A federal judge on Tuesday refused to delay a trial for a group of Oath Keepers charged with seditious conspiracy over the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the Capitol, rejecting concerns that the Sept. 26 trial date could coincide with new information from the House committee investigating the attack.
U.S. District Judge Amit Mehta told defense lawyers during a hearing that granting their request to delay a trial until early next year would “quite literally wreak havoc” on the court. Mehta said concerns about pretrial publicity generated by the House Jan. 6 Select Committee investigation, as well as concerns that the panel could release a trove of transcripts from the more than a thousand interviews it’s conducted, is not a sufficient reason to warrant delay.
“If transcripts are dropped on the eve of trial that pertain to these defendants and the allegations against them, I will revisit the issue. You have my word,” the judge said. “The truth of the matter is the court’s docket cannot be dictated by how Congress is acting and what they are doing. “
Five of the 11 defendants in the case, including Oath Keepers leader and founder Stewart Rhodes, will go to trial on Sept. 26. Four others are scheduled for trial on Nov. 29, while two defendants have agreed to plead guilty and cooperate with prosecutors.
Defense attorneys had argued that the publicity stemming from the congressional investigation would have an adverse effect on their ability to find impartial jurors and have a fair trial. They also said that the volume of evidence in the case will make it difficult for them to fully prepare in the remaining eight weeks until trial.
But Mehta, who was appointed by former President Obama, was firm in ordering that trial proceed as scheduled.
The judge said he cannot influence what the select committee chooses to do before and during the trial but that he will work “to ensure that these defendants receive a fair trial through the most rigorous voir dire process that we can possibly have happen.”