The Oath Keepers jury hears about a massive arms cache on January 6th
By Lindsay Whitehurst | Associated Press
WASHINGTON — A member of the Oath Keepers, who traveled to Washington ahead of the Jan. 6 attack on the US Capitol, testified Wednesday about a massive cache of weapons the far-right group had hidden in a Virginia hotel room.
Terry Cummings took position in the riotous conspiracy trial of Oath Keepers founder Stewart Rhodes and four associates, showing jurors an AR-15 firearm and a box of orange ammo that he contributed to the so-called Rapid Reaction Force orchestrating the Oath Keepers had the hotel outside of Washington in case they needed guns.
“I hadn’t seen so many guns in one place since I was in the military,” said Cummings, a veteran who joined the Oath Keepers in Florida in 2020.
Prosecutors said teams from Oath Keepers have been guarding the arsenal of firearms and are ready to get them into the hands of extremists in the capital if necessary.
The suspected teams and weapons cache are central to the Justice Department’s case against Rhodes and four accomplices charged with seditious conspiracy in the Jan. 6 attack. Given the capital’s stricter gun laws, members of the Oath Keepers hid the firearms just outside Washington’s county lines.
Authorities have claimed the teams and stockpile of weapons were designed to get guns quickly into the hands of Oath Keepers if they were needed in support of a conspiracy to stop Republican Donald Trump’s transfer of power to Democrat Joe Biden.
Cummings testified in the second week of the trial, which is expected to last several weeks. The others on trial are Thomas Caldwell of Berryville, Virginia; Kenneth Harrelson of Titusville, Florida; Jessica Watkins of Woodstock, Ohio; and Kelly Meggs of Dunnellon, Fla.
Defenders have not denied the existence of the rapid reaction teams, but noted that they were never deployed on January 6. They have accused prosecutors of misrepresenting them as invading forces.
Defense attorneys have said the Oath Keepers often set up rapid response forces for events, but insist they were defense forces deployed only to protect against violence from Antifa activists or in the event Trump invoked the Insurrection Act became. You will not face charges related to shipping arms to Virginia.
Rhodes’ attorneys have said they will argue they cannot find him guilty of seditious conspiracy because all actions he took prior to Jan. 6 were preparations for orders he received from Trump under the Insurrection Act, which gives the President wide discretion in deciding on military force, is necessary.
Cummings told jurors he traveled to Washington with fellow Oath Keepers on Jan. 6 to be part of a VIP security detail for Trump’s rally at the Ellipse. He said he sees this as an opportunity to “express my First Amendment rights” and to see a sitting president speak, which he has never done.
Cummings said his understanding was that the rapid reaction forces “may not be used as an offensive situation, but rather as a show of force.”
Cummings said he was part of a group that acted as a security team for a VIP at Trump’s rally before the riot. Cummings and other Oath Keepers left before Trump’s speech was finished and headed toward the Capitol.
He recalled Meggs talking about entering the Capitol – something Cummings didn’t think was a good idea. He then separated to find a bathroom and when he returned the group was gone. The group entered the Capitol while he was gone, he said. Up to an hour later, Cummings rejoined other Florida Oath Keepers, and eventually Rhodes showed up.
Cummings said he has not heard any talk of plans to storm or attack the Capitol, although he also said he is not in a leadership position. He was not criminally charged, was subpoenaed to testify for the government and admitted on the witness stand that he contributed to the legal defense fund of some of the defendants.
Authorities have said that on January 5, Meggs and the Florida Oath Keepers brought gun cases, rifle cases and suitcases filled with ammunition to the Virginia hotel used as a home for the rapid reaction force. Another Arizona team brought in guns, ammunition and 30 days’ worth of supplies, according to court records. A North Carolina team had guns in a vehicle parked on the hotel grounds, prosecutors said.
Prosecutors have described surveillance footage they say shows Oath Keepers wheeling bags, large trash cans and what appears to be at least one gun case into the hotel.
Over several days in early January, Rhodes spent $15,500 on weapons including an AR platform rifle, magazines, mounts, sights and other gear, prosecutors said. Caldwell, in a message, suggested procuring a boat to take “heavy guns” across the Potomac River to the Oath Keepers’ “waiting arms.”
A former North Carolina Oath keeper last week described the establishment of a rapid reaction force for the “Million MAGA March” in Washington on Nov. 14, 2020, should Trump invoke the Insurrection Act. Thousands of Trump supporters gathered at Freedom Plaza along Pennsylvania Avenue in Washington that day to rally behind Trump’s bogus election claims.
Former Oath Keeper, John Zimmerman, told jurors that the Oath Keepers stashed at least a dozen rifles and several handguns in his van parked at Arlington National Cemetery to serve as a rapid reaction force on the occasion. He said they never brought the guns to Washington.
Associated Press writer Alanna Durkin Richer in Boston contributed to this report.
https://www.ocregister.com/2022/10/12/oath-keepers-jury-hears-about-massive-weapon-cache-on-jan-6/ The Oath Keepers jury hears about a massive arms cache on January 6th