May 29, 2024

Washington – A member of the far-right Oath Keepers group pleaded guilty on Wednesday to the high-level charges of seditious conspiracy and obstructing Congress’ certification of the Electoral College votes on January 6, 2021

William Todd Wilson of North Carolina admitted to joining other Oath Keepers, including leader Stewart Rhodes, in planning to use force to halt the peaceful transfer of power from then-President Donald Trump to President Joe Biden.

Wilson is now the third member of the militia group to admit to seditious conspiracy – the most severe charge so far brought against alleged members of the January 6 mob – but he is the first to reveal that Rhodes attempted to contact Trump on the evening of the riot. 

As part of Wednesday’s plea agreement, Wilson admitted under oath to a Statement of Offense, which is used in criminal proceedings to stipulate the facts of the case that a defendant acknowledges. 

Pro-Trump Protests over Electoral College Vote Certification
 Protesters gather on the second day of pro-Trump events fueled by President Donald Trump’s continued claims of election fraud in an to overturn the results before Congress finalizes them in a joint session of the 117th Congress on Wednesday, Jan. 6, 2021 in Washington, DC. 

Kent Nishimura

“At approximately 5:00 p.m., Wilson, Rhodes, and others left the Capitol grounds and walked together to the Phoenix Hotel,” the statement read. “Rhodes then called an individual over speaker phone. Wilson heard, Rhodes repeatedly implore the individual to tell President Trump to call upon groups like the Oath Keepers to forcibly oppose the transfer of power.”

“This individual denied Rhodes’s request to speak directly with President Trump,” the statement continued. 

The allegation is the first time a member of Oath Keepers, charged with the most serious crimes surrounding the January 6 attack, is accused of attempting to contact Trump on January 6.

Wilson’s plea agreement stated that he agreed to join Rhodes and other co-defendants in stopping the peaceful transition of power. In one “Leadership” group messaging chat, Rhodes allegedly implored the group,  “We aren’t getting through this without a civil war. Too late for that. Prepare your mind, body, spirit.” 

Wilson admitted to bringing an AR- 15-style rifle, a 9-millimeter pistol, approximately 200 rounds of ammunition, body armor, a camouflaged combat uniform, pepper spray, a large walking stick intended for use as a weapon and a pocketknife to a Washington, D.C.-area hotel room ahead of the attack. 

According to the Statement of Offense, Wilson “heard Rhodes discuss the potential need for Rhodes and co-conspirators to engage in force, up to and including lethal violence, in order to stop the transfer of power,” a call to arms that Wilson admitted to answering at the time. 

On the afternoon of January 6, Wilson, Rhodes and others allegedly “bypassed barricades and Capitol Police officers, and unlawfully entered the restricted grounds of the Capitol,” the court documents revealed. And later that day, Wilson admitted he entered the Capitol building with his pocketknife and 14 other members of the Oath Keepers organization. He said did not bring his cache of weapons to the Capitol but left them at his hotel in case they were needed. 

Prosecutors said that  in a series of messages, including on the morning of January 6, members of the group talked about preparations of a “QRF,”  a so-called quick reaction force staging arms and other supplies outside the Washington, D.C., city limits. In one message included in the court filing, Rhodes allegedly wrote, “We will have several well equipped QRFs outside DC. And there are many, many others, from other groups, who will be watching and waiting on the outside in case of worst case scenarios,” according to court documents in Rhodes’ criminal case. 

In the weeks following the attack, Wilson says he tossed his cell phone into the Atlantic Ocean to hinder any investigation into his actions. 

He now faces 20 years in prison on each of the two counts to which he pleaded guilty, but will likely  spend far less time incarcerated. . 

Wilson is the third member of the Oath Keepers to plead guilty to seditious conspiracy. Others, including Rhodes, have entered not guilty pleas and are set to stand trial later this year. 

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