Stewart Rhodes of the Oath Keepers will be sentenced for seditious conspiracy on January 6
“These defendants were ready to fight. Not for their country, but against it. In their own words, they were “willing to die” in a “guerrilla war” to achieve their goal of stopping the transfer of power after the 2020 presidential election,” Assistant U.S. Attorney Jeffrey S. Nestler wrote in sentencing notes for the prosecution team.
Prosecutors asked U.S. District Judge Amit P. Mehta to find that Rhodes’ actions were intended to intimidate or retaliate against the government, creating “a serious risk to our democratic system”.
Rhodes’ lawyers have requested time served – about 16 months – for the former Army paratrooper and Yale law graduate. They downplayed Rhodes’ repeated threats of ‘civil war’, ‘bloody revolution’ and involvement in armed clashes with federal authorities, instead highlighting his far-right anti-government group’s response to the hurricanes and unrest. civilians since its founding in 2009.
“Helping one’s fellow citizens in times of natural disaster, protecting them when besieged by rioters, and upholding the Constitution of the United States are not ‘extreme’ ideals, they are American ideals,” wrote attorneys Phillip A. Linder and James Lee Bright in sentencing papers.
Mehta reported before sentencing that he considered Rhodes’ actions to be very “different” in scale and scope than those of others. No January 6 defendant has been sentenced to more than eight years in prison who did not assault police, and only one man has been sentenced to more than a decade – Peter Schwartz received just over 14 years after assaulting four officers with a dangerous weapon and had 38 prior convictions.
By comparison, of five defendants convicted in US courts of seditious conspiracy over the past two decades, only one has received a sentence as short as 10 years on that count.
Counter-extremism experts say Rhodes’ actions are comparable to what these five defendants did, and that the Oath Keepers and allied groups now pose one of the most significant national security threats to the United States. UNITED STATES. Rhodes promoted the fringe “insurgent view” that individuals and private militias have the constitutional right under the Second Amendment to violently oppose the government for their own subjective reasons, fueled by often violent conspiracy theories about the perceived federal “tyranny,” Mary said. McCord, who led the Justice Department’s National Security Division during the early months of the Trump presidency.
Rhodes’ tenure on the Oath Keepers “must be considered an indispensable part of his seditious conspiracy to attack Congress and disrupt the peaceful transfer of power,” McCord said in a letter to the court. “He should not be allowed to twist this story now that he faces the prospect of punishment for his crimes.”
Rhodes, a senior congressman and four others were found guilty in trials in November and January of conspiring to ignite political violence, culminating in the attack on the Capitol as Congress convened to confirm election results of 2020. Three co-defendants were acquitted on this count but convicted of obstructing Congress, among other crimes. Both main offenses carry a sentence of up to 20 years in prison, but prosecutors on Thursday asked the court to stack the sentences to exceed that total for Rhodes and Florida Oath Keepers leader Kelly Meggs .
Rhodes and his combat-clad supporters converged on the Capitol after arranging an “arsenal” of weapons at nearby hotels, ready to take up arms at Rhodes’ direction, prosecutors said. Rhodes did not enter the building but was in contact with “ground crew” leader Meggs, a car dealership manager, just before Meggs led a line of members in military-style tactical gear up the steps of the East Capitol, where they helped a crowd enter.
Rhodes’ defense said he and his co-defendants came to Washington as bodyguards for Republican figures, including Roger Stone and a relative of Stop the Steal organizer Ali Alexander. Oath keepers said some only brought guns to help act as ‘peacekeepers’ in case Trump complied with their request to invoke the Insurrection Act of the United States. civil war era and mobilize a private militia to prevent Biden from becoming president, and none took them to the Capitol.
But prosecutors presented evidence that after the networks declared Biden elected on November 7, 2020, Rhodes asked a “Friends of Stone” chat group – which included Stone and Proud Boys frontman Henry ” Enrique” Tarrio – “What’s the plan?” and shared a Serbian academic’s proposal to storm Congress. Over the next two months, Rhodes amplified Trump’s fake stolen election claims and used his platform as one of the most visible leaders of the extremist anti-government movement to urge supporters to prepare for a “rebellion.” military,” including two open letters to Trump and a personal message to him urging the president to use the military to retain power against Democratic opponents.
“We will have to rise up in insurrection (rebellion)” if Trump does not act, Rhodes texted an associate on December 10. Four days after Jan. 6, Rhodes was recorded telling another that if Trump was “just going to let it go.” illegally removed, so we should have brought guns” and “We could have repaired it on the spot. I would hang f—ing Pelosi from the lamp post,” referring to then-House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.).
Rhodes and the co-defendants testified that their plans did not include entering the Capitol, describing it as an impulsive decision made without consultation after the building was breached by others.
But prosecutors said their words and actions demonstrated a tacit agreement to take advantage of the riot to pursue an illegal plot proposed publicly and privately by Rhodes, who repeatedly warned before January 6 that a “war bloody civil war” was necessary if the election results were not overturned, with or without Trump.
Roberto Minuta of Prosper, Texas, was convicted of seditious conspiracy in addition to Rhodes and Meggs; Joseph Hackett of Sarasota, Florida; David Moerschel of Punta Gorda, Florida, and Edward Vallejo of Phoenix.
Kenneth Harrelson, a former Army sergeant from Titusville, Fla., Jessica Watkins, another Army veteran and bar owner from Woodstock, Ohio, were convicted of other crimes; and Thomas Caldwell, a retired Navy intelligence officer who remained outside the building but housed other defendants at his farm in Berryville, Virginia.
All are due to be sentenced within the next nine days, except for Caldwell, whose sentencing was postponed to consider a defense motion to reconsider some of his convictions.
This story will be updated.