No trials before January for 'Oath Keepers' facing U.S. Capitol riot charges

FILE PHOTO: Supporters of U.S. President Donald Trump gather in Washington
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By Mark Hosenball

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Next January will be the earliest possible start of any trial for members and associates of the Oath Keepers militia movement facing charges for rioting at the U.S. Capitol, giving prosecutors and defense lawyers time to examine evidence and prepare, attorneys told a court hearing on Tuesday.

Four people connected to the right-wing Oath Keepers have already pleaded guilty to riot-related charges. Lawyers for 16 people facing felony riot charges appeared at a status hearing before U.S. District Judge Amit Mehta on Tuesday.

Eugene Rossi, a lawyer for defendant William Isaacs, said prosecutors had deluged defense lawyers with an "avalanche of documents" like the flow "out of a fire hydrant" and extensive videos from Jan. 6, when supporters of then-President Donald Trump sought to block Congress from certifying Joe Biden's election victory.

Michelle Peterson, a public defender representing accused rioter Jessica Watkins, who is still in pre-trial custody, complained that there were areas of the Capitol without government video cameras but where amateur videographers may have captured "exculpatory" behavior by some participants.

A government affidavit said defendants traveled to Washington carrying paramilitary gear and wearing clothes with Oath Keepers insignias. At the Capitol, investigators said, 10 defendants formed a "stack" which marched single file up stairs into the building, with hands on the person in front, then forced their way through the central Rotunda.

More than 535 people face charges from Jan 6.

Also on Tuesday, Virginia residents Douglas Sweet, 59, and Cindy Fitchett, 60, who posted a video of herself in the Capitol declaring "Patriots Arise", pleaded guilty before U.S. District Judge Carl Nichols to misdemeanor charges carrying maximum six month prison terms. Sentencing was set for November. Illinois resident Bradley Rukstales also signed a plea agreement, but it was not officially entered.

(Reporting By Mark Hosenball; Editing by David Gregorio and Grant McCool)

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