The estranged wife of Stewart Rhodes, the founder and leader of the Oath Keepers, an armed extremist group, has launched an online fundraiser to help pay for her divorce.
“It is certainly not easy to find a lawyer willing to go head to head against a person who is not only a graduate of Yale Law but also commands their own private army,” Tasha Adams wrote on the platform GoFundMe, where her fundraiser launched Tuesday. She is seeking $30,000 to pay off overdue legal bills and hire a new attorney to complete her divorce, which has been pending for more than three years. Adams wrote that the current “spotlight” on her husband emboldened her to seek financial help.
Her appeal comes as multiple Oath Keepers charged with federal crimes for their role in the Jan. 6 uprising have launched their own online fundraising campaigns, collectively raising nearly $500,000 to fund their legal defense and personal expenses so far. Those campaigns are hosted on a different platform; GoFundMe has removed and banned many fundraisers from groups linked to political violence.
Although Rhodes has been a well-known figure in far-right circles for years, thrusting his group into the center of intense and sometimes violent protests and other political events, he attained national notoriety after a phalanx of Oath Keepers in tactical gear stormed the US Capitol on Jan. 6.
Rhodes, 55, stayed outside the building and has not been charged, but prosecutors have revealed text messages and phone records that show he was in communication with Oath Keepers just before and after they entered the Capitol. In addition, photos and other evidence show that Oath Keepers had provided personal security in Washington the previous day for Roger Stone and others close to former president Donald Trump.
Adams, who is 48 and lives in rural Montana, met Rhodes in Las Vegas in 1991. The couple married in 1994. They have six children, and according to Adams, she supported Rhodes as he got his undergraduate and law degrees. “Though I can't talk about the details of my marriage here,” she wrote on her GoFundMe page, “I can tell you that it was likely about exactly what you're picturing, but probably quite a bit weirder.”
Reached for comment, Adams reiterated she could not discuss details of the divorce because she is under a gag order. She said the attention on the Oath Keepers recently made her think a fundraiser could be successful; with that in mind she gave the campaign the title “Help me divorce Oath Keeper Leader Stewart Rhodes.”
Adams’ husband, whose full name is Elmer Stewart Rhodes III, served in the Army, then worked as a commercial sculptor before going on to the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, and then Yale Law School. In 2009, he founded the Oath Keepers, an organization that recruits active and former military and law enforcement officers who swear an oath to uphold the US Constitution — including defying orders from superiors if they believe they infringe on the Bill of Rights.
Rhodes has steered the group, which is registered as a nonprofit and collects annual fees from its members, into the center of numerous civil disputes and cultural flashpoints over the past decade. Members of the Oath Keepers were in Nevada and Oregon at standoffs with federal agents over grazing rights on federal land. They were in Ferguson, Missouri, as protesters faced off against police after an officer shot and killed Michael Brown, an 18-year-old Black man. And this summer, they appeared, often heavily armed, at Black Lives Matter protests around the country. A frequent guest on Alex Jones’ online show Infowars, Rhodes has often used those events to draw attention to the Oath Keepers, boosting membership and raising money through donations.
But former members and board members complain that Rhodes at times self-servingly stirs up controversy in local communities and then departs, leaving chaos in his wake. Many members of the Oath Keepers, meanwhile, have ended up criminally charged for participating in events organized by Rhodes, who has managed to avoid prosecution or other significant consequences.
Weeks after the Capitol riots, federal prosecutors indicted 10 members of the Oath Keepers for conspiring to disrupt the certification of Joe Biden’s election victory, and have charged two others for obstructing an official proceeding and trespassing. In recent court filings, prosecutors have revealed encrypted chats and photographs showing that Rhodes was directly outside the Capitol during the riots. According to prosecutors, Rhodes urged others on the group chat to “come to the South Side of the Capitol” shortly before they breached the building, and later that day sent a message comparing the day’s events to the Boston Tea Party.
A fundraiser on the GiveSendGo platform for Kelly and Connie Meggs, a Florida couple who have lifetime memberships to the Oath Keepers and who were both indicted, has drawn $140,510 so far. A separate campaign on the same site, for Kenneth Harrelson, another Florida-based member of the Oath Keepers who was indicted, has garnered $177,640, while one for Alabama-based member Joshua James — who is charged separately from the others — has brought in $176,980. An appeal for a fifth member, Jessica Watkins, who also founded a local militant group in Ohio, has not succeeded in raising any money.
Court records show Rhodes was disbarred in Montana in 2015 after a complaint against him by a federal judge who said he ignored judicial orders and a separate complaint from a former client who accused him of abandonment. Rhodes did not respond to requests for comment for this article.
Adams filed for divorce in Montana’s Lincoln County in February 2018, and a few weeks later filed a petition for a temporary order of protection. The petition alleged that Rhodes was physically and emotionally abusive of Adams and some of their children, in particular claiming that he “grabbed” their teenage daughter “by the throat.” On multiple occasions, the petition states, Rhodes “pointed a loaded, chambered handgun at his own head” and told her that “my behavior has caused this.”
But a judge denied the petition, and soon thereafter the case was sealed, making it impossible to verify the status of the case. In her GoFundMe post, Adams said she could not afford to pay her former attorney’s bills and was eventually dropped as a client, owing the firm roughly $12,000. After paying that off, she said, she hoped to hire a new lawyer to help her come to a “simple and safe plan and a basic financial agreement” with Rhodes, adding that the two of them “have no assets even to argue about.”
Adams’ former divorce attorney declined to comment on the matter.
A clerk in the Lincoln County court told BuzzFeed News she could not locate any public records of the divorce proceeding. “It may be confidential information,” the clerk said.
Prior to separating in 2018, Adams said, she lived in near-complete isolation, homeschooling her children while Rhodes was traveling around the country, appearing on national television, and meeting other members of the Oath Keepers.
Since then, Adams said she has been reintegrating into society; Rhodes hasn’t seen his children, she said, in over a year. Four of the kids still live at home, she said, and she has little money, no assets, and a car, which she calls “old Bessie,” that has 245,000 miles and is in need of repairs.