Stewart Rhodes, the founder of the far-right Oath Keepers militia, has been sentenced to 18 years in prison for his involvement in the January 6 attack on the United States Capitol. The sentencing serves as a significant milestone in holding accountable those responsible for the assault on Congress, shedding light on the dangers of far-right extremism.
Stewart Rhodes Found Guilty
Prior to the sentencing, US District Judge Amit Mehta addressed Rhodes directly, stating that he posed an ongoing threat to the US government. Mehta expressed concern that Rhodes’s desire for democracy to devolve into violence was evident and warned that Rhodes would be ready to take up arms against the government upon his release.
Rhodes, defiant in court, referred to himself as a political prisoner and compared his opposition to those “destroying our country” to that of former President Trump.
Involvement of the Oath Keepers
While Rhodes maintained that he never entered the Capitol on January 6 and denied instructing others to do so, members of the Oath Keepers, including Rhodes, played an active role in the assault. The Oath Keepers, incited by Donald Trump, joined the mob that stormed the Capitol in an attempt to disrupt the certification of Joe Biden’s election victory.
Prosecutors successfully argued that Rhodes and his group had orchestrated an armed rebellion, making preparations that included storing weapons at a Virginia hotel for quick transfer to Washington, D.C.
Legal Consequences and Future Sentencings
Rhodes’s sentencing sets a precedent for other members of the Oath Keepers and similar far-right groups involved in the January 6 attack. Several other members, including those convicted of seditious conspiracy, are scheduled to be sentenced in the coming weeks.
Additionally, members of the Proud Boys, another far-right extremist group, will face sentencing later this year for similar convictions. The judicial response to the events of January 6 carries significant weight, as it determines whether this violent incident will be seen as an outlier or a turning point in American history.
The Impact and Aftermath of January 6
The attack on the Capitol, like other attempts to subvert the 2020 election, ultimately failed. However, its repercussions have been far-reaching. Following the assault, Trump faced his second impeachment for inciting an insurrection, though he was acquitted by Senate Republicans.
The House January 6 committee has made criminal referrals to the Department of Justice, investigating Trump’s actions and potential indictments for his role in the attack. Despite these legal challenges, Trump remains a frontrunner for the Republican presidential nomination in 2024, highlighting the enduring influence of his base.
Rhodes’s Influence and the Terrorism Enhancement
Prosecutors pointed to Rhodes’s statements made from jail, where he echoed Trump’s false claims of a stolen 2020 election and predicted another stolen election in 2024. They argued that Rhodes’s calls for “regime change” demonstrated his ongoing threat to democracy.
During the sentencing hearing, Judge Mehta agreed to apply enhanced penalties for “terrorism” in Rhodes’s case, a departure from previous rulings in January 6 cases. The judge justified this decision by acknowledging that Rhodes directed his co-conspirators to the Capitol, implying that the terrorism enhancement was appropriate.
Stewart Rhodes’s sentencing to 18 years in prison for seditious conspiracy marks a significant step in holding individuals accountable for their roles in the January 6 attack on the Capitol. The conviction and sentencing of Rhodes, the founder of the Oath Keepers militia, sends a strong message that acts of sedition and violence against the government will not be tolerated.