Oath Keepers Leader Sentenced to 18 Years in Jan. 6 Sedition Case

Stewart Rhodes, the leader of the far-right Oath Keepers militia, was sentenced Thursday to 18 years in prison after he was charged with sedition for helping to trigger the Jan. 18 pro-Trump attack on the Capitol. had done 6, 2021.

The sentence, handed down in federal district court in Washington, was the harshest yet in any of the more than 1,000 criminal cases stemming from the capital attack — and the most for meeting the legal definition of terrorism. was previously extended.

It was the first opportunity given to any of the 10 members of the Oath Keepers and another far-right group, the Proud Boys, who were convicted of sedition in connection with the January 6 events.

For Mr. Rhodes, 58, the conviction was the end of a tumultuous and extraordinary career that included Army service, a post on Capitol Hill and a law degree from Yale. His role as the founder and leader of the Oath Keepers put him in the spotlight and now he will be sent to prison for the better part of his remaining days.

In a dramatic four-hour hearing, Judge Amit P. Mehta rebuked Mr. Rhodes for years of trying to “turn violent” American democracy through his leadership of the Oath Keepers.

“You, sir,” Judge Mehta said, addressing the defendant directly, “are a constant menace to this country and a menace to the Republic.”

As the trial began, prosecutors urged Judge Mehta to sentence Mr. Rhodes to 25 years in prison, arguing that the violence in the Capitol required accountability and that American democracy was on the line.

Catherine L. Racozzi, one of the lead prosecutors in the case, told Judge Mehta that Mr. Rhodes had been calling for attacks against the government for more than a decade and that his role in the Jan. 6 attack was part of a long-standing pattern. .

The leader of the Oath Keepers, Ms. Rakoczi said, is using her skills and influence to push her followers to reject the results of the 2020 election and ultimately divide them into two separate military-style “camps” in a violent attempt. I mobilized to attack the Capitol. President Donald J. Trump in office.

“This is behavior that threatens — and continues to threaten — the rule of law in the United States.”

Ms Rakoczy also noted that Mr Rhodes had shown no remorse for undermining the legal transfer of power and continued to advocate political violence. Just four days earlier, he said, Mr. Rhodes gave an interview from prison, repeating the lie that the election had been rigged and asserting that the government was “going after the political right.” Is.”

“It’s not going to stop until it’s stopped,” Mr. Rhodes said during the interview, adding that the country needed a “change of regime.”

As if to prove the government’s point, Mr. Rhodes – in an orange prison smock and his trademark black eye patch – delivered a defiant address to the court, calling out the news media for leading a capital assault. Accused of demonizing Oathkeepers. He also compared himself to Soviet-era defector Alexander Solzhenitsyn and the protagonist of Kafka’s novel “The Trial.”

“I’m a political prisoner,” Mr. Rhodes said.

The hearing kicked off a week of sentencing proceedings for eight other members of the Oath Keepers who were convicted in two separate cases. November And January – Charges that include not only plotting a coup, but also obstructing Congressional action to certify the 2020 elections. One of Mr Rhodes’ deputies, Kelly Maggs, who once led the group’s Florida chapter, will be sentenced later on Thursday.

The sentencing process for all the defendants began Wednesday, when some police officers and congressional staff members testified about the Jan. 6 horror.

Several tearfully took the witness stand, describing enduring symptoms of post-traumatic stress and survivor’s guilt, especially as many of their colleagues resigned and some post-assault. Died by suicide within months.

“I’m a disorganized, depressed shell of my former self,” said Capitol Police Officer Harry Dunn, who faced members of the Oath Keepers in the Capitol Rotunda. Referred to as “sworn,” he glared at Mr. Rhodes and other members of the group in the courtroom.

In court papers filed this month, prosecutors focused on the importance of punishing Mr. Rhodes and his subordinates, saying there is a growing acceptance of political violence in the United States and to act as a deterrent against it. requires a long prison sentence. future unrest.

