In the end, the antigovernment rhetoric that so energized his defense couldn’t save Charles Dyer, the former Marine and member of the antigovernment Oath Keepers organization accused of raping his own 6-year-old daughter. Late Thursday, after four hours of deliberation, a Duncan, Okla., jury convicted Dyer and recommended a 30-year sentence.
After the verdict was read, Dyer’s hands and feet were bound in chains. His face hardened and he did not mutter a word. The only claims of innocence had come earlier as he testified. “I believe in my heart that my daughter is a victim of sexual abuse. ... [But] I’ve never hurt anyone in my life, especially not my daughter,” Dyer said.
The case drew national attention after Dyer failed to appear in court for trial in 2010. (At the time of his arrest, he was also charged with possessing a grenade launcher stolen from the military in 2006; he was later acquitted of that charge.) Dyer became infamous when he went on the lam and began issuing threatening, conspiracy-laced communiqués that left no room for doubt as to his violent intentions were police to catch up with 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 email to his family after fleeing from the reach of law enforcement. “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.”
What added to his notoriety was a series of animated online videos Dyer released under the name “July4Patriot.” He professed his innocence in some and, in others, painted the charges against him as the machinations of a tyrannical government working to silence its critics. But as his trial progressed, the only injustices exposed were his own.
Jurors listened to four days of graphic testimony recounting what prosecutors alleged Dyer had done to his daughter, while his defense attorney, Al Hoch, argued that the allegations were the wild fabrications of Dyer’s estranged wife, Valery, who he said had convinced her daughter to carry on a lie to help her terminate custodial rights.
“If you're not on Valery’s side, watch out,” Hoch said in closing comments.
The trial was the third for Dyer -- the first ended with the jury unable to reach a verdict; the second ended in mistrial after the district attorney’s office violated protocol and mailed questionnaires to jurors before the trial had begun. With each trial, it seemed, support from the radical right waned. There hasn’t been a word from the Oath Keepers since Dyer’s conviction, and when this trial began, only one supporter remained — Rick Light, head of a militia group in Texas.
Since he was arrested, there has been some confusion over just how active Dyer was in the Oath Keepers. The group had worked hard to put distance between itself and the case, with Oath Keepers’ founder Stewart Rhodes — a Yale Law School graduate and former aide to U.S. Rep. Ron Paul — insisting that Dyer was not a “dues-paying” member. Yet videos online, part of a series meant to highlight the Oath Keepers’ more important members, identify Dyer as the group’s official liaison to the U.S. Marine Corps.
A sentencing hearing for Dyer is scheduled in July.