according to studio estimates on Sunday. Globally, it’s now grossed nearly $1.7 billion, passing the total earnings of both “Jurassic World” and “The Lion King.” And in North America its $721 million make it the fourth biggest release ever.

Peter Parker also stole first place back from “ Scream,” which fell about 59% — a typical drop for a horror— in its second weekend with an estimated $12.4 million in ticket sales. The Paramount release has grossed $51.3 million so far.

Universal and Illumination’s “Sing 2″ landed in third place in its fifth weekend, with $5.7 million. The animated title has earned $241.2 million worldwide.

There was little competition for the holdovers to contend with this weekend. The only two fresh offerings nationwide in theaters were comparatively lower-profile releases: “The King’s Daughter,” a fairy tale with Pierce Brosnan that was filmed in 2014 and held until now (it bombed with $750,000 from over 2,000 locations), and “Redeeming Love,” a faith-based historical romance with Nina Dobrev that cracked the top five with $3.7 million.

“This is a very slow weekend,” said Paul Dergarabedian, the senior media analyst for Comscore. “January is typically not a big month for box office. It may be a while before we have another big breakout hit, but once we do the floodgates may open.”

Estimated ticket sales for Friday through Sunday at U.S. and Canadian theaters, according to Comscore. Final domestic figures will be released Monday.

1. “Spider-Man: No Way Home,” $14.1 million.

2. “Scream,” $12.4 million.

3. “Sing 2,” $5.7 million.

4. “Redeeming Love,” $3.7 million.

5. “The King’s Man,” $1.8 million.

6. “The 355,” $1.6 million.

7. “American Underdog,” $1.2 million.

8. “The King’s Daughter,” $750,000.

9. “West Side Story,” $689,000.

10. “Licorice Pizza,” $683,357.

Copyright 2021 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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