Today a federal judge sentenced Stewart Rhodes, the founder of the Oath Keepers, to 18 years in prison leaving an indelible mark on Rhodes’ life and the legacy of the infamous Oath Keepers.
The sentencing wasn’t just about the years; it came embellished with an enhancement for terrorism, a first in a January 6 case.
Rhodes now holds the dubious distinction of receiving the longest sentence to date in connection with the assault on the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021. Let that sink in for a moment. The man who led a seditious conspiracy to disrupt the certification of President Joe Biden’s election victory now faces nearly two decades behind bars.
A Dangerous Game of Sedition
Rhodes masterfully choreographed a violent dance of disruption, earning him a seditious conspiracy conviction. This conviction represents a landmark event – the first successful seditious conspiracy conviction by a jury since 1995.
In the eyes of the law, Rhodes “inspired the use of violence” in his followers to disrupt the certification process. His conduct met the legal definition of terrorism intended to influence the actions of the government. The Oath Keepers had amassed an impressive stockpile of weapons just outside of Washington, D.C. on Jan. 6, under the leadership of Rhodes.
Despite the severity of the situation, Rhodes presented himself as a “political prisoner,” maintaining his innocence and defiantly refusing to acknowledge his actions’ gravity. His words resonated in the quiet courtroom, “Like President Trump, my only crime is opposing those who are destroying our country.” The judge, however, saw things differently, countering Rhodes’ claims of being a political prisoner, stating, “You’re not a political prisoner. You’re here because 12 jurors in D.C. who acquitted you of multiple counts found you guilty of sedition”.
The Prosecution’s Persuasion
Justice Department prosecutors sought 25 years for Rhodes, their highest recommendation yet for a defendant charged in connection with Jan. 6. Their arguments painted a picture of a man who “doggedly drilled” the idea of election fraud into the minds of his followers, instilling in them the false need to act like the Founding Fathers to “save our Constitution and our country”.
The prosecution presented extensive evidence of the group’s meticulous planning in advance of Jan. 6. They uncovered a trove of messages between the group’s members discussing “civil war” in the event of Biden taking office, showing that Rhodes and his co-conspirators were willing to take any action necessary, including using force, to stop the certification.
Legal Repercussions and Rhodes’ Reaction
So, the court handed down the sentence, 18 years, quite the step down from the 25 years the prosecution sought. But hey, who’s counting? The drama, of course, didn’t stop there. Rhodes’ attorneys, quite the vocal bunch, expressed their disagreement with the sentence. However, they did admit to expecting something much more draconian for their client. They claimed the sentence sent a clear message to anyone who dares to play the sedition card in the future.
Now, if you thought the sentencing would quell Rhodes’ defiance, think again. The man stood his ground, defiant as ever, before the sentence was handed down. He insisted on identifying himself as a “political prisoner,” which, considering his actions, was a bit like a wolf insisting it was a sheep. But to each their own, I guess.
Victims Speak Out
In the midst of the courtroom drama surrounding Rhodes, let’s not forget the victims, those who bore the brunt of the January 6 chaos. A day before the sentencing, police officers who defended the Capitol and a Senate aide who carried the official 2020 election documents, spoke in court to explain the continuing trauma they face more than two years after the riots. Their words painted a vivid, heart-wrenching picture of the day’s events.
“We were assaulted time and time again,” said one police officer, his voice laden with emotion. He described the violent mob repeatedly grabbing at his police gear and even trying to take his weapon. And the trauma didn’t end there. Imagine coming home to your family, bruised and battered, and seeing your wife sobbing at the sight of you. That was the reality for these brave officers and the people they protect and serve. As the officer put it, “We experienced physical trauma, emotional trauma, and mental trauma”.
In the Wake of the Verdict: A Nation Reflects
In the aftermath of this groundbreaking sentencing, the nation finds itself in a moment of reflection. The term “sedition” carries more weight now, and the actions of those like Rhodes are under a microscope. The case has set a precedent, and the message is clear: those who choose the path of violence and disruption to oppose democracy will face the consequences. And let’s not forget about that enhancement for terrorism tacked onto Rhodes’ sentence. A stark reminder that actions aimed at influencing government through violence won’t be taken lightly.
Is this the end of the story? Unlikely. With the sentence handed down and the courtroom drama subsiding, there’s still a long road of appeals and legal maneuvers ahead. But for now, one thing is certain: Stewart Rhodes, the defiant leader of the Oath Keepers, will be spending a significant chunk of his life behind bars.
Now do Trump!