Oath Keepers Leader Stewart Rhodes Is Sentenced to 18 Years in Jan. 6 Case
Stewart Rhodes, the chief of the far-right Oath Keepers militia, was sentenced on Thursday to 18 years in jail for his conviction on seditious conspiracy fees for the position he performed in serving to to mobilize the pro-Trump assault on the Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021.
The sentence, handed down in Federal District Court docket in Washington, was probably the most extreme penalty up to now within the greater than 1,000 prison circumstances stemming from the Capitol assault — and the primary to be elevated for becoming the authorized definition of terrorism.
It was additionally the primary to have been given to any of the ten members of the Oath Keepers and one other far-right group, the Proud Boys, who have been convicted of sedition in reference to the occasions of Jan. 6.
For Mr. Rhodes, 58, the sentence was the top of a tumultuous and strange profession that included Military service, a stint on Capitol Hill and a legislation diploma from Yale. His position because the Oath Keepers’ founder and chief thrust him into the highlight and can now ship him to jail for what’s more likely to be the higher a part of his remaining days.
At a dramatic, almost four-hour listening to, Decide Amit P. Mehta chided Mr. Rhodes for looking for for years via his management of the Oath Keepers to have American democracy “devolve into violence.”
“You, sir,” Decide Mehta went on, instantly addressing the defendant, “current an ongoing menace and a peril to this nation, to the Republic and the very material of our democracy.”
Because the listening to opened, prosecutors urged Decide Mehta to condemn Mr. Rhodes to 25 years in jail, arguing that accountability was wanted for the violence on the Capitol and that American democracy was on the road.
Kathryn L. Rakoczy, one of many lead prosecutors within the case, advised Decide Mehta that Mr. Rhodes had been calling for assaults towards the federal government for greater than a decade and that his position within the Jan. 6 assault was a part of a longstanding sample.
The Oath Keepers chief, Ms. Rakoczy stated, exploited his skills and affect to goad his followers into rejecting the outcomes of the 2020 election and in the end mobilized them into storming the Capitol in two separate military-style “stacks” in a violent effort to maintain President Donald J. Trump in workplace.
“It’s conduct that threatened — and continues to threaten — the rule of legislation in the USA,” she stated.
Ms. Rakoczy additionally famous that Mr. Rhodes had proven no regret for undermining the lawful transition of energy and continued to advocate political violence. Simply 4 days in the past, she stated, Mr. Rhodes gave an interview from jail, repeating the lie that the election had been marred by fraud and asserting that the federal government was “coming after these on the political proper.”
“It’s not going to cease till it’s stopped,” Mr. Rhodes stated through the interview, including that the nation wanted “regime change.”
As if to show the federal government’s level, Mr. Rhodes — in an orange jail smock and his trademark black eye patch — gave a defiant handle to the court docket, blaming the information media for demonizing the Oath Keepers for main the Capitol assault. He additionally in contrast himself to the Soviet-era dissident Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn and to the beleaguered important character within the Kafka novel “The Trial.”
“I’m a political prisoner,” Mr. Rhodes stated.
The listening to opened every week of sentencing proceedings for eight different members of the Oath Keepers who have been convicted at two separate trials — in November and January — of fees that included not solely seditious conspiracy but additionally the obstruction of a congressional continuing to certify the 2020 election. Certainly one of Mr. Rhodes’s deputies, Kelly Meggs, who as soon as led the group’s Florida chapter, was sentenced to 12 years in jail at a separate continuing in a while Thursday.
The method for sentencing all of the defendants started on Wednesday, when some law enforcement officials and congressional employees members testified concerning the horror they skilled on Jan. 6.
A number of spoke via tears on the witness stand, describing lasting signs of post-traumatic stress and survivor’s guilt, notably after lots of their colleagues resigned and a few died by suicide within the months after the assault.
“I’m an introverted, depressed shell of my former self,” stated Harry Dunn, a Capitol Police officer who encountered members of the Oath Keepers within the Capitol rotunda. When Mr. Dunn referred to the officers who have been injured on Jan. 6 as “actual oath keepers,” he shot an indignant look towards Mr. Rhodes and different members of the group within the courtroom.
In court docket papers filed this month, prosecutors dwelled on the significance of severely punishing Mr. Rhodes and his subordinates, stating that the acceptance of political violence was on the rise in the USA and that prolonged jail phrases have been wanted to function a deterrent towards future unrest.
