He is on trial with four others accused of taking part in that conspiracy: Florida Oath Keepers leader Kelly Meggs, his fellow Florida Oath Keeper Kenneth Harrelson, Ohio Oath Keeper Jessica Watkins, and Thomas Caldwell, a Virginian who never formally joined the group but allied with them around Jan. 6.
Rhodes has a degree from Yale Law School, but he was disbarred in Montana for failing to appear at court hearings and is represented at trial by criminal defense attorneys.
His decision to take the stand is notable, as it is rare for defendants to testify at their own trials, and Rhodes’s case is one of the most high-profile so far in the sprawling Jan. 6 investigation.
Over several weeks, more than two dozen witnesses have testified against Rhodes and the others. Jurors have heard former members of the Oath Keepers say that while there was no specific prior plan or order from Rhodes to enter the Capitol, they understood that he wanted them to block the transfer of presidential power by force if necessary. Jurors have also seen scores of text messages in which Rhodes appeared to endorse violence in response to the election.
Before and after Jan. 6, the records shown in court indicate, Rhodes was pushing Trump to deputize private militias to keep control of the White House. Rhodes argues that he believes that would have been a lawful order, and that he only brought his members and their firearms to D.C. to be prepared for a possible civil war.
Prosecutors counter that Rhodes was not just anticipating but fomenting conflict, and that until members started getting arrested for their actions on Jan. 6, he was planning for more violent action.
Rhodes, who spent three years in the Army before a disabling parachuting accident, founded the Oath Keepers in 2009 to bring together people with military and law enforcement backgrounds who would pledge to resist unconstitutional federal overreach. Over time, former members say, the group evolved from libertarian to partisan and extremist, aligning itself with white supremacists and with Trump.