UNITED STATES NEWS

Oath Keepers founder Stewart Rhodes sentenced to 18 years for seditious conspiracy in Jan. 6 attack

May 24, 2023, 6:00 PM | Updated: May 25, 2023, 5:16 pm

 

WASHINGTON (AP) — Oath Keepers extremist group founder the U.S. Capitol in a bid to keep President Joe Biden out of the White House after winning the 2020 election.

Rhodes, 58, is the first person convicted of seditious conspiracy in the Jan. 6, 2021, attack to receive his punishment, and his sentence is the longest handed down so far in the hundreds of Capitol riot cases.

It’s another milestone for the Justice Department’s sprawling Jan. 6 investigation, which has led to seditious conspiracy convictions against the top leaders of two far-right extremist groups authorities say came to Washington prepared to fight to keep President Donald Trump in power at all costs.

“The Justice Department will continue to do everything in our power to hold accountable those criminally responsible for the January 6th attack on our democracy,” Attorney General Merrick Garland said in a statement.

In a first for a Jan. 6 case, the judge agreed with the Justice Department that Rhodes’ actions should be punished as “terrorism,” which increases the recommended sentence under federal guidelines. That decision could foreshadow lengthy sentences down the road for other far-right extremists, including former Proud Boys leader Enrique Tarrio, who have also been convicted of the rarely used charge.

Before announcing Rhodes’ sentence, U.S. District Judge Amit Mehta described a defiant Rhodes as a continued threat to the United States and democracy. The judge expressed fear that what happened on Jan. 6 could be repeated, saying Americans will “now hold our collective breaths every time an election is approaching.”

“You are smart, you are charismatic and compelling and frankly that’s what makes you dangerous,” the judge told Rhodes. “The moment you are released, whenever that may be, you will be ready to take up arms against your government.”

Rhodes did not use his chance to address the judge to express remorse or appeal for leniency, but instead claimed to be a “political prisoner,” criticized prosecutors and the Biden administration and tried to play down his actions on Jan. 6.

“I’m a political prisoner and like President Trump my only crime is opposing those who are destroying our country,” said Rhodes, who appeared in Washington’s federal court wearing orange jail clothes.

Mehta fired back that Rhodes was not prosecuted for his political beliefs but for actions the judge described as an “offense against the people of the country.”

“You are not a political prisoner, Mr. Rhodes,” the judge said.

Another Oath Keeper convicted of seditious conspiracy alongside Rhodes — Florida chapter leader Kelly Meggs — was sentenced later Thursday to 12 years behind bars.

Meggs said he was sorry he was involved in the riot that left a “black eye on the country,” but maintained that he never planned to go into the Capitol.

The judge found Meggs doesn’t present an ongoing threat to the country the way Rhodes does, but told him “violence cannot be resorted to just because you disagree with who got elected.”

Other Oath Keepers are expected to be sentenced Friday and next week.

A Washington, D.C., jury found Rhodes guilty of leading a plot to forcibly disrupt the transfer of presidential power. Prosecutors alleged Rhodes and his followers recruited members, amassed weapons and set up “quick reaction force” teams at a Virginia hotel that could ferry guns into the nation’s capital if they were needed to support their plot. The weapons were never deployed.

It was one of the most consequential Capitol riot cases brought by the government, which has sought to prove that the attack by right-wing extremists such as the Oath Keepers was not a spur-of-the-moment protest but the culmination of weeks of plotting to overturn Biden’s victory.

Rhodes’ January 2022 arrest was the culmination of a it appears to have weakened in the wake of the Oath Keepers’ arrests.

The judge agreed to prosecutors’ request for a so-called “terrorism enhancement” — which can lead to a longer prison term — under the argument that the Oath Keepers sought to influence the government through “intimidation or coercion.” Judges in less serious Jan. 6 cases had previously rejected such requests.

Prosecutors had sought 25 years for Rhodes, arguing that a lengthy sentence was necessary to deter future political violence.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Kathryn Rakoczy pointed to interviews and speeches Rhodes has given from jail repeating the lie that the 2020 election was stolen and saying it would be again in 2024. In remarks just days ago, Rhodes called for “regime change,” the prosecutor said.

Rhodes, of Granbury, Texas, plans to appeal his conviction.

Defense lawyer Phillip Linder told the judge that prosecutors were unfairly trying to make Rhodes “the face” of Jan. 6, adding that Rhodes could have had many more Oath Keepers come to the Capitol “if he really wanted to” disrupt Congress’ certification of the Electoral College vote.

