ANCHORAGE, Alaska (AP) — Alaska lawmakers with ties to the far-right Oath Keepers group are eligible for public office, a state judge ruled Friday.
Superior Court Judge Jack McKenna ruled this month after overseeing the trial of a case against Republican Rep. David Eastman.Decisions can be appealed.
The ruling found that while Eastman was a member of the Oath Keepers, he “did not and did not have the specific intent to further the words or actions of the Oath Keepers aimed at overthrowing the United States government.” It was confirmed that
Eastman was sued by Randall Kowalke, one of the people who challenged Eastman’s candidacy for the Alaska House of Representatives to the Alaska Election Commission earlier this year. The department determined that Eastman was eligible to run for re-election, but Kowalke’s attorneys argued that they were unable to investigate Eastman’s eligibility under the state constitution’s so-called disloyalty clause.
That provision states, “No person who supports or belongs to any group, organization, or entity that advocates or supports the overthrow of the United States government or state by force or violence is ineligible for public office.” says. .
Eastman won re-election last month, but McKenna had previously ordered proof of the election results to be delayed pending a trial and court order. The new legislative session he will begin on January 17th.
Nationally, Oath Keepers founder Stewart Rhodes The Florida chapter leader was found guilty of seditious conspiracy related to the Jan. 6, 2021 riot at the U.S. Capitol.A trial is underway against his four other Oath Keepers.
Eastman has admitted to being a member of the Oath Keepers, but said during the trial that he believed the group was dormant. Eastman said he was in Washington, D.C., for a speech by then-President Donald Trump on Jan. 6, but he did not participate in the riots. Eastman has not been accused of any crime. He has not disowned the Oath Keepers.
A judge ruled that being a member of a far-right group would not disqualify him from public office.
The judge’s order is pending pending appeal. A hearing is scheduled for January 4 to discuss whether the appeal has been filed.
Kowalke’s attorney Goriune Dudukian said in an email: “We are clearly disappointed with the outcome, but proud of the lawsuit we have taken.” We will be making a decision.”
Joe Miller, an attorney for Eastman, said in a text message that he was satisfied with the verdict.
“We are very pleased that plaintiffs’ claims that the rioters were involved in the rioting were dismissed,” Miller said.
Awaiting sentencing, Rhodes testified on Eastman’s behalf, sometimes providing incomprehensible testimony from inside his cell. Some said the decision to enter was “ridiculous.”
“None of the plea bargains, indictments, or convictions obtained to date have referred to what could be considered an attempt to overthrow the government,” Miller said in court documents.
Sam Jackson, who studied Oathkeepers, is an assistant professor in the Department of Emergency Preparedness, Homeland Security, and Cybersecurity at the University of Albany. Eastman is the first to find himself facing challenges to his eligibility for public office, especially due to his connections with the Oath Keepers.