Oath Keepers leader Stewart Rhodes is sentenced to 18 years in prison after being convicted of seditious conspiracy over January 6 riot
Rhodes, 58, was sentenced Thursday to 18 years in prison for his role in the January 6 Capitol riots
He was convicted of seditious conspiracy in a landmark criminal trial in November
Judge Amit Mehta ruled that Rhodes’ actions on January 6, amounted to domestic terrorism
The Oath Keepers leader was also found guilty of obstructing an official proceeding and tampering with documents
Stewart Rhodes, [photo], leader of the Oath Keepers, was sentenced to 18 years in prison for his role in the January 6 riots. ‘What we absolutely cannot have is a group of citizens who – because they did not like the outcome of an election, who did not believe the law was followed as it should be – foment revolution,’ the judge told him at sentencing
The supremacist that led one of the groups that featured prominently in the storming of the US Capitol, was sentenced to 18 years in prison on Thursday, for his role in January 6 riot at the Capitol.
Stewart Rhodes, the leader of the Oath Keepers, had been convicted of seditious conspiracy in a landmark criminal trial in November that sealed the Justice Department’s ability to hold the rioters accountable and validated arguments that the breach of Congress was a threat to democracy.
Rhodes, 58, was also found guilty of obstructing an official proceeding and tampering with documents.
District Court Judge Amit Mehta ruled on Thursday that Rhodes’ actions on January 6 even amounted to domestic terrorism.
Judge Mehta He said that Rhodes was the mastermind behind the Oath Keepers’ breach of the Capitol, claiming the group would not have stormed the building and interrupted Congress’ certification of the 2020 presidential election if not for him.
‘Oath Keepers wouldn’t have been there but for Stewart Rhodes, and I don’t think anyone contends otherwise,’ Mehta said.
‘He was the one who gave the order to go, and they went.’
Rhodes was found guilty of leading the Oath Keepers in the attack on the Capitol
In court on Thursday, Mehta denied Rhodes’ claims that he is just a political prisoner as he sided with federal prosecutors that Rhodes is a domestic terrorist who sought to influence the government through ‘intimidation or coercion.’
‘For decades, Mr. Rhodes, it is clear you have wanted the democracy of this country to devolve into violence.
‘You are not a political prisoner, Mr. Rhodes,’ the judge said, adding that he believes Rhodes represents an ‘ongoing threat’ to the country.
‘The moment you are released, whenever that may be, you will be ready to take up arms against your government,’ he continued.
‘What we absolutely cannot have is a group of citizens who – because they did not like the outcome of an election, who did not believe the law was followed as it should be – foment revolution,’ Mehta said before handing down the sentence.
‘That is what you did.’
Rhodes’ prison term represents the longest sentence for any of the 1,000-plus people charged in connection with the January 6, 2021, Capitol attack by supporters of Republican then-President Donald Trump in a failed bid to block Congress from certifying Democratic rival Joe Biden’s November 2020 election victory.
Until now, the longest sentence was 14 years in prison given to a Pennsylvania man who attacked police during the rampage.
He is also the first to be sentenced for seditious conspiracy.
That does not bode well for Proud Boys Enrique Tarrio who will be sentenced later in the day.
Some of the Oath Keepers breached the Capitol clad in paramilitary gear. Rhodes was present but did not enter the building.
Federal prosecutors had sought a sentence of 25 years for Rhodes, including a sentencing penalty for committing terrorism.
They claimed he was the architect of a plot to disrupt the transfer of presidential power that included ‘quick reaction force’ teams at a Virginia hotel to ferry weapons to DC if needed — though weapons were never used.
The attorneys pointed to interviews and speeches Rhodes had given from jail, repeating claims that the 2020 presidential election was stolen and that it would be stolen again in 2024.
In remarks made just days ago, the attorneys argued, Rhodes called for ‘regime change.’
‘Mr. Rhodes led a conspiracy to use force and violence to intimidate and coerce members of our government into stopping the lawful transfer of power following a presidential election,’ federal prosecutor Kathryn Rakoczy said.
‘As the court has just found – that is terrorism.’
Rhodes is pictured testifying before US District Judge Amit Mehta in court in November. Defense arguments of spontaneity was countered by prosecutors pointing to interviews and speeches Rhodes had given from jail, repeating claims that the 2020 presidential election was stolen and that it would be stolen again in 2024
But Rhodes’ defense attorney, Philip Linder, argued that Rhodes could have had many more Oath Keepers come to the Capitol if he ‘really wanted to’ disrupt Congress’ certification of the Electoral College vote.
