July 1 – A recent filing in federal court outlines for the first time for those who weren’t in the courtroom evidence of the conviction of a Thomasville woman on charges stemming from the riot and the storming of the US Capitol on January 6, 2021.
The 46-page document refutes all the arguments of Laura Lee Steele, 54, and other members of the Oath Keepers militia who were convicted with her on March 20 and, like her, are seeking to have the convictions overturned.
This was the third trial involving members of the Oath Keepers, but unlike the first two, it received little media coverage as it occurred at the same time as several high-ranking members of the Proud Boys from extreme right were tried on seditious charges. conspiracy.
And while some of the evidence described in the new filing was mentioned in Steele’s charging documents, many of the details were not.
Steele’s attorney argued that there was insufficient evidence at trial to support Steele’s convictions. Prosecutors strongly dispute this in their recent filing, setting the timeline from after the 2020 election to the end of January.
“Laura Steele shared her co-conspirators’ outrage at the presidential election
elections,” prosecutors wrote.
They cited several Facebook posts in November and December 2020, including “No, Joe won’t go to the office” and “Biden will never be the POTUS”, and one that used the phrase “A storm is coming”, which is used often by followers of the QAnon conspiracy website.
“Significantly, Steele also demonstrated an understanding of the presidential certification process…as it was this exact process that she obstructed on January 6, 2021,” they wrote.
Showing his involvement in Oath Keepers communications prior to Jan. 6, prosecutors said Steele emailed one of the group’s executives in Florida with his membership application so it could be “verified for the events of Tuesday and Wednesday”, i.e. January 5 and 6. She was also a member of an Oath Keepers group chat and messaged the group on the evening of January 5.
On Jan. 6, when the Guardians of the Oath gathered at the Ellipse near the Capitol, after founder Stewart Rhodes posted in a leadership discussion group, “All I see Trump doing is complain. I don’t see any intention on his part to do anything. So the patriots take it into their own hands. They’ve had enough,” a group that included Steele began marching towards the Capitol. Upon arriving there, Rhodes messaged a leader of Steele’s group, which prosecutors call Line One, to come to the south side of the Capitol.
“Trial testimony established that while Line One traveled to the Capitol, the group met several times as a group,” prosecutors wrote. “In a group near the central steps on the east side of the Capitol, (leader) Kelly Meggs told Line One members that they were going to ‘try to stop the vote count.'”
The group then climbed the stairs of the Capitol and made their way into the Rotunda, then split into two smaller groups. The group Steele was with proceeded to the Senate chamber, where they “pushed forward against the outnumbered officers guarding the Senate chamber,” prosecutors wrote. “The rioters in the hallway of the Senate were eventually driven back by law enforcement using pepper spray.”
After leaving the Capitol, Steele and the others gathered in the Capitol’s east plaza around Rhodes.
In the days that followed, Rhodes sent members of the Oath Keepers instructions to “DELETE ALL YOUR COMMENTS REGARDING WHO DID WHAT”.
“Soon after January 6, Steele began sending messages about the need to avoid law enforcement, sometimes echoing Rhodes’ warnings that law enforcement could read the messages and use evidence against “them,” prosecutors wrote.
Steele wrote to someone on Jan. 13 that she had deleted her Facebook posts and was planning to leave Messenger “very soon,” and she messaged someone else,
“Be cool. They’re watching this.”
An FBI agent testified during the trial that during a search of Steele’s home, investigators found the black shoes and khaki pants Steele wore in the Capitol, but not his fedora or Oath Keepers shirt. He also testified that they found charred remains of some items in a burn pit behind Steele’s house.
“Steele knew that by destroying evidence of her involvement in the attack on the Capitol, she was removing the possibility that law enforcement would find such documents, because she was destroying them,” prosecutors wrote. “In a hierarchical organization like the Oath Keepers, it is entirely reasonable to infer that Rhodes’ order to his senior leadership… to remove posts due to the prospect of indictments would then be broadcast to other other members of the conspiracy, including Steele.”
The prosecutors’ filing also responds to a separate request by Steele’s attorney for a new trial, who argued that one of the jurors in the trial later made statements to a reporter that showed she was imposing on the defendants the burden of proving they were innocent rather than requiring prosecutors to prove guilt.
Prosecutors argued that the juror’s comments clearly showed otherwise.
“First, the juror’s statements reflect an accurate understanding of the Court’s clear instructions,” they wrote. “… The statements of the juror reflect someone who waited until the end of the trial to consider her verdict, and that is what
The court ordered him to do so.”
A hearing in the case is scheduled for August 29. Steele is scheduled to be sentenced on August 31, but she asked that it be postponed so she can go on a family vacation.