U.S. charges Oath Keepers lawyer with Jan. 6 conspiracy, obstruction

Members of the Oath Keepers provide security during the Patriots Day Free Speech Rally in Berkeley, California, U.S. April 15, 2017. REUTERS/Jim Urquhart

WASHINGTON, Sept 1 (Reuters) - The U.S. Justice Department has charged a top lawyer for the Oath Keepers militia group with conspiracy and obstruction in connection with the Jan. 6, 2021, deadly attack on the U.S. Capitol, according to a court document released on Thursday.

Kellye SoRelle, 43, is charged with obstruction of justice, and conspiracy to obstruct an official proceeding. She is also facing counts of obstruction of an official proceeding and being at a restricted building and grounds.

SoRelle, who was arrested Thursday morning, could not immediately be reached for comment. She had her initial court appearance in Austin, Texas on Thursday afternoon and was released without bond. Her next court appearance is set for Tuesday in Washington, D.C.

The unsealed indictment alleges that SoRelle told others to withhold and "alter, destroy, mutilate, and conceal" items from the federal grand jury investigating the Jan. 6 riot by supporters of then President Donald Trump.

Hundreds of people have been charged in connection with the violent riots that took place on Jan. 6, as Congress met to certify President Joe Biden's election win over Trump.

SoRelle has claimed to be the acting leader of the Oath Keepers after the far-right militia’s founder, Stewart Rhodes, was charged with seditious conspiracy for his role in the riot.

SoRelle is not charged with seditious conspiracy, which is defined as attempting "to overthrow, put down or to destroy by force the government of the United States."

Some Oath Keepers defendants have pleaded guilty to charges related to the Capitol riot while others are fighting them.

Reuters reported in February that the FBI was investigating a meeting among far right figures held the day before the Capitol riot, in a downtown D.C. garage. That meeting included SoRelle, Rhodes and the then-leader of the Proud Boys extremist group Enrique Tarrio, who is also charged with seditious conspiracy stemming from the Jan. 6 attack. read more

Reporting by Jacqueline Thomsen and Sarah N. Lynch in Washington; writing by Paul Grant; Editing by Rosalba O'Brien and Bill Berkrot

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Jacqueline Thomsen, based in Washington, D.C., covers legal news related to policy, the courts and the legal profession. Follow her on Twitter at @jacq_thomsen and email her at jacqueline.thomsen@thomsonreuters.com.