‘If you want to put a face on J6, you put it on Trump, right-wing media, politicians, all the people who spun that narrative,’ Linder claimed.
Prior to the sentencing, a defiant Rhodes stood before Mehta, clad in an orange jumpsuit, and insisted that he is a ‘political prisoner’ who, like Trump, was trying to oppose people ‘who are destroying our country.’
‘I believe this country is incredibly divided. And this prosecution – not just of me, but of all J6ers – is making it even worse. I consider every J6er a political prisoner and all of them are being grossly overcharged,’ he said.
He also vowed to ‘to expose the criminality of this regime’ from his prison cell.
J6 riots instigator Stewart Rhodes, who wears an eye patch after accidentally shooting himself in the face with his own gun, founded the Oath Keepers in 2009
Rhodes, who wears an eye patch after accidentally shooting himself in the face with his own gun, founded the Oath Keepers in 2009.
The militia group’s members include current and retired U.S. military personnel, law enforcement officers and first responders.
They have appeared, often heavily armed, at protests and political events including racial justice demonstrations that followed the 2020 murder of George Floyd.
On January 6, 2020, some of the Oath Keepers breached the Capitol clad in paramilitary gear. Others at a suburban hotel staged a ‘quick reaction force’ prosecutors said was equipped with firearms that could be quickly transported into Washington.
Rhodes was on Capitol grounds that day but did not enter the building.
Prosecutors are now asking Mehta to sentence Kelly Meggs, the group’s former Florida chapter leader, to 21 years in prison.
Five Oath Keepers, Rhodes, Meggs, Kenneth Harrelson, Jessica Watkins and Thomas Caldwell were convicted of obstructing Congress’s certification of Biden’s electoral victory. However, the last three Three defendants only, were acquitted of the more serious sedition charge.
Watkins and Harrelson who were acquitted of seditious conspiracy but convicted on other felony charges, are due to be sentenced on Friday, but the judge postponed a sentencing hearing that had been scheduled for Wednesday for Thomas Caldwell.
In a separate trial in January, four other Oath Keepers, Joseph Hackett, Roberto Minuta, David Moerschel and Edward Vallejo, were convicted of seditious conspiracy
During Rhodes’ sentencing hearing, prosecutors who argued that Rhodes and his fellow Oath Keepers plotted for months to subvert democracy, urged Judge Mehta to hand Rhodes 25 years in prison, the largest sentence in connection with J6
Rhodes and the other Oath Keepers have said there was never any plan to attack the Capitol or stop Congress from certifying Biden’s victory. The defense tried to seize on the fact that none of the Oath Keepers’ messages laid out an explicit plan to storm the Capitol.
But prosecutors said the Oath Keepers saw an opportunity to further their goal to stop the transfer of power and sprang into action when the mob began storming the building.
Messages, recordings and other evidence presented at trial show Rhodes and his followers growing increasingly enraged after the 2020 election at the prospect of a Biden presidency, which they viewed as a threat to the country and their way of life.
In an encrypted chat two days after the election, Rhodes told his followers to prepare their ‘mind, body, spirit’ for ‘civil war.’
Stewart Rhodes, seen at a rally outside the White House in 2017, has a long history of preaching insurrection in the nation, the judge pointed out at sentencing on Thursday
In conference call days later, Rhodes urged his followers to let Trump know they were ‘willing to die’ for the country.
One Oath Keeper who was listening was so alarmed that he began recording the call and contacted the FBI, telling jurors ‘it sounded like we were going to war against the United States government.’
Another man testified that after the riot, Rhodes tried to persuade him to pass along a message to Trump that urged the president not to give up his fight to hold onto power.
The intermediary, who told jurors he had an indirect way to reach the president, recorded his meeting with Rhodes and went to the FBI instead of giving the message to Trump. Rhodes told the man during that meeting that the Oath Keepers ‘should have brought rifles’ on January 6.
Proud Boys leader Enrique Tarrio leads the group during a march protesting the results of the 2020 presidential election in Washington, D.C. in Jan 2020.
Earlier this month, former Proud Boys national chairman Enrique Tarrio was convicted of the rarely used charge of sedition, alongside three other leaders of the far-right extremist group.
There were found guilty of plotting to attack the U.S. Capitol in a desperate bid to keep Donald Trump in power after the Republican lost the 2020 presidential election.They will be sentenced later this year.