Oath Keepers founder Stewart Rhodes faces sentencing for role in Jan. 6 attack

WashingtonStewart RhodesThe founder of the far-right group known as the Oath Keepers will be sentenced on Thursday for several serious crimes. January 6, 2021, Attack on the Capitolincluding the serious charge of plotting rebellion.

Prosecutors have asked a federal judge in Washington, D.C., to impose a stiff 25-year prison sentence, saying Rhodes and his co-defendants conspired to obstruct a peaceful transition of power from Donald Trump to Joe Biden. was Rhodes was convicted by a jury last November.

Rhodes — the first defendant to be convicted of felony sedition on January 6 — “promoted the idea among members of the Oath Keepers and others that with a large enough crowd, they could intimidate Congress and its members and can impose the will of the conspirators. The American people: to block the certification of the next President of the United States,” the government alleged in a pre-sentence filing.

According to prosecutors, he and his fellow Oathkeepers planned the violence before breaching the Capitol, communicated via encrypted messages and radios during the attack, and celebrated their actions in the aftermath.

“These defendants attempted to silence the millions of Americans who voted for a different candidate, ignoring the various legal and judicial procedures that led up to and including the January 6 election. The process is legally scrutinized, and undermines the democratic system of government. Enshrined in our laws and our constitution,” he wrote. “This conduct poses a serious threat to our democratic system of government and must be punished immediately and severely.”

Stewart Rhodes, founder of the citizen militia group known as the Oath Keepers, speaks during a rally outside the White House on June 25, 2017 in Washington.
Stewart Rhodes, founder of the citizen militia group known as the Oath Keepers, speaks during a rally outside the White House on June 25, 2017 in Washington.

Susan Walsh/AP

Rhodes is scheduled to appear for sentencing Thursday morning before U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia Judge Amit Mehta.

His defense lawyers have argued for a much lighter sentence at the time because he has been in prison since his arrest a year ago. He has previously argued that “there is no plan to attack the Capitol … there is no plan to breach the Rotunda … there is no plan to prevent voter verification.”

During an eight-week trial last year, the government presented evidence including encrypted chat messages, recorded meetings and social media posts to prove that the defendants had detailed plans to travel to Washington before Jan. 6. planned, when lawmakers gathered to count. The Electoral College votes and formalizes Mr. Biden’s victory in the 2020 election. Oathkeepers’ plans included stockpiling weapons at a nearby hotel in Virginia, coordinating the movement of a so-called Quick Reaction Force unit and preparing for violence, government lawyers and witnesses said.

A graduate of Yale Law School, Rhodes was the alleged mastermind of the plot, prosecutors told the jury and argued in a sentencing memo, calling him the “architect” of the plan who wrote open letters to Trump urging him to do so. That they try to hold on to power. An obscure, centuries-old law known as the Sedition Act. “It will be 1776 all over again,” Rhodes wrote in the Oath Keepers leadership message group. “Strength over coercion is the way.”

He was not accused of actually entering the Capitol on January 6, but admitted to being near the building that day.

According to the government, the plan began on December 19, 2020, when then-President Trump asked supporters to gather for a “wild” rally in Washington, D.C., on January 6. In the lead-up to the attack, evidence from the trial showed that Rhodes’s rhetoric was becoming more eloquent, with revolutions and civil war being discussed.

Defense attorneys argued that their clients, including Rhodes, were in Washington to provide security details for high-profile Trump supporters attending a rally near the White House that preceded the attack on the Capitol. Trial evidence showed many of the defendants, only a few of whom would be convicted of sedition, climbed the Capitol building on two separate occasions during the riot.

Rhodes’ codefendant, Kelly Maggs, was also convicted of conspiracy to treason, after prosecutors alleged she led the attempt to enter the Capitol. He will be sentenced on Thursday afternoon.

Three other Oathkeepers who were tried at the same time—Jessica Watkins, Thomas Caldwell, and Kenneth Harrelson—were acquitted of the most serious counts, but were found guilty of other crimes. During a subsequent trial, four more Oathkeepers were found guilty of conspiracy to commit treason. They will be sentenced in the coming days.

Prosecutors allege that January 6 was not the end of the Oathkeepers’ alleged conspiracy. Instead, it was part of a larger plan to oppose Mr. Biden’s presidency, which did not end with the confirmation of Electoral College votes.

He wrote Rhodes was an “outlier” among Oath Keepers because of the “frequency and severity” with which he urged his followers to oppose the election results and “retaliate against the government’s conduct.” Rhodes’ actions, prosecutors argued, warranted special attention and qualified for stiffer penalties under anti-terrorism laws.

“Rhodes poses a present and unique threat to the community and our democracy,” he wrote.

Defense attorneys argued during the trial that the government failed to prove that there was an actual conspiracy to enter the Capitol building, arguing that their clients used hyperbolic but constitutionally protected methods. Talks that do not amount to criminal conduct.

Rhodes’ legal team urged Judge Mehta to consider his history as a military veteran and founder of Oath Keepers, which he called a “volunteer organization” dedicated to disaster relief and community building. It was to help protect.

“The character of Oath Keepers reflects the character of the person who created it,” lawyers wrote earlier this month in an effort to get him sentenced to time served. “Mr. Rhodes gave his life to the Oathkeepers.”

The defense team argued that “none of his protected speech incited or encouraged violent or illegal acts”. “Mr. Rhodes’ focus at this time was on President Trump exercising his power and authority while still in office.”

Before sentencing Thursday, the court heard from victims who said they were traumatized by the actions of Rhodes and his co-defendants.

“I’ll never forget how my wife was crying and sitting on the floor crying when she saw how badly my arms and legs were hurt,” police officer Christopher Owens said of the injuries sustained during the attack. And bloody.”

Former US Senate chamber assistant Virginia Brown, who took Electoral College votes during the attack, testified that she had to take off her shoes and run from the Capitol to escape the mob.

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