Mistrial in Child Rape Case of Antigovernment Activist

DUNCAN, Okla. — The second trial of self-described Oath Keeper Charles Dyer, who is accused of raping his 7-year-old daughter in 2010, came to an abrupt end on Tuesday when a judge declared a mistrial after discovering the district attorney’s office had improper conduct with jurors.

District Attorney James Walters had not yet finished examining his first witness, Dyer’s wife Valerie, when the court learned that three jurors in had received a follow-up questionnaire for their service in another case. The surveys, which ask jurors for their opinions on how the proceedings were conducted, are standard procedure.

But Stephens County District Judge Joe Enos said there was no way Dyer’s trial could proceed in good faith –– even if the questionnaires had nothing to do with Dyer’s case. “It could very well have had an impact,” Enos told the court. The judge scheduled a new trial for April 16.

Dyer’s attorney, Al Hoch, declined to comment on the ruling. Walters, who was visibly frustrated with the ruling, also did not comment and left the courtroom in a hurry shortly after the ruling was announced.

The trial was the second for Dyer, a former Marine and Iraq veteran who faces a single count of child sexual assault following allegations last year that he had sodomized his daughter. The first trial ended with a hung jury. (At the time of his arrest, Dyer was also charged with possessing a grenade launcher stolen from the military in 2006 but was later acquitted of that charge.)

The case sparked national interest after Dyer failed to appear for trial last summer and soon afterward issued threatening, conspiracy-theorizing communiqués that left no room for doubt as to his intentions if were police to catch up to him.

“I have been pushed to the limits by law enforcement and the judicial system in an attempt to cause me to take violent actions against them,” Dyer wrote in an E-mail to his family. “Our judicial system is nothing more than a system of liars and crooks working under the color of the law, where the rich go free and the poor are made to suffer injustice. … Something must be done to expose it.”

Before that, he had posted similarly worded videos on YouTube using the name “July 4 Patriot.” In one, Dyer is seen with a shaved head, wearing a skeleton mask that covers his mouth. “Tyranny, like hell, is not easily conquered,” he says in one video. “[But] those who expect the blessings of freedom must be willing to stand up and fight for it.”

However, that antigovernment anger was nowhere to be found when police arrested him in August, after he was spotted at a Sonic drive-in in Houston wearing a baseball cap and blue jeans, with a T-shirt over his shoulder. After providing a fictitious name, he was arrested without resistance and seemed very tired.

For its part, the Oath Keepers has worked to put distance between itself and Dyer. Founder Stewart Rhodes –– a Yale Law School graduate and former aide to U.S. Rep. Ron Paul –– insisted that Dyer was never a “dues-paying” member,” despite once considering Dyer to serve as the group’s liaison with the Marine Corps. Rhodes was also instrumental in urging Dyer to surrender and face trial.

Early on, Dyer supported the mission of Oath Keepers, including encouraging his YouTube audience to attend a meeting in 2009, Rhodes said in a prepared statement after Dyer’s arrested.

At that rally, Rhodes said in his statement, “[Dyer] told me of his intent to train and help establish private militias when he was discharged from the Corps. … I let him know that such a course of action would be incompatible with a position within Oath Keepers. … Over the next few months, we kept in touch and I tried to change his mind, since I thought his abilities could be best used in outreach to the currently serving, but he would not relent, and we both agreed that it would be best if he did not join Oath Keepers. He went his own way.”