Oath Keepers founder Stewart Rhodes sentenced to 18 years in prison for seditious conspiracy in January 6 attack

WASHINGTON — The founder of the extremist group Oath Keepers was sentenced Thursday to 18 years in prison for orchestrating a week-long conspiracy that culminated in his supporters attacking the U.S. Capitol in an effort to prevent President Joe Biden to enter the White House after the 2020 election.

Stewart Rhodes is the first person charged in the Jan. 6, 2021, attack to be convicted of seditious conspiracy, and his sentence is the longest to date in hundreds of Capitol riot cases.

It’s another milestone in the Justice Department’s Jan. 6 investigation, which led to convictions against the top leaders of two far-right extremist groups who authorities say came to Washington prepared to fight to keep President Donald Trump in power at all costs.

Prosecutors had urged the federal court judge in Washington to put Rhodes behind bars for 25 years, saying he remained a threat to American democracy.

In remarks before the judge handed down his sentence, Rhodes called himself a “political prisoner” and said his only crime was standing up to those who “destroy” the country.

THIS IS A BREAKING NEWS UPDATE. AP’s previous story follows below.

WASHINGTON — Oath Keepers founder Stewart Rhodes will be sentenced Thursday after a historic verdict convicting him of leading a week-long plot to keep former President Donald Trump in power, culminating in far-right extremists attacking the US Capitol on January 6, 2021.

Prosecutors are asking for 25 years behind bars for Rhodes, who will be sentenced in federal court in Washington, located less than a mile from the Capitol. He will be the first defendant on Jan. 6 convicted of seditious conspiracy to receive his sentence, setting the standard for a slew of convictions of members of extremist groups to come.

Prosecutors say Rhodes remains a threat to American democracy more than two years after leading a plot to forcibly block Trump’s transfer of power to President Joe Biden after Trump lost the 2020 election.

At Thursday’s hearing, in a first for a Jan. 6 case, U.S. District Judge Amit Mehta agreed with prosecutors to apply enhanced sentences for “terrorism,” arguing that oath keepers sought to influence the government through “intimidation or coercion”. In previous sentencing, judges had rejected the Justice Department’s request for so-called “terrorism enhancement” – which can lead to a longer prison sentence – but Mehta said it fit Rhodes’ case.

“Mr. Rhodes ordered his co-conspirators to come to the Capitol and they complied,” the judge said.

Defense attorney Phillip Linder denied that Rhodes ordered the oath keepers to enter the Capitol on Jan. 6. Linder told the judge that Rhodes could have brought many more oath keepers to the Capitol “if he really wanted” to disrupt Congress. certification of the electoral college vote.

Rhodes, of Granbury, Texas, was convicted in November of seditious conspiracy alongside Florida Chapter Chief Kelly Meggs and four other oath keepers were found guilty of the rarely used charge during a second trial in January. Three of Rhodes’ co-defendants were acquitted of seditious conspiracy but convicted of other crimes.

It was one of the most important cases brought by the Department of Justice as it sought to prove that the riot for right-wing extremists like the Oath Keepers was not an impulsive protest but the culmination of weeks of conspiracy to undo Biden’s election victory.

Rhodes’ sentencing comes just weeks after former Proud Boys national president Enrique Tarrio was found guilty of seditious conspiracy alongside other leaders of his far-right group for what prosecutors said was separate plot to block the transfer of presidential power. The Proud Boys will be sentenced in August and September.

Rhodes’ lawyers say he should be sentenced to the 16 months he has already served behind bars since his arrest in January 2022. In seeking leniency for Rhodes, his lawyers cited his military service and told the judge that Rhodes’ writings and statements were all “protected political speech”. Rhodes’ lawyers plan to appeal his conviction.

Meggs is expected to be sentenced after Rhodes later Thursday and two other oath keepers will be sentenced on Friday. Four other defendants convicted of seditious conspiracy will be sentenced next week.

The judge has canceled the sentencing hearing scheduled for this week for another defendant – Thomas Caldwell of Berryville, Virginia – as the judge considers whether he should overturn the jury’s guilty verdict against Caldwell for obstruction and a accusation of falsification of documents.

The convictions were a blow to the Oath Keepers, which Rhodes founded in 2009 and has become one of the largest far-right anti-government militia groups. Recruiting past and present members of the military and police, the group promotes the belief that the federal government seeks to deprive citizens of their civil liberties and portrays its followers as defenders against tyranny.

The defense attempted to grasp the fact that none of the messages from the Oathkeepers presented an explicit plan to storm the Capitol. But prosecutors said oath keepers saw an opportunity to pursue their goal of stopping the transfer of power and sprang into action when mobs began storming the building.

Messages, recordings and other evidence presented at trial show Rhodes and his supporters growing increasingly furious after the 2020 election at the prospect of a Biden presidency, which they saw as a threat to the country and their way of life. life. In a cryptic conversation two days after the election, Rhodes told his supporters to prepare their “mind, body, spirit” for “civil war”.

In a conference call a few days later, Rhodes urged his supporters to let Trump know they were “ready to die” for the country. A listening oath keeper was so alarmed that he began recording the call and contacted the FBI, telling the jurors “it sounded like we were going to go to war with the United States government.”

Another man testified that after the riot, Rhodes tried to persuade him to deliver a message to Trump urging the president not to give up his fight to retain power. The go-between – who told jurors he had an indirect way to reach the president – taped his meeting with Rhodes and went to the FBI instead of delivering the message to Trump. Rhodes told the man at that meeting that the oath keepers “should have brought guns” on January 6.

The longest sentence to date in the more than 1,000 Capitol riot cases — 14 years in prison — was handed down this month for a man with an extensive criminal record who attacked police officers with pepper spray and a chair as he stormed the Capitol. Just over 500 of the defendants were sentenced, more than half to prison terms and the rest to terms such as probation or house arrest.


Richer reported from Boston.

Copyright © 2023 The Washington Times, LLC.


Not all news on the site expresses the point of view of the site, but we transmit this news automatically and translate it through programmatic technology on the site and not from a human editor.
Back to top button