Oath Keepers founder Elmer Stewart Rhodes III has established the Patriots Legal Defense Fund with an initial goal to raise $5 million to help provide legal representation for “various non-violent, peaceful Americans who demonstrated and exercised their First Amendment rights in Washington D.C. on Jan. 5–6, 2021.”
“I am touched and encouraged that patriots, friends, family, and lovers of American liberty have undertaken this project,” Rhodes said in a statement from the Alexandria City Jail in Virginia, where he is being held pending trial on charges of seditious conspiracy and other Jan. 6–related counts.
“It is important to help make sure that every persecuted patriot will have the assistance of high-quality and effective attorneys to debunk false claims of prosecutors, Congress, and propagandists,” Rhodes said.
The fund is designed to assist Jan.6 defendants accused of nonviolent offenses and those who did not damage property or harm law enforcement on Jan. 6, 2021. According to a statement from the group, donations will pay for attorneys, legal support, expert witnesses, and other case expenses.
“The deep state has made clear that their aim is to prosecute Donald Trump and his family,” said retired U.S. Army Col. John Siemens, an Oath Keepers member and chairman of the board of Patriots Legal Defense Fund.
“Jan. 6 demonstrators are being trampled as the last line of defense in front of Trump. Stopping this Salem witch trial hysteria now may be the best protection for conservatives against growing attacks later.”
About 800 people have been arrested by the FBI in nearly all 50 states and charged with alleged crimes on Jan. 6. Nineteen Oath Keepers were charged in two major conspiracy cases, including Rhodes and 10 others accused by prosecutors of seditious conspiracy to obstruct the certification of Electoral College votes.
Two Oath Keepers—Joshua James and Brian Ulrich—took government deals and pleaded guilty to the seditious-conspiracy charge.
The other defendants are scheduled for trials in either July or September.
Patriots Legal Defense Fund board members include Siemens; retired U.S. Navy Chief Petty Officer Jarome Bell; Robin McGreer; Alma Arredondo-Lynch; and Kelli Schroeder.
The fund will be subject to independent annual audits by a certified public accountant.
Donor names will be protected, but the fund will disclose which defendants it assists, the group said in a news release.
The fund is not related to fundraisers on GiveSendGo and other crowd-sourcing platforms for individual defendants or their families.