Stewart Rhodes, the founder and head of the Oath Keepers organization that was involved in the attack on the US Capitol on January 6th 2021, was sentenced to 18 years in prison after being found guilty of seditious conspiracy.
Rhodes, 58, is the first person convicted of seditious conspiracy in the Jan. 6, 2021, attack to receive his punishment, and his sentence is the longest handed down so far in the hundreds of Capitol riot cases.
It’s another milestone for the Justice Department’s sprawling Jan. 6 investigation, which has led to seditious conspiracy convictions against the top leaders of two far-right extremist groups authorities say came to Washington prepared to fight to keep President Donald Trump in power at all costs.
In a first for a Jan. 6 case, the judge agreed with the Justice Department that Rhodes’ actions should be punished as “terrorism,” which increases the recommended sentence under federal guidelines. That decision could foreshadow lengthy sentences down the road for other far-right extremists, including former Proud Boys leader Enrique Tarrio, who have also been convicted of the rarely used charge.
Before announcing Rhodes’ sentence, U.S. District Judge Amit Mehta described a defiant Rhodes as a continued threat to the United States and democracy. The judge expressed fear that what happened on Jan. 6 could be repeated, saying Americans will “now hold our collective breaths every time an election is approaching.”
“You are smart, you are charismatic and compelling and frankly that’s what makes you dangerous,” the judge told Rhodes. “The moment you are released, whenever that may be, you will be ready to take up arms against your government.”
Another Oath Keeper convicted of seditious conspiracy alongside Rhodes — Florida chapter leader Kelly Meggs — was sentenced later Thursday to 12 years behind bars.
A Washington, D.C., jury found Rhodes guilty of leading a plot to forcibly disrupt the transfer of presidential power. Prosecutors alleged Rhodes and his followers recruited members, amassed weapons and set up “quick reaction force” teams at a Virginia hotel that could ferry guns into the nation’s capital if they were needed to support their plot. The weapons were never deployed.
Rhodes used his time, not to express remorse or regret, but to say that he was a political prisoner but the judge was not buying it. Meggs, on the other hand, said he was sorry for taking part in the event that “left a black eye on the country.”
Other Oath Keepers are going to be sentenced today and next week. Given what happened to Rhodes, the prospect does not look good for any of them, though they will likely get shorter sentences than Rhodes.
The leaders of the Proud Boys are also due to be sentenced in late July. Although that is a separate trial with a different judge, the fact that they too were found guilty of seditious conspiracy may also result in a hefty prison sentence.
Meanwhile the grinning person who put his feet up on a desk in Nancy Pelosi’s office , the photograph of which circulated widely, was sentenced to 54 months in prison.
The 54-month sentence for Barnett, a retired firefighter from Gravette, Arkansas, comes after he was convicted at trial on eight counts, including felony charges of civil disorder and obstruction of an official proceeding, in this case a Jan. 6, 2021, session of Congress to certify Joe Biden’s victory over Trump in the 2020 presidential election.
The photos of Barnett lounging at a desk in Pelosi’s office made him one of the most memorable figures from the riot. Barnett, 63, testified he was “going with the flow” and struck a pose after news photographers told him to “act natural.”
He told the judge that joining the riot was “an enigma my life” that he regretted, but said prosecutors wanted him to be “remorseful for things I did not do.”
[U.S. District Judge Christopher] Cooper, though, said he did not believe Barnett played such a passive role.
It was established at trial that Barnett brought into the Capitol a stun gun with spikes, concealed within a collapsible walking stick. Barnett also took a piece of Pelosi’s mail and left behind a note that said, “Nancy, Bigo was here,” punctuating the message with a sexist expletive.
Before leaving Capitol grounds, Barnett used a bullhorn to give a speech to the crowd, shouting, “We took back our house, and I took Nancy Pelosi’s office!” according to prosecutors.
Prosecutors also said Barnett has since posted “falsehoods” on social media about Jan. 6 and downplaying his role. “The defendant still believes he can say or do whatever he wants and if someone else is threatened by it, that’s their problem,” prosecutor Alison Prout said.
All of them say that they will appeal their convictions and sentences. Their chances of success are likely small. Their best hope is that serial sex abuser Donald Trump wins the next election because he has floated the idea of granting pardons to those who took part in the riot.
Serial sex abuser Trump seems to think that pandering to the rioters will get him votes but he may be making a mistake. The public has a generally negative view of the riot.
Presented with three different assessments of January 6, 50% of respondents said that it was an insurrection that threatened democracy, 19% regarded it as constitutionally protected political protest, and 25% deemed it unfortunate but believed that it was time to move on.
The thought of people who stormed the US Capitol getting off lightly may not sit well with them.
Matt G says
And republicans will rally around him while simultaneously condemning Jan. 6th. Schrödinger’s Insurrection/Peaceful Rally.
Marcus Ranum says
They talked about being ready to sacrifice their lives. And they talk about being political prisoners (no, they are common criminals) so a few years behind bars ought to be no problem for them. They’re freeloaders living at taxpayer’s expense.
“Amit Mehta”? Uh oh, watch conservatives claim this guy is obviosly biased against conservatives because brown skin. While many of them continue making the claim the whole thing was staged. While also clamouring for Trump to take office and pardon them.