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Oath Keepers founder Stewart Rhodes gets 18 years in prison for seditious conspiracy on January 6

Prosecutors say Rhodes orchestrated a week-long effort to derail Donald Trump’s transfer of power to Joe Biden, rallying dozens of allies across the country to descend on Washington on Jan. 6. Rhodes and his allies spent weeks pressuring Trump to forcibly block Congress from certifying the election — and wreaked havoc even though Trump refused. Rhodes also encouraged the Oath Keepers to assemble an arsenal of weapons from just outside Washington that could be deployed to the city if needed.

In the end, dozens of Oath Keepers burst with the pro-Trump crowd into the Capitol, while Rhodes rallied them from outside the building.

It was a brazen attack that threatened the most important and vulnerable part of American democracy, prosecutors said, urging Mehta to serve a sentence of at least 25 years.

Mehta largely agreed with prosecutors’ characterization of Rhodes’ role as the ringleader of the Jan. 6 attack and agreed to classify his crimes as an act of terrorism against the government, a categorization that strongly increased his ultimate sentence.

“What we cannot have – we absolutely cannot have – is a group of citizens who, because they did not like the result (of the 2020 elections), were then prepared to take up arms 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, portraying himself as a martyr in a war for America’s survival — the same message prosecutors say Rhodes had used to trick his followers into preparing for battle on January 1. 6.

“I’m a political prisoner,” Rhodes said, comparing his situation to that of Trump. “I feel like I’m the main character in Kafka’s ‘Trial’. I feel like it was a pre-established guilt from day one. … My goal will be to be an ‘American Solzhenitsyn’ to expose the criminality of this regime,” Rhodes said, citing the Soviet dissident and author of “The Gulag Archipelago.”

Mehta strongly rejected Rhodes’ characterization, saying trial evidence convinced a jury of his peers to find him guilty of seditious conspiracy – and that January 6 was one of the ‘blackest’ days in history. American.

“People shouldn’t forget that,” Mehta said.

Thursday’s sentencing was a pivotal moment in the Justice Department’s effort to punish those who planned and led the violent assault on the Capitol, fueling the crowd of supporters Trump himself has gathered in Washington with his urging. to “stop the flight”. Assistant United States Attorney Kathryn Rakoczy described Rhodes’ sentencing as the most important step yet toward holding the leaders of the Jan. 6 attack accountable.

Mehta has, in previous sentencing hearings for misdemeanor defendants, lamented that those who tricked or radicalized “ordinary, hard-working Americans” into committing crimes on Jan. 6 had yet to be held accountable. responsible. He specifically identified Trump’s own role in perpetuating lies about the election results as the driving force behind the riot. Rakoczy said convicting Rhodes and his co-conspirators is the beginning of the accountability Mehta said he sought.

Rakoczy also pointed out that Rhodes continued to hold the views that brought his supporters to Washington on Jan. 6 — even just four days before his sentencing when he addressed a gathering of supporters outside the prison in Washington. DC. Rhodes told the group that the election could be stolen in 2024 and that the government was waging a “campaign of terror” against its political opponents.

“Most of us across the political spectrum and across this great nation desperately want to believe that January 6 was an outlier,” Rakoczy said. “Not the defendant Rhodes.”

During an eight-week trial last fall, prosecutors revealed thousands of messages sent between Rhodes and other Oath Keepers leaders before Jan. 6, painting a portrait of a group bent on violence and ready to do whatever it takes to keep Trump from leaving office. Rhodes has repeatedly tried to contact Trump and urge him to invoke the Insurrection Act, which Rhodes said would give him the power to deputize for the Oathkeepers as a government-sanctioned militia. But Trump never acknowledged its reach and ultimately refused to invoke Civil War-era law.

Nonetheless, prosecutors say Rhodes galvanized his allies, orchestrated their trip to Washington, and directed their moves to — and ultimately into — the Capitol.

Rhodes and Florida Oath Keeper frontman Kelly Meggs were convicted of seditious conspiracy in that trial, while three others – Kenneth Harrelson of Florida, Jessica Watkins of Ohio and Thomas Caldwell of Virginia – were acquitted of the prosecution but convicted of other significant crimes. Four other oath keepers were found guilty in connection with Rhodes’ seditious plot in a second trial which ended in January, and three others have pleaded guilty to the charge over the past year.

Throughout his pre-trial incarceration and since his sentencing, Rhodes has remained defiant, saying the group is being punished for inflammatory speech despite little evidence that its members engaged in or encouraged violence that day. He maintained that the group had no intention of disrupting the transfer of power — they were in Washington, he claimed, to conduct security checks for speakers at Trump’s rally — and that the weapons the oath keepers hoarded from a Comfort Inn in Arlington, Virginia, were meant to be a “responsive” force in case violence erupted in the streets.

“If you want to put a face on J6, you put it on Trump, the right wing media, the politicians,” Rhodes attorney Phillip Linder said.

Mehta brushed off those claims, citing posts and trial testimony showing that Rhodes repeatedly considered taking steps to disrupt Trump’s transfer of power to Biden and that the arsenal of guns served a dual purpose.

“If he doesn’t use the Insurrection Act to stop a ChiCom puppet from entering the White House, then we will have to wage a bloody revolution,” Rhodes told his allies in a Dec. 14 message to Georgia. Oath Keepers.

Similarly, Rhodes told an associate on Jan. 10, 2021 — four days after the attack — that he regretted not bringing weapons to the Capitol.

“We could have fixed it on the spot,” Rhodes said in a conversation that was recorded and played for jurors. “I would hang Pelosi from the lamp post.”

Mehta has repeatedly pointed out that Rhodes – a Yale law graduate and military veteran who led the Oath Keepers with hierarchical discipline – was clearly aware of and approved of the actions of his co-conspirators. He said the evidence points to Rhodes knowing or anticipating that two dozen oath keepers would enter the Capitol as part of an effort to disrupt Congress’ counting of Electoral College ballots.

When that happened, the group split in two, with half heading to the office of then-Speaker Nancy Pelosi and the rest heading to the Senate Chamber. Outside Pelosi’s office, the group – led by Meggs – confronted Capitol Police Officer Harry Dunn, who testified at trial about their encounter.

Mehta said their presence outside Pelosi’s office coincided with a frantic effort by security officials to clear staffers who were cowering in a locked conference room from the onslaught of crowds.

Other officers have attributed injuries – both physical and emotional – to the conduct of the oath keepers, including two who were stationed at the gates of Columbus when the mob broke into the Capitol, two in the rotunda who were assaulted by oath keeper Joshua James, and one in the Senate hallway who was part of a line of police that pushed against Watkins and other members of the crowd.


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