“As this court docket is properly conscious, the justice system’s response to Jan. 6 bears the weighty duty of impacting whether or not Jan. 6 turns into an outlier or a watershed second,” the prosecutors wrote. “Left unchecked, this impulse threatens our democracy.”
In court docket on Thursday, prosecutors persuaded Decide Mehta to extend Mr. Rhodes’s sentence by arguing that his repeated requires violence towards the federal government and his plan to stage an arsenal of weapons exterior Washington in case of an emergency on Jan. 6 ought to be punished as an act of terrorism.
“This wasn’t blowing up a constructing,” Ms. Rakoczy stated. However “organizing an armed drive” and advocating “bloody civil battle” got here “fairly shut,” she stated.
The federal government had requested to use the terrorism enhancement in 4 earlier Jan. 6 circumstances, however judges — together with Decide Mehta — had denied the requests every time.
From the outset of the listening to, Mr. Rhodes’s legal professionals — Phillip Linder and James L. Shiny — have been constrained of their efforts to ask for leniency, unable to totally declare that Mr. Rhodes was remorseful or not introduced a menace to the federal government, realizing that his stemwinder assertion to the court docket was coming.
Mr. Shiny determined to not say something. When Mr. Linder spoke, he merely stated that the federal government had tried to make Mr. Rhodes “the face of Jan. 6,” however that figures like Mr. Trump have been extra chargeable for the chaos and violence on the Capitol that day.
Ultimately, Decide Mehta stated he had imposed a harsh sentence as a result of seditious conspiracy was “among the many most critical crimes a person in America can commit.”
He additionally scolded Mr. Rhodes, telling him that he had not been prosecuted due to his political views however moderately as a result of he had “ready to take up arms and foment revolution” just because he didn’t just like the outcomes of an election.
“That’s what you probably did,” Decide Mehta stated. “You’re not a political prisoner, Mr. Rhodes. You’re right here due to your actions.”
The trial of Mr. Rhodes, Mr. Meggs and three different defendants — Kenneth Harrelson, Jessica Watkins and Thomas Caldwell — was a milestone within the Justice Division’s sprawling investigation of the Capitol assault. The convictions of Mr. Rhodes and Mr. Meggs on seditious conspiracy fees have been the primary time that federal prosecutors had gained a sedition case since 1995, when a gaggle of Islamic militants was discovered responsible of plotting to bomb a number of landmarks in New York.
Firstly of the month, 4 members of the Proud Boys — together with their former chief, Enrique Tarrio — have been additionally convicted of sedition and are scheduled to be sentenced in a sequence of hearings in August.
Jeffrey S. Nestler, one of many prosecutors, opened Mr. Rhodes’s trial by telling the jury that within the weeks after Joseph R. Biden Jr. gained the election, the Oath Keepers chief and his subordinates “concocted a plan for an armed riot to shatter a bedrock of American democracy”: the peaceable switch of presidential energy.
In closing the government’s case, Mr. Nestler declared that the Oath Keepers had plotted towards Mr. Biden, ignoring each the legislation and the desire of the voters, as a result of they hated the outcomes of the election.
On the trial, prosecutors confirmed the jury lots of of encrypted textual content messages by Oath Keepers members, demonstrating that Mr. Rhodes and a few of his followers have been in thrall to outlandish fears that Chinese language brokers had infiltrated the U.S. authorities and that Mr. Biden — whom they referred to as a “puppet” of the Chinese language Communist Celebration — may cede management of the nation to the United Nations.
Prosecutors additionally sought to reveal how all through the postelection interval, Mr. Rhodes was determined to contact Mr. Trump and persuade him to take extraordinary measures to take care of energy.
In December 2020, for instance, Mr. Rhodes posted an open letter on his web site urging Mr. Trump to invoke the Insurrection Act. He believed that the legislation, which is greater than two centuries previous, would give the president the ability to name up militias just like the Oath Keepers to suppress the “coup” — purportedly led by Mr. Biden and Kamala Harris, the incoming vice chairman — that was looking for to unseat him.
As a part of the plot, prosecutors maintained, Mr. Rhodes positioned a “fast response drive” of closely armed Oath Keepers at a Consolation Inn in Arlington County, Va., able to rush their weapons into Washington if their compatriots on the Capitol wanted them.
Zach Montague contributed reporting.