Oath Keepers Founder Receives 18 Years in Landmark Verdict Tied to Capitol Siege

Stewart Rhodes, the founder of the Oath Keepers, a far-right militant organization, was handed an 18-year prison term on Thursday for his role in the U.S. Capitol riot that transpired on Jan. 6, 2021. Rhodes was found guilty of seditious conspiracy in an attempt to halt the peaceful transfer of power and keep former President Donald Trump in office. The sentence is the harshest yet in relation to the Capitol insurrection.

The sentence was handed down by U.S. District Judge Amit Mehta, after a defiant Rhodes, clad in an orange jumpsuit, declared himself a “political prisoner” standing against those “who are destroying our country,” a sentiment echoing Trump’s rhetoric.

In the sentencing, Mehta addressed Rhodes directly, stating, “For decades, Mr. Rhodes, it is clear you have wanted the democracy of this country to devolve into violence. You, sir, present an ongoing threat and peril to this country, to the republic and the very fabric of our democracy.”

Rhodes, a former Army paratrooper and Yale-educated attorney, was convicted by a federal court jury in Washington in November. The sentence is the most severe among those handed down to over 1,000 individuals charged in connection with the Capitol attack, a failed attempt by Trump supporters to prevent Congress from certifying President Joe Biden’s election victory. The previous longest sentence was a 14-year term given to a man from Pennsylvania who assaulted police officers during the riot.

Prosecutors had sought a 25-year sentence for Rhodes, arguing that he had led a conspiracy to intimidate and coerce government officials into stopping the lawful transfer of power, which constituted an act of terrorism.

Throughout the trial, Rhodes showed no remorse, blaming the far-left for the division in the country and claiming that the prosecutions of those involved in the Jan. 6 event were causing further division. He insisted he would continue to “expose the criminality of this regime” even from his prison cell.

In addition to seditious conspiracy, Rhodes was found guilty of obstructing an official proceeding and tampering with documents. He was acquitted of two other charges. The Oath Keepers, which Rhodes founded in 2009, includes current and former military personnel, law enforcement officers, and first responders. The group has been present, often heavily armed, at numerous political events and protests, including demonstrations in response to the 2020 murder of George Floyd.

Kelly Meggs, a former Florida chapter leader of the Oath Keepers and also convicted of seditious conspiracy, received a 12-year prison term from Judge Mehta on Thursday. Prosecutors had sought a 21-year sentence for Meggs, but his family pleaded with the judge to consider his role as a protector and provider in his family.

Meggs expressed remorse for his actions, noting the impact they had on his family. Despite admitting his wrongs, he denied planning the siege and attributed his conviction to his “vile and hateful language.” Alongside seditious conspiracy, Meggs was convicted of four other felonies, including obstructing an official proceeding.

Despite their vow to appeal the conviction, Rhodes’ attorneys expressed relief that Judge Mehta did not impose a harsher sentence. This landmark case has sent a clear message regarding the severe legal repercussions for such acts against the United States’ democratic process.

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