Sedition Sentence for Oath Keepers Leader Marks Moment of Accountability
A few hours after Oath Keepers militia leader Stewart Rhodes He was sentenced to 18 years in prison on Thursday. On Jan. 6 for his role in the seditious conspiracy to incite pro-Trump violence, Matthew M. Graves, the federal prosecutor who oversaw the government’s investigation of the Capitol attack, released a statement that pointed to the fact that Gone is the moment.
“More people were convicted of conspiracy to commit insurrection in connection with the siege of the Capitol on January 6, 2021,” Mr. Graves wrote, “than in any other criminal incident since the law was enacted during the Civil War. “
Nearly two and a half years after supporters of President Donald J. Trump stormed the Capitol in an attempt to derail a peaceful transition of power, Mr. Rhodes’ conviction was the highest-level statement of accountability yet for such an event. Which seems certain to be occupied. remains a dark spot in American history and a flashpoint in American politics.
More than 1,000 criminal cases have been filed by the Justice Department against those who played a role in the attack, according to Mr Rhodes, who is accused of organizing his followers into two separate military-style “squads”. were plotting to mobilize to attack the Capitol. “, stood in such a way that the judge who sentenced him, Amit P. Mehta, held the court on Thursday.
“Mr. Rhodes, you’ve been convicted of conspiracy to commit treason. You’re a lawyer, you understand what that means,” Judge Mehta said. Conspiracy is one of the most serious crimes.”
Perhaps for this reason, sedition charges have rarely been used over the decades, reserved for select groups of defendants whom prosecutors claim pose a unique threat to the government.
Sedition cases have been filed against communists, Islamic terrorists and white nationalists. Some cases have been successful. But given that the law requires prosecutors to prove an agreement to use violent force to defy government laws or authority — a difficult hurdle to jump — many cases have failed.
The January 6 treason trial is set to take place across from where the attack itself took place — at the federal courthouse just a few blocks down Constitution Avenue from the Capitol.
Scholars of political violence have seen the massive crackdown as a major effort by the Justice Department to respond to the attack with major charges and as far as the law goes to hold extremists’ feet to the fire and defend its bases. I will allow you to go there. democratic system.
So far three separate sedition trials have been held on January 6, leading to a total of 10 treason convictions and four acquittals. Four others have pleaded guilty to sedition and have avoided going to trial. All of these defendants were members of either Mr. Rhodes’ organization, the Oath Keepers, or the Proud Boys, another prominent far-right group.
But even there has been a flare-up of rebellion convictions. did little to stem the tide of far-right radicalization.. Just this month, A man from Texas who is a victim of Nazi ideology. Eight people were shot dead at an outlet mall outside Dallas. In late April, as a sedition case went to a jury, a neo-Nazi group waved a swastika flag. Protested the drag show. in Columbus, Ohio
At the same time, the two main Republican presidential contenders – Mr Trump and Florida Governor Ron DeSantis – have both suggested that they grant amnesty to many of those convicted of taking part in the January 6 events. can do As Rhodes himself said during his sentencing, the defendants in the Capitol riots are viewed by many on the right not as violent criminals but as “patriots” and “political prisoners.”
On Friday, the two Oathkeepers who stood trial alongside Mr. Rhodes, Jessica Watkins and Kenneth Harrelson, were sentenced to eight-and-a-half years and four years in prison, respectively. Rebellion Four members of the Proud Boys were convicted of mutiny. — including their former leader, Enrique Terrio — will be sentenced in August along with a fifth member of the group who was found guilty of a lesser conspiracy count.
Throughout the trials — two involving the Oathkeepers and one focusing on the Proud Boys — defense attorneys repeatedly claimed that the prosecution had built its case simply by stretching the traditional understanding of conspiracy law, or even That was proved by distortion.
Lawyers pointed out that the government was never able to find a smoking gun to show that any group had a clear plan to use force to block the January 6 legal transfer of power. or had reached an express agreement. Collected hundreds of thousands of internal text messages and turned many members of the groups into cooperating witnesses.
The lawyers also argued that the defendants on trial were not as violent on January 6, especially compared to other rioters. Mr. Terrio, for example, was 50 miles from Washington in a hotel room in Baltimore at the time of the attack.
In response, the prosecution argued that all The defendants had relationships with associates who committed violence. A cache of weapons was hidden in the Capitol or in readiness in Virginia. He also claimed that criminal conspiracies were rarely hatched in broad daylight and that agreements by Oathkeepers and Proudboys to disrupt the democratic process were made in an obscure and obscure manner.
“It could have been a mutual understanding with a wink and a nod,” said Conor Milroe, prosecutor for the Proud Boys trial. told the jury during closing argumentss
The fact that both judges and juries in Washington have accepted this broad definition of conspiracy shows that the Justice Department has had significant success in prosecuting rioters on the ground on January 6.
But prosecutors have done little to address a different question: What legal responsibility does Mr. Trump bear for an attack despite the election loss?
The issue is the focus of an investigation by Jack Smith, a special counsel appointed by Attorney General Merrick B. Garland. It’s unclear what, if any, charges Mr. Smith might bring against the former president in the Jan. 6 investigation, but the results of the Oathkeepers and Proud Boys prosecutions have some lawyers and legal experts wondering. Whether a similar approach could be used to build a case of treason against Mr. Trump.
If it only takes a wink or a nod, the theory is to join conspirators in violently resisting government authority, is it possible for Mr. Trump to be the mob storming the Capitol? Should a rebellion be plotted to connect? Through his incendiary speeches and Tweets?
More than a year ago, Judge Mehta himself issued judgment in three civil cases. which sought to blame Mr. Trump for the violence of the Capitol attack, suggesting that there was evidence that the former president actually conspired with the Oath Keepers and the Proud Boys on Jan. 6.
More importantly, Judge Mehta also said it was conceivable that Mr. Trump — largely based on his words alone — aided and abetted the ordinary rioters who threatened or assaulted police officers that day. attacked them.
But Alan Rosenstein, a former Justice Department official who now teaches at the University of Minnesota Law School and has written extensively about treason, cautioned that the Oathkeepers and Proudboys’ cases could be used as evidence of any rebellion. Using type as a precedent can be difficult. The case against Mr. Trump
“Trump is a unique defendant in a league by himself,” Mr. Rosenstein said. “He’s also an agent of chaos and blocking his actions in a way that makes it seem like he’s got any kind of plan has always been the hard part.”
Zack Montague Cooperation reporting.