Oath Keepers Founder Gets 18 Years for Jan. 6 Plot: ‘A Peril to This Country’
Stewart Rhodes, the leader of the Oath Keepers militia, whose members stormed the Capitol on Jan. 6, has been sentenced to 18 years for seditious conspiracy. The sentence is the longest yet for a conviction on charges related to the 2021 uprising.
Kelly Meggs — a top Oath Keepers deputy from Florida who led the militia’s charge of the Capitol wearing a patch reading, “I’M JUST HERE FOR THE VIOLENCE” — received a sentence of 12 years on the same sedition charge.
Rhodes was convicted last November of the plot to block, by force, the peaceful transfer of power from Donald Trump to President Biden. The trial exposed Rhodes’ revolutionary rhetoric in the buildup to Jan. 6 and his disregard for the lives of members of Congress who were in danger, encapsulated in his two word message to an associate: “Fuck ‘Em.”
Rhodes and the Oath Keepers had stockpiled weapons in hotels outside Washington, D.C. They hoped that Trump would invoke the Insurrection Act, which they believed would empower them to become a legal militia force and take the fight to Trump’s enemies. In the aftermath of the violence of Jan. 6, Rhodes would tell associates that his only regret was not bringing weapons.
Coming into the hearing, the federal government was seeking a sentence of 25 years for the Oath Keepers founder, a former paratrooper and Yale Law graduate. Rhodes had sought leniency — a sentence of time served — absurdly citing the “public service” of creating the Oath Keepers.
Rhodes made a personal plea, standing before Judge Amit Mehta in an orange jumpsuit. Rhodes persisted in painting himself, and his militia, as misunderstood. He declared, against the substantial evidence upon which he was convicted, that the Oath Keepers were there as a peace-keeping force: “Unlike other groups like the Proud Boys who seek conflict and seek to street fight,” Rhodes insisted, “we deter [violence].”
Rhodes complained that his plight was Kafkaesque — straight out of the novel The Trial — and said he’d now be an “American Solzhenitsyn,” citing the Soviet dissident writer Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn who was sent to the gulag under Stalin, vowing to “expose the regime.”
Mehta was not moved by Rhodes’ late appeals. Indeed, he’d already imposed a “terrorism” enhancement on the sentence, citing the Oath Keepers leader’s move to attack democracy at a sacred moment of the transfer of political power. (A similar terrorism enhancement was added to Megg’s sentence.)
“You are not a political prisoner, Mr. Rhodes,” the judge insisted in withering comments from the bench, declaring instead that the trial had proved Rhodes was “prepared to take up arms in order to foment a revolution. That’s what you did.”
Mehta handed down the sentence after telling Rhodes that his charisma and leadership were essential to the sedition plot: “You still present an ongoing threat and a peril to this country.”
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