“If you want to put a face on J6 (Jan. 6), you put it on Trump, right-wing media, politicians, all the people who spun that narrative,” Linder said.

Rhodes’ sentence may signal the punishment prosecutors will seek for Tarrio and other Proud Boys leaders convicted of seditious conspiracy. They will be sentenced in August and September.

The Oath Keepers said there was never any plan to attack the Capitol or stop Congress from certifying Biden’s victory. The defense tried to seize on the fact that none of the Oath Keepers’ messages laid out an explicit plan to storm the Capitol. But prosecutors said the Oath Keepers saw an opportunity to further their goal to stop the transfer of power and sprang into action when the mob began storming the building.

Messages, recordings and other evidence presented at trial show Rhodes and his followers growing increasingly enraged after the 2020 election at the prospect of a Biden presidency, which they viewed as a threat to the country and their way of life. In an encrypted chat two days after the election, Rhodes told his followers to prepare their “mind, body, spirit” for “civil war.”

Before Thursday, the longest sentence in the more than 1,000 Capitol riot cases was 14 years for a man with a long criminal record who attacked police officers with pepper spray and a chair as he stormed the Capitol. Just over 500 of the defendants have been sentenced, with more than half receiving prison time and the remainder getting sentences such as probation or home detention.

___

Richer reported from Boston.

 

United States News

Associated Press

Man who followed woman into her NYC apartment and stabbed her to death pleads guilty to murder

NEW YORK (AP) — A man pleaded guilty to murder on Tuesday for stabbing a woman to death after following her from the street into her lower Manhattan apartment building. Assamad Nash, 27, also pleaded guilty to burglary as a sexually motivated felony in the Feb. 13, 2022, attack on 35-year-old Christina Yuna Lee. “Today […]

1 hour ago

Associated Press

Vermont lawmaker apologizes for repeatedly pouring water in her colleague’s bag

MONTPELIER, Vt. (AP) — A Republican state lawmaker from Vermont has apologized for repeatedly pouring water into a Democratic colleague’s bag, after he caught her doing it on video. State Rep. Mary Morrissey publicly apologized to state Rep. Jim Carroll, colleagues and the citizens of Vermont from the House floor on Monday. Both are from […]

1 hour ago

Associated Press

Google to invest another $2.3 billion into Ohio data centers

COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) — Google will invest an additional $2.3 billion to support three data center campuses in central Ohio, the company announced Tuesday. The tech giant has centers in New Albany and Lancaster and one under construction in Columbus to help power its services such as search, Gmail, maps, cloud and YouTube for users […]

2 hours ago

Associated Press

Massachusetts suffers statewide outage of its 911 services

BOSTON (AP) — The 911 system across Massachusetts went down Tuesday afternoon, making it impossible for anyone to reach emergency services. “The State 911 Department is aware of a disruption to the 911 system and is investigating the cause,” the state’s Office of Public Safety and Security said in a statement. Boston Police Commissioner Michael […]

3 hours ago

Associated Press

15-year-old girl shot to death hours before her middle school graduation, authorities say

LOWELL, Mass. (AP) — A 21-year-old man has been arrested and charged with fatally shooting a 15-year-old girl hours before she was scheduled to attend her middle school graduation in Massachusetts, authorities said. Not guilty pleas were entered in court Tuesday on behalf of Trevor Bady. He was arraigned on charges of of murder, armed […]

4 hours ago

Associated Press

Montana canal siphon splits open, flooding area and threatening local farming industry

BABB, Mont. (AP) — Montana state officials were scurrying Tuesday to stop flooding caused by the breakage of a century-old pipe used to deliver drinking water to 14,000 residents and carry irrigation water to farms. No injuries or deaths have been reported since the pipe split open Monday, causing flooding in the rural area east […]

4 hours ago

Sponsored Articles

...

COLLINS COMFORT MASTERS

Here are 5 things Arizona residents need to know about their HVAC system

It's warming back up in the Valley, which means it's time to think about your air conditioning system's preparedness for summer.

...

Midwestern University

Midwestern University Clinics: transforming health care in the valley

Midwestern University, long a fixture of comprehensive health care education in the West Valley, is also a recognized leader in community health care.

...

Collins Comfort Masters

Here’s 1 way to ensure your family is drinking safe water

Water is maybe one of the most important resources in our lives, and especially if you have kids, you want them to have access to safe water.

Oath Keepers founder Stewart Rhodes sentenced to 18 years for seditious conspiracy in Jan. 6 attack