A U.S. judge on May 25 sentenced the founder of the Oath Keepers militia group to 18 years in prison for seditious conspiracy and other crimes related to the U.S. Capitol breach, after a defiant Rhodes stood before him and insisted he is a “political prisoner.”
“For decades, Mr. Rhodes, it is clear you have wanted the democracy of this country to devolve into violence,” U.S. District Judge Amit Mehta told Stewart Rhodes, the Oath Keepers founder.
“You are not a political prisoner, Mr. Rhodes,” the Obama appointee said, adding that he believes Rhodes represents an “ongoing threat” to the country.
Rhodes was convicted in 2022 of seditious conspiracy for his part in the Jan. 6, 2021, breach of the Capitol.
Seditious conspiracy alone carries up to 20 years in prison. Rhodes was also convicted of obstruction of an official proceeding and tampering with documents or proceedings.
He was acquitted of two other charges.
Prosecutors had sought 25 years in prison for Rhodes. Lawyers for Rhodes asked for time served.
Mehta handed down an 18-year sentence—the lengthiest term yet in the Jan. 6 cases. He applied sentencing enhancements based on factors including Rhodes’ “terroristic conduct,” saying the evidence showed that Rhodes “was at the top of the chain” and he was culpable for the actions of the Oath Keepers.
Multiple other Oath Keepers have been convicted of seditious conspiracy and other crimes related to Jan. 6.
Rhodes told the judge that he was a political prisoner.
“I believe this country is incredibly divided. And this prosecution—not just of me, but of all J6ers—is making it even worse. I consider every J6er a political prisoner and all of them are being grossly overcharged,” he said.
Rhodes told The Epoch Times previously that he was being persecuted for being himself, describing a “political persecution campaign.”
Rhodes did not enter the Capitol.
“And yet, here I sit, because of who I am, and because of what I said—my political speech—not because of anything constituting an actual crime, not because of anything I actually did,” Rhodes said in March.
Kelly Meggs, another Oath Keepers leader, went into the building with some other members.
“When Kelly Meggs told me his team had gone inside, I told him, ‘That was stupid,’ because entering the building would make it easier for our political enemies to persecute us. And that is exactly what happened,” Rhodes said.
Rhodes said he viewed the verdicts as “pre-ordained” because in Washington, which overwhelmingly votes for Democrats, “there can be no such thing as a fair trial … for any Trump supporter.”
The Oath Keepers is a group comprised primarily of former and current law enforcement and military members who take an oath to “defend the Constitution against all enemies, foreign and domestic.”
They have been present at a number of rallies and other events since being founded in 2009, including a series of rallies for former President Donald Trump.
Rhodes said he went to Washington to provide security for top speakers, including one-time Trump adviser Roger Stone. Rhodes was concerned Trump supporters would be attacked by members of the far-left Antifa network, which has carried out such attacks before. He says he went to the Capitol to order Oath Keepers away from the building after watching television coverage of the chaos breaking out there.
Prosecutors during the trial heavily relied on communications between group members, including messages sent in encrypted chats, to support their case because most Oath Keepers did not bring weapons into Washington.
In one message after the 2020 election, Rhodes said that “we are not getting through this without a civil war.”
Rhodes also called in an open letter for Trump to step in against President Joe Biden, who he called “an illegitimate usurper.”
More Sentencing to Come
Prosecutors are asking Mehta to sentence Meggs, the group’s former Florida chapter leader, to 21 years in prison.
Two others associated with the Oath Keepers, Jessica Watkins and Kenneth Harrelson, are due to be sentenced on Friday. They were acquitted of seditious conspiracy but convicted on other felony charges.
Four Oath Keepers members convicted of seditious conspiracy in a second trial are due to be sentenced next week.
The judge postponed a sentencing hearing that had been scheduled for Wednesday for Thomas Caldwell, another co-defendant acquitted of seditious conspiracy but convicted of other charges.
Joseph M. Hanneman and Reuters contributed to this report.
From The Epoch Times