“As this court well knows, the justice system’s reaction to January 6th bears heavy responsibility for influencing whether January 6th becomes an outlier or a watershed moment,” prosecutors wrote. “Unchecked, this movement threatens our democracy.”

In court on Thursday, prosecutors persuaded Judge Mehta to increase Mr. Rhodes’ sentence, arguing that his repeated calls for violence against the government and the Jan. 6 state of emergency weapons outside Washington. Their plan to stockpile should be punished. As an act of terrorism.

“It wasn’t blowing up a building,” Ms Rakuzzi said. But “organizing an armed army” and advocating a “bloody civil war” “came too close,” he said.

The government had asked for the terror enhancement to be applied in four previous cases on January 6, but the judges – including Judge Mehta – rejected the requests each time.

From the beginning of the hearing, Mr. Rhodes’ lawyers – Philip Linder and James L. Bright – were constrained in their efforts to seek leniency, completely unable to claim that Mr. Rhodes was remorseful or any longer a threat to the government. They did not offer. Knowing that his steam-wonder statement is forthcoming in court.

Mr. Bright decided not to say anything. When Mr. Linder spoke, he said only that the administration had tried to make Mr. Rhodes “the face of January 6,” but that figures like Mr. Trump were more responsible for the chaos and violence in the Capitol that day. were

In the end, Judge Mehta said he imposed a harsh sentence because conspiracy “is one of the most serious crimes committed by an individual in the United States.”

He also scolded Mr Rhodes, saying he was not being prosecuted for his political beliefs but because he had “prepared to take up arms and start a revolution” because he liked the election results. were not

“You have done it,” said Judge Mehta. “You are not a political prisoner Mr. Rhodes. You are here because of your actions.”

The trial of Mr. Rhodes, Mr. Maggs and three other defendants — Kenneth Harrelson, Jessica Watkins and Thomas Caldwell — was a milestone in the Justice Department’s broader investigation into the capital attack. The convictions of Mr. Rhodes and Mr. Meigs on conspiracy charges were the first time federal prosecutors had won a sedition case since 1995, when a group of Islamic militants were accused of planning bombings in New York. was found guilty of conspiracy.

Four members of the Proud Boys – including their former leader Enrique Terrio – were also at the start of the month. Convicted of treason And will be sentenced at a series of hearings in August.

Jeffrey S. Nessler, one of the prosecutors, began the trial of Mr. Rhodes. Telling the jury that just weeks after Joseph R. Biden Jr. won the election, the leader of the Oath Keepers and his subordinates “plotted an armed coup to shatter the foundation of American democracy”: the peaceful transfer of presidential power.

I Closing the government’s caseMr. Nissler declared that Oath Keepers had conspired against Mr. Biden in defiance of both the law and the will of the voters because he hated the election results.

At trial, prosecutors showed the jury hundreds of encrypted text messages from members of the Oath Keepers, which showed that Mr. Rhodes and some of his followers harbored dire fears that Chinese agents had infiltrated the U.S. government. And Mr. Biden — who he has called a “puppet” of the Chinese Communist Party — could hand over control of the country to the United Nations.

Prosecutors also sought to show how throughout the post-election period Mr. Rhodes was eager to contact Mr. Trump and persuade him to take extraordinary measures to retain power.

In December 2020, for example, Mr. Rhodes posted an open letter on his website. Urging Mr. Trump to invoke the Sedition Act, a more than two-century-old law that he believed would give the president the power to call in militias such as the Oath Keepers to quell an “insurgency” — reportedly led by Mr. Biden and the incoming vice president. Kamala Harris was doing it. Trying to remove it.

As part of the plot, prosecutors maintained, Mr. Rhodes stationed a “quick reaction force” of heavily armed Oath Keepers at a Comfort Inn in Arlington County, Va., to take their weapons to Washington. Ready to go if his compatriots in the Capitol need him. .

Zack Montague Cooperation reporting.

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