Capitol riot defendant gets probation after rare setback for prosecutors at Oath Keepers trial

A security operations leader for the far-right Oath Keepers group has been sentenced to two years of probation

Lindsay Whitehurst
Friday 21 July 2023 22:52 BST
Capitol Riot Oath Keepers
Capitol Riot Oath Keepers (Copyright 2020 The Associated Press. All rights reserved)

A security operations leader for the far-right Oath Keepers group — whose acquittal of conspiracy charges in the Jan. 6, 2021, Capitol riot marked a rare setback for prosecutors — was sentenced Friday to two years of probation.

Michael Greene, of Indianapolis, was convicted on a misdemeanor trespassing offense after a trial in March, but cleared of more serious charges after telling jurors on the witness stand that he was not a member and didn't tell anyone to go into the Capitol.

Prosecutors had sought one year behind bars for Greene, but U.S. District Judge Amit Mehta sided with defense attorneys who argued for probation. He noted that Greene did not enter the building or have extensive participation in the group's online chats, which grew increasingly violent before the riot.

“We frankly don’t have a great deal of insight into what his political views were or what he thought about the election outcome,” Mehta said.

Prosecutors described Greene as a “trusted top lieutenant” to Oath Keepers founder Stewart Rhodes, who was sentenced in May to 18 years in prison after being convicted of seditious conspiracy in the Jan. 6 attack. Prosecutors had accused Greene of conspiring with other Oath Keepers to obstruct Congress' certification of President Joe Biden's electoral victory.

Greene, however, said he never jointed the Oath Keepers but worked essentially as a contractor, providing security services.

“I took a job. I’m not Oath Keeper. I took a job. I’m not a criminal,” he said.

An Army veteran who served in Iraq, Greene said he was asked to come to Washington to oversee the Oath Keepers’ security services for figures such as Roger Stone, longtime Donald Trump confidant, and “Stop the Steal” organizer Ali Alexander at events before the siege.

Greene took the witness stand for the defense at Rhodes’ trial and told jurors that he never heard anyone discussing plans to storm the Capitol. Rhodes testified during that case that he tapped Greene as an “operation leader” for Jan. 6 after meeting Greene in 2017, when they helped with disaster relief after Hurricane Harvey.

Prosecutors said Greene had traveled with Rhodes before, and knew the likely outcome when he called for Oath Keepers to come to the Capitol that day. “Mr. Greene did not stumble upon this riot,” prosecutor Kathryn Rakoczy said.

But Greene’s attorney said the evidence never added up to the charges prosecutors alleged and the jury rejected it.

“He came to do a job," William Shipley said. “He's really differently positioned than some of the others.”

Five others associated with the Oath Keepers who stood trial with Greene were convicted of conspiring to obstruct Congress' certification of the vote. In other trials, six Oath Keepers were convicted of seditious conspiracy for what prosecutors alleged was a violent plot to stop the transfer of power from Trump to Biden.

Authorities alleged Oath Keepers prepared for weeks leading up to Jan. 6, which included training sessions and recruiting others to come to Washington. Prosecutors have said the extremist group stashed weapons at a Virginia hotel in case they were needed, donned tactical vests and helmets and moved in an organized fashion as they advanced on the Capitol.

Rhodes and the other Oath Keepers, though, have denied there was any plot to storm the Capitol or stop the certification. Defense attorneys say they came to Washington only to watch then-President Donald Trump speak or provide security for speakers at events prior to the riot, and that those who entered the Capitol did so spontaneously.

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