Veteran Who Led Oath Keepers Sentenced to 18 Years for Position in Jan. 6 Assault

WASHINGTON — The founding father of the Oath Keepers extremist group was sentenced Thursday to 18 years in jail for orchestrating a weekslong plot that culminated in his followers attacking the U.S. Capitol in a bid to maintain President Joe Biden out of the White Home after the 2020 election.

Stewart Rhodes is the primary individual charged within the Jan. 6, 2021, assault to be sentenced for seditious conspiracy, and his sentence is the longest that has been handed down to this point within the lots of of Capitol riot circumstances.

It’s one other milestone for the Justice Division’s sprawling Jan. 6 investigation, which has led to seditious conspiracy convictions towards the highest leaders of two far-right extremist teams authorities say got here to Washington ready to battle to maintain President Donald Trump in energy in any respect prices.

Earlier than handing down the sentence, the choose instructed a defiant Rhodes that he’s a continued menace to the U.S., saying it’s clear Rhodes “desires democracy on this nation to devolve into violence.”

“The second you might be launched, each time which may be, you may be able to take up arms towards your authorities,” U.S. District Choose Amit Mehta stated.

It was one of the crucial consequential circumstances introduced by the Justice Division, which has sought to show that the riot by right-wing extremists just like the Oath Keepers was not a spur-of-the-moment protest however the fruits of weeks of plotting to overturn Biden’s election victory.

Prosecutors had sought 25 years for Rhodes, who they are saying was the architect of a plot to forcibly disrupt the switch of presidential energy that included “fast response power” groups at a Virginia resort to ferry weapons into D.C. in the event that they had been wanted. The weapons had been by no means deployed.

In remarks shortly earlier than the choose handed down the sentence, Rhodes slammed the prosecution as politically motivated, famous that he by no means went contained in the Capitol and insisted he by no means instructed anybody else to take action.

“I’m a political prisoner and like President Trump my solely crime is opposing those that are destroying our nation,” Rhodes stated.

In a primary for a Jan. 6 case, U.S. District Choose Amit Mehta agreed with prosecutors to use enhanced penalties for “terrorism,” beneath the argument that the Oath Keepers sought to affect the federal government by way of “intimidation or coercion.” Judges in earlier sentencings had shot down the Justice Division’s request for the so-called “terrorism enhancement” — which may result in an extended jail time period — however Mehta stated it suits in Rhodes’ case.

Prosecutors argued {that a} prolonged sentence is critical to discourage future political violence. Assistant U.S. Lawyer Kathryn Rakoczy pointed to interviews and speeches Rhodes has given from jail repeating the lie 2020 election was stolen and saying it will be once more in 2024. In remarks simply days in the past, Rhodes known as for “regime change,” the prosecutor stated.

Folks “throughout the political spectrum” need to imagine that Jan. 6 was an “outlier,” Rakoczy stated. “Not defendant Rhodes.”

A lawyer for Rhodes, who plans to attraction his conviction, stated prosecutors are unfairly attempting to make Rhodes “the face” of January 6. Lawyer Phillip Linder instructed the choose that Rhodes may have had many extra Oath Keepers come to the Capitol “if he actually wished to” disrupt Congress’ certification of the Electoral Faculty vote.

“If you wish to put a face on J6 (Jan. 6), you place it on Trump, right-wing media, politicians, all of the individuals who spun that narrative,” Linder stated.

One other Oath Keeper convicted alongside Rhodes in November — Florida chapter chief Kelly Meggs — was anticipated to obtain his sentence later Thursday.

Two different Oath Keepers, acquitted of the sedition cost however convicted of different offenses, might be sentenced Friday. And 4 different members discovered responsible of seditious conspiracy at a second trial in January are scheduled to be sentenced subsequent week.

The convictions had been a significant blow for the Oath Keepers, which Rhodes based in 2009 and grew into one of many largest far-right anti-government militia teams. Recruiting previous and current members of the navy and law enforcement officials, the group promotes the assumption that the federal authorities is out to strip residents of their civil liberties and paints its followers as defenders towards tyranny.

Rhodes’ sentence might forecast what prosecutors will search for former Proud Boys nationwide chairman Enrique Tarrio, who was convicted of seditious conspiracy alongside different leaders of his far-right group this month for what prosecutors stated was a separate plot to dam the switch of presidential energy. The Proud Boys might be sentenced in August and September.

Rhodes, 58, and the opposite Oath Keepers stated there was by no means any plan to assault the Capitol or cease Congress from certifying Biden’s victory. The protection tried to grab on the truth that not one of the Oath Keepers’ messages laid out an express plan to storm the Capitol. However prosecutors stated the Oath Keepers noticed a possibility to additional their aim to cease the switch of energy and sprang into motion when the mob started storming the constructing.

Messages, recordings and different proof offered at trial present Rhodes and his followers rising more and more enraged after the 2020 election on the prospect of a Biden presidency, which they considered as a menace to the nation and their lifestyle. In an encrypted chat two days after the election, Rhodes instructed his followers to organize their “thoughts, physique, spirit” for “civil struggle.”

In convention name days later, Rhodes urged his followers to let Trump know they had been “keen to die” for the nation. One Oath Keeper who was listening was so alarmed that he started recording the decision and contacted the FBI, telling jurors “it seemed like we had been going to struggle towards the USA authorities.”

One other man testified that after the riot, Rhodes tried to steer him to go alongside a message to Trump that urged the president not to surrender his battle to carry onto energy. The middleman — who instructed jurors he had an oblique approach to attain the president — recorded his assembly with Rhodes and went to the FBI as an alternative of giving the message to Trump. Rhodes instructed the person throughout that assembly that the Oath Keepers “ought to have introduced rifles” on Jan. 6.

Earlier than Thursday, the longest sentence within the greater than 1,000 Capitol riot circumstances was 14 years for a person with an extended legal report who attacked law enforcement officials with pepper spray and a chair as he stormed the Capitol. Simply over 500 of the defendants have been sentenced, with greater than half receiving jail time and the rest getting sentences comparable to probation or house detention.


Richer reported from Boston.

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