Oath Keepers founder Stewart Rhodes gets 18 years for Jan. 6 seditious conspiracy
A federal judge said Rhodes presents “an ongoing threat” to American democracy.
Stewart Rhodes, the leader of the far-right Oath Keepers, was sentenced Thursday to 18 years in prison for his involvement in the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol — the longest sentence handed down to date and the first for a charge of seditious conspiracy.
“You, sir, present an ongoing threat and a peril to this country, to the republic and to the very fabric of our democracy,” said U.S. District Court Judge Amit Mehta, characterizing Rhodes as a uniquely powerful driver of the threat to democracy that day. “You are smart, you are compelling, and you are charismatic. Frankly, that is what makes you dangerous.”
Mehta largely agreed with prosecutors’ characterization of Rhodes’ role as a leader of the Jan. 6 attack and agreed to classify his crimes as an act of terrorism against the government, a categorization that sharply increased his ultimate sentence.
“What we cannot have — we absolutely cannot have — is a group of citizens who because they didn’t like the outcome [of the 2020 election] were then prepared to take up arms in order to foment a revolution,” Mehta said. “That’s what you did.
As he prepared to be sentenced, a defiant Rhodes lashed out at the case against him, casting himself as a martyr in a war for the survival of America — the same message prosecutors say Rhodes used to dupe his followers into preparing for battle on Jan. 6.
“I am a political prisoner,” Rhodes said, comparing his plight to Trump’s. “I feel like I’m the lead character in Kafka’s ‘The Trial.’ I feel like it was a preordained guilt from Day One. … My goal will be to be an ‘American Solzhenitsyn’ to expose the criminality of this regime,” Rhodes said, invoking the Soviet dissident and author of the “Gulag Archipelago.”
Mehta sharply rejected Rhodes’ characterization, saying the evidence in the trial convinced a jury of his peers to convict him of seditious conspiracy — and that Jan. 6., one of the “blackest” days in American history.
“People should not forget that,” Mehta said.
Thursday’s sentencing was a pivotal moment in the Justice Department’s efforts to punish those who planned and led the violent assault on the Capitol, stoking the mob of supporters that Trump himself assembled in Washington with his exhortation to “stop the steal.” Assistant U.S. Attorney Kathryn Rakoczy described Rhodes’ sentencing as the most significant step yet toward holding the leaders of the Jan. 6 attack accountable.
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