Oath Keepers extremist group founder Stewart Rhodes was sentenced Thursday to 18 years in prison for orchestrating a weekslong plot that culminated in his followers attacking the U.S. Capitol in a bid to keep President Joe Biden out of the White House after winning the 2020 election.
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.”
Rhodes did not use his chance to address the judge to express remorse or appeal for leniency, but instead claimed to be a “political prisoner,” criticized prosecutors and the Biden administration and tried to play down his actions on Jan 6.
“I’m a political prisoner and like President Trump my only crime is opposing those who are destroying our country,” said Rhodes, who appeared in Washington's federal court wearing orange jail clothes.
Mehta fired back that Rhodes was not prosecuted for his political beliefs but for actions the judge described as an "offense against the people of the country.”
“You are not a political prisoner, Mr Rhodes," the judge said.
Another Oath Keeper convicted of seditious conspiracy alongside Rhodes — Florida chapter leader Kelly Meggs — was expected to receive his sentence later Thursday. Other Oath Keepers are expected to be sentenced Friday and next week.
After a nearly two-month trial, a Washington, DC, 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.
It was one of the most consequential Capitol riot cases brought by the government, which has sought to prove that the attack by right-wing extremists such as the Oath Keepers was not a spur-of-the-moment protest but the culmination of weeks of plotting to overturn Biden’s victory.
Rhodes' January 2022 arrest in the Capitol riot was the culmination of a decades-long path of extremism that included armed standoffs with federal authorities at Nevada’s Bundy Ranch. After founding the Oath Keepers in 2009, the Yale Law School graduate built it into one of the largest far-right antigovernment militia groups in the U.S., though it appears to have weakened in the wake of the Oath Keepers' arrests.
The judge agreed to prosecutors' request for a so-called “terrorism enhancement” — which can lead to a longer prison term — under the argument that the Oath Keepers sought to influence the government through “intimidation or coercion." Judges in less serious Jan 6 cases had previously rejected such requests.
Prosecutors had sought 25 years for Rhodes, arguing that a lengthy sentence was necessary to deter future political violence.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Kathryn Rakoczy pointed to interviews and speeches Rhodes has given from jail repeating the lie that the 2020 election was stolen and saying it would be again in 2024. In remarks just days ago, Rhodes called for “regime change,” the prosecutor said.
People “across the political spectrum” want to believe that Jan. 6 was an “outlier,” Rakoczy said. “Not defendant Rhodes.”
Rhodes, of Granbury, Texas, plans to appeal his conviction.
Defense lawyer Phillip Linder told the judge that prosecutors were unfairly trying to make Rhodes “the face” of Jan 6, adding that Rhodes could have had many more Oath Keepers come to the Capitol “if he really wanted to” disrupt Congress’ certification of the Electoral College vote.
“If you want to put a face on J6 (Jan 6), you put it on Trump, right-wing media, politicians, all the people who spun that narrative,” Linder said.
Rhodes’ sentence may signal the punishment prosecutors will seek for Tarrio and other Proud Boys leaders convicted of seditious conspiracy. They will be sentenced in August and September.
The Oath Keepers said there was never any plan to attack the Capitol or stop Congress from certifying Biden’s victory. The defense tried to seize on the fact that none of the Oath Keepers’ messages laid out an explicit plan to storm the Capitol. But prosecutors said the Oath Keepers saw an opportunity to further their goal to stop the transfer of power and sprang into action when the mob began storming the building.
Messages, recordings and other evidence presented at trial show Rhodes and his followers growing increasingly enraged after the 2020 election at the prospect of a Biden presidency, which they viewed as a threat to the country and their way of life. In an encrypted chat two days after the election, Rhodes told his followers to prepare their “mind, body, spirit” for “civil war.”
In conference call days later, Rhodes urged his followers to let Trump know they were “willing to die” for the country. One Oath Keeper who was listening was so alarmed that he began recording the call and contacted the FBI, telling jurors “it sounded like we were going to war against the United States government.”
Before Thursday, the longest sentence in the more than 1,000 Capitol riot cases was 14 years for a man with a long criminal record who attacked police officers with pepper spray and a chair as he stormed the Capitol. Just over 500 of the defendants have been sentenced, with more than half receiving prison time and the remainder getting sentences such as probation or home detention.© Copyright 2023 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed without permission.
Watch out for your eye-hole, bud.
At 58 he will most likely die in prison.
Let that be a lesson to other Trump supporters.
That thing we were told was never going to happen. 18 years for seditious conspiracy.
No, not tourists.
Enrique Tarrio, THIS is your life.
oh, and Donald, Jack Smith and American justice are on lines 1 thru 9.
Elmer (He hates that name and one can understand why) Stewart Rhoads gets to spend the next 18 years (or until he parts this world via disease, his own hand or the hands of his fellow convicts) being the prison version of “tickle me Elmo” (“ha ha ha, that tickles!”).
So much for tourists, eh?
The left thought the same for Stone and Manaford
What lesson? Thankfully in the US we have an appeals process, wait until this administration is gone, until now, be patient.
Bass - are you thinking this guy will catch a pardon from some future administration? For Seditious Conspiracy?
Nope, it’s going to be “Pickle-me Elmer”
AKA a certain someone’s predicted “easy time” only the opposite of that.
I definitely think so
Bass - and why would they do that? Seditious Conspiracy is just a step down from treason.
Ah yes, rightists who claim to love the US openly cheering for American seditionists to get pardoned. Makes total sense. Very patriotic.
I think Trump should make it part of his reelection platform to pardon terrorists who attacked America.
There would once have been shock that people would do openly support far right domestic terrorists, but these days the far right openly support terrorists while calling themselves patriots.
The law and order party.
No, he isn’t a political prisoner, as the judge who knows far more about this than you or I said.
Attention Trump people: Give money to Rhodes. Don't just say he's a great person and true American. Give all the money you can.
And this takes money, so it is time to give. Appeals processes don't grow on trees so this message goes to all Trump people to open their checkbooks and write out a big one to Rhodes. Stop talking and start writing that check. Just saying good things about Rhodes on JT doesn't do anything!!!
The militaristic way Americans talk these days. In other countries, they are called protestors. Only oppressive regimes like the USSR throw such people in prison for years. The judge whimpers about the "fabric of democracy" even while he destroys it.
He should have pleaded insanity because he is obviously insane just like his masters!
That is a very powerful comment. But powerful comments don't free people. Only money does and that is why Trump people need to open their wallets to help Rhodes get freed through the appeals process. Don't just talk about it......write that check and there better be some serious zeroes that follow the first number....or you ain't no real Trump person.
It is manafort and don’t worry their time will come soon, These bigots will slip up because they are stupid!
Commanteer - your country may excuse attacks on the government, but mine doesn't. We have a political process and most Americans are ok with it. While it sucks when one's own side loses, that doesn't give us the right to try and burn the whole thing down. More to come.
Lol There's a world of difference between protesting, even unruly ones, and Sedition (trying to overthrow the government). Silly take.
America will thank donald one day, the number of bigoted criminals in prison because of him is huge!
He is like the pied piper leading bigots to their destruction!
Ugh. Your backing of not acknowledging the guilt of the Oath Keepers leader who in support of Donald J. Trump does not resonate with you as a crime is obstinate. Further hypocrisy you have shown ubiquitously. You always say Trump has not been found guilty by a criminal court, yet, when guilt of a crime as an action to our capitol with people being left dead, caused by right wing terrorism to our constitution and democracy, you still back the criminal.
If you don't believe in the American justice system to this degree, I don't know why you claim to be a true American. You are only a narrative, cherry picked laden follower of a different constitution and laws, exactly what the insurrectionists showed. Trying to take an election by conspiracy and false pretense. They do this in dictatorial and fascist regimes.
Your stance on Rhodes shows you don't really love America, you want a vision of white hate to many parts of her including trans people, BLM, any liberal thought. These are things Oath Keepers openly disdain. Do you support them? If not, tell us Rhodes is indeed a criminal and did mount an attack on America.
Democracy of America, is by the people for all the people. Liberals included. Respect the left, they're not the insurrectionists.
Both bailed out by their boy as payment for services rendered. Namely keeping their mouths shut and not cooperating with federal prosecutors.
Where is Elmer's boobie? He's about to be indicted himself. Multiple times. And he isn't coming back.
So, no get out of jail free card for pickle-me Elmer.
I know that this is hard for one who learned everything there isn't to know about law from Rudy. But appeals do not succeed because one disagrees with the verdict.
There has to be an error in the trial. Evidence withheld or allowed that shouldn't have been. Bad jury instructions. Prosecutorial misconduct. Something like that.
There is none of that here.
In fact, criminal convictions are overturned on appeal only 6.9% of the time for all courts and the percentage for federal courts is lower.
So Elmer gets to go to prison and serve his time for the insurrection that he participated in.
Most likely Enrique as well.
Don the con will get indicted within the year, or is that too something "that will never happen?"
both of whom fully deserved their prison sentences.
what your side will stoop to to “win” is disgusting.
Don’t do the crime if you can’t do the time.
Right-wingers and the GOP support criminals.
Because not everyone in the country with now what we have been dining out feels that they were treasonous. I think certain heads of the FBI are more treasonous, but more to come on that.
I disagree, but glad that wrong was put to right.
If you think that you really don’t want to look at the ugliness and dishonesty your side is doing.
Put your money where your mouth is. Run on a Trump / Tim McVeigh ticket.
It has always been said the greatest threat to America would be from white extremists within.
Bass - Shameful that you think those that take up arms and plot against our country should walk free. Would you do what Mr. Rhodes had done and expect to get away with it? Would you be ok with someone on the other side of the political spectrum doing what he did? I would not.
Always nice to look forward to something, then when it doesn’t come you can always look forward to something else. Carrot on a stick.
Commanteer, the only other time an event analogous to Jan 6 occurred was on March 1st, 1954, when Puerto Rican independence activists attacked the Capital.
yes, Jimmy Carter commuted their sentences and sent them back to PR…
after 25 years in the Fed Slam.
rumor is it was a trade with Cuba for CIA assets held by Castro.
But will you respect the jury's decision then? Are you respecting the jury's decision now?
I don’t, but I also know what this government tried to do to the former President.
Get away with what, questioning the election results?
did you object to the Democrats contesting the election at the former president back in 2016? Did you also object to rioters protesting the former president when they were riots and he tried to call them and he was denied the national guard? Any thought it was a good idea to defy the former president back then, I didn’t. So let’s just say we shall agree to disagree on the issue.
In the mean time while the rubes are screaming about the Deep State that doesn't exist, Elmer is in prison putting his eye patch to an unintended use.
The clown that broke into Pelosi's office got 4 years...now this far-right domestic terrorist gets 18 years....
Can't wait for Jack Smith to finish and put the Great Orange Ringleader and his other band of seditionists in the cells next to these two...
Should've copped another 10 years for continuing that ridiculous pirate look.
No because you don’t get 18 years for murder in a lot of cases.
Totally politicized verdicts by activist packed juries. The guy who put his feet up on a desk got 4.5 years. Really?
Bass - I would absolutely not be ok with a Dem or anyone else attempting to disrupt the lawful transition of power with an armed and organized group. There is a big difference between legal processes allowed by law and also lawful protests vs. what the Oath Keepers did. You should know that.
Anyone can protest and question and cry as much as they want, but what they cannot do it take part in a seditious conspiracy to disrupt the lawful transition of power as the jury convicted this guy of. If you do that, you will go to prison for a long time.
Rioters and looters who wanted to burn down democracy and hang Pence and Pelosi. Trump was the ring leader of his thug gang.
Blacklabel - https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_punishments_for_murder_in_the_United_States
yeah, the Democrats tried to make that silly baseless argument, it didn’t work, and fell flat on his face, like everyone knew it would.
They absolutely did, and why would they not if the FBI suspense or pay, and did not even allowed to pay for the children, they can’t feed them they can’t make a living, they would be stupid not to take the money.
We do know.
No, he absolutely didn’t, the whistleblowers didn’t trust the Democrats, and they have the right to give information to the people that they feel has their best interest at heart, and they knew being former FBI agents what the Democrats are doing, so they didn’t trust him not one bit.
from what we know
The fox sets have to do what