Oath Keepers Group Battered by Members' Arrests

Antigovernment 'Patriots'

Oath Keepers, a two-year-old organization that encourages police officers and soldiers to disobey orders that may be unconstitutional, has long contended that it is about nothing more than protecting Americans' freedoms. Its leader has angrily denounced suggestions that the group is animated by radical beliefs, and accused critics of working to smear an upstanding, patriotic group.

But several recent developments have created problems for Stewart Rhodes, the Oath Keepers leader who says he merely wants to defend the Constitution.

This April, a suburban Cleveland, Ohio, man described by a prosecutor as the president of a local Oath Keepers chapter was jailed on 54 criminal counts related to his alleged storing of a live napalm bomb at his home, along with other explosives kept at a friend's home. The man, Matthew Fairfield, already had been sentenced in February to two years' probation for carrying concealed weapons.

During the same month in Tennessee, an armed man driving a pickup truck emblazoned with an Oath Keepers logo was arrested in a bizarre scheme to place two dozen officials in a town under arrest.

And in January, another self-described Oath Keeper, Charles Dyer, was arrested in Oklahoma for the alleged rape and forcible sodomy of a 7-year-old child; he was also charged with possessing a grenade launcher that had been stolen from a California military base in 2006.

A jury acquitted Dyer of the federal weapons charge but the sexual abuse charges are still pending. Dyer — who popped up often in YouTube videos to complain about the "New World Order" and other apparently looming dangers — had spoken on behalf of Oath Keepers at a 2009 Tea Party event in Oklahoma. Just days before the appearance, Rhodes, who later sought to distance his group from Dyer, promised that Dyer would "deliver one heck of a fiery speech."