The leader of the right-wing Oath Keepers group was ordered to serve 18 years in prison for his role in the 2021 attack on the US Capitol and conspiring to use force to keep Donald Trump in power after he lost the 2020 presidential election.
Stewart Rhodes, 58, was sentenced Thursday in Washington by US District Judge Amit Mehta, who ruled the actions of the group leader amounted to terrorism. Rhodes is one of 10 defendants convicted of seditious conspiracy for their actions on Jan. 6, 2021, including other Oath Keepers and leaders of the far-right Proud Boys who have yet to be sentenced.
The prison term imposed by Mehta was the longest handed down so far in the government’s prosecution of more than 1,000 people over the storming of the Capitol, which disrupted the certification of the election of Joe Biden as president. The riot involved assaults on 140 police officers and caused more than $2 million in property damage.
“Seditious conspiracy is among the most serious crimes an individual American can commit,” and the motive was that “you didn’t like the new guy,” Mehta told Rhodes, adding that the defendant represented an ongoing threat to the country and to democracy.
Rhodes “clearly had no regrets” about what happened that day, Mehta said. “He didn’t have any regret of his own people going in” to the Capitol to stop the vote, the judge said. The Oath Keepers leader was responsible for the actions of his co-conspirators because of his position in the group, as well as his words and actions, Mehta said.
Federal prosecutors, in court filings, had asked for a 25-year sentence, arguing the evidence at trial showed Rhodes “used his powers of persuasion and his platform as leader of the Oath Keepers to radicalize” others.
“Mr. Rhodes led the conspiracy,” government lawyer Kathryn Rakoczy told the judge at the sentencing hearing. “You can tell by how he acted and talked that he believed he was in charge.” While in custody, Rhodes has continued to advocate for political violence, Rakoczy said. She said a tougher sentence was justified because of the “threat of harm and the historical significance of trying to stop a presidential election for the first time.”
Defense lawyers argued for a much lighter sentence, citing Rhodes’ military service and his organization’s involvement in disaster relief efforts. They said Rhodes’ rhetoric didn’t break any laws and was “protected political speech.”
In the first of three Jan. 6 sedition trials, the US Justice Department spent weeks showing jurors hundreds of messages, video footage and call logs to back up their case that Rhodes and four other defendants coordinated to try to stop Biden from becoming president. Some of the defendants traveled together, stored firearms in a hotel outside of Washington and breached the Capitol building in an organized line, the evidence showed.
The government cast Rhodes as the leader of the plot with his talk of civil war after what he viewed to be a fraudulent presidential election and calls for members to use force if Trump didn’t act to stay in power.
Defense attorneys argued that there was no evidence or testimony showing a plan to storm the Capitol or disrupt the electoral count and that prosecutors cherry-picked inflammatory statements. On the stand, Rhodes claimed that he was uninvolved in stockpiling weapons in Virginia and called some of the members “stupid” for entering the Capitol.
“The government wants you to sentence Rhodes out of fear,” one of his lawyers, Phillip Linder, told the judge. “They want to make Rhodes the face of J6. Rhodes did not cause the events of J6 If you want to put a face on J6, you put it on Trump, right wing media, politicians. Rhodes was just one of the participants. He didn’t create it.”
Before he was sentenced, Rhodes told the judge he considered himself a “political prisoner” who was prosecuted even though he never set foot inside the Capitol on Jan. 6 and was just exercising his free-speech rights. He also said the Oath Keepers were not a violent group.
“I believe this country is incredibly divided” and the prosecution of the Jan. 6 cases “is making it even worse,” Rhodes said. “I would consider every J6er a political prisoner. It is going to make people feel that this government is even more illegitimate than it was before.”
Rhodes added that however long he spends behind bars, his goal will be “to expose the criminality of this regime.”
Rhodes was convicted in November, after the first of two seditious conspiracy trials against fellow Oath Keepers. Six were found guilty of the charge — which means they plotted to stop the transfer of presidential power with a use of force intended to oppose the authority of the US government.
The rare seditious conspiracy charge was the most serious crime alleged by the government in its expansion investigation into the Capitol riot. Earlier this month, former Proud Boys chairman Henry “Enrique” Tarrio and three other members were also convicted on the charge.
A jury also found Rhodes guilty of obstruction of an official proceeding and tampering with documents.
The case is US v. Rhodes, 22-cr-00015, US District Court, District of Columbia (Washington).
4 thoughts on “Oath Keepers chief gets 18 years for Jan. 6 plot to attack US Capitol”
Political prisoners fjb
They are indeed political prisoners. This administration is the most unconstitutional corrupt administration in my lifetime. I await the 2024 election and pray that the election fraud does not continue. We need an administration that is for the American people and not for The Party of Satan to continue to only build democrats power.
Another political prisoner. That is all this J6 sentencing is about. Democrats are crucifying anyone who was against them. This is a violation of our constitution because no American should be imprisoned for political action of any kind unless it involves the death of someone else. Do not try to tell me Americans died as a result of J6 because the only Americans who died were killed unlawfully by a Capitol policeman named Michael Byrd and other Capitol Policemen who beat to death a female named Roseanne Boyland.
Another political prisoner. That is all this J6 sentencing is about. Democrats are crucifying anyone who was against them. This is a violation of our constitution because no American should be imprisoned for political action of any kind unless it involves the death of someone else. Do not try to tell me Americans died as a result of J6 because the only Americans who died were killed unlawfully by a Capitol policeman named Michael Byrd and other Capitol Policemen who beat to death a female named Roseanne Boyland. Also, Philip Linder, the lawyer for Rhodes did not help Rhodes by declaring the guilty party for J6 was Trump. After that why would Trump want to do anything to help Rhodes if he gets re-elected in 2024?