The District of Columbia’s civil lawsuit against the Oath Keepers, Proud Boys, and 37 individual defendants fails for lack of standing, a defense attorney said Monday.
“We don’t think that they have jurisdiction to sue,” attorney Jonathon Moseley, who represents Oath Keepers leader Kelly Meggs, told The Epoch Times.
“They don’t have standing to sue on behalf of the individual police officers. They don’t have jurisdiction to sue for what happened on federal land.”
On April 1, District of Columbia Attorney General Karl Racine announced an expansion (pdf) of the district’s December 2021 lawsuit to include Oath Keepers founder Elmer Stewart Rhodes III, four individual Oath Keepers, and one member of the Proud Boys.
The suit seeks to lay the blame for Jan. 6 violence at the U.S. Capitol on an alleged conspiracy between the Oath Keepers and the Proud Boys and aims to hold the defendants financially responsible for the unrest.
In March, Moseley and attorney Juli Z. Haller filed a motion (pdf) before U.S. District Judge Amit P. Mehta to dismiss the lawsuit for lack of foundation. Haller represents defendant Connie Meggs, wife of Kelly Meggs.
The District of Columbia’s legal filings “implausibly seek to make all defendants in this case responsible for the intervening, independent, criminal acts of others who allegedly committed treacherous acts whether intentionally or negligently,” the motion reads, “whereas plaintiff fails to plead that these individual defendants caused any of these acts or committed any injuries.”
Members of the Oath Keepers are seen during a protest against the certification of the 2020 U.S. presidential election results by the U.S. Congress, at the U.S. Capitol in Washington on Jan. 6, 2021. (Jim Bourg/Reuters)
The 119-page amended suit borrows heavily from dozens of criminal complaints filed in U.S. District Court against members of the Oath Keepers and Proud Boys.
“We filed this lawsuit to hold groups and individuals that conspired to attack the Capitol, assault our law enforcement officers, and terrorize our community accountable for their brutal and dangerous actions on January 6,” Racine said in a statement.
“Over the last few months, we have learned more about the horrors of January 6—including more about how the leaders of the two groups behind the attack urged members to use violence to overturn the outcome of a lawful presidential election,” Racine said.
“We are seeking justice for the District, our democracy, and the brave law enforcement officers who risked their lives that day.”
Some two dozen members of the Oath Keepers—an association of current and former military, law enforcement, and first responders—have been criminally charged for an alleged plot to attack the Capitol. Oath Keepers founder Rhodes was indicted in January on charges of seditious conspiracy and numerous other counts.
‘Coordinated Attack of Domestic Terrorism’
The DC lawsuit describes the Oath Keepers as “a militia movement group united by baseless conspiracy theories arising from the idea that the federal government has been co-opted by a nefarious group that is trying to strip United States citizens of their rights.”
The suit’s other target is the Proud Boys, a group formerly headed by Enrique Tarrio of Miami, who is also under federal indictment.
Based in part on a series of encrypted online chats and other communications that were collected by the FBI, the lawsuit alleges the Proud Boys and Oath Keepers worked together to plan “a coordinated attack of domestic terrorism.”
“Defendants and others rioted, broke through police barricades, and physically forced their way into the Capitol,” the suit reads.
“In doing so, they threatened, assaulted, and injured those who tried to stop them, including officers of the District’s Metropolitan Police Department (‘MPD’), and incited terror among those inside and around the building, including members of Congress who were discharging the official duties of their offices.”
In addition to conspiracy, the lawsuit alleges the defendants are guilty of assault, battery, and intentional infliction of emotional distress.
Moseley said a major issue with the lawsuit is that the Jan. 6 events and unrest occurred on federal land, not on District of Columbia property.
The federal government owns and operates the Capitol, the National Mall, and the Ellipse where then-President Donald J. Trump spoke on Jan. 6, 2021.
“I don’t know what they’re talking about. I mean, they could say on federal property, maybe,” Moseley said.
“There wasn’t anything like that on the property of the District of Columbia. I mean, where was there anything on District of Columbia property?”
Claims of assault made in the lawsuit lack specific evidence and attempt to assign guilt to an entire group based on association, according to the motion to dismiss the case.
“The complaint does not come close to properly alleging that Connie, much less Kelly Meggs, intentionally aided and abetted assault and battery on the MPD’s employees. It does not even allege who injured them, much less any ‘affirmative act’ the Meggs allegedly took ‘in furtherance’ of the assault or battery,” the motion said.
One of the other “broad legal issues” with the suit, Moseley said, is it conflicts with the ongoing criminal cases, and potentially involves calling witnesses who risk incriminating themselves in civil court.
“I think it would be a pretty strong argument to say these lawsuits have to be put on hold while the criminal cases go forward,” Moseley said.
The DC Office of Attorney General is receiving pro-bono legal help from the States United Democracy Center; the Anti-Defamation League; Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison LLP; and Dechert LLP, according to a statement from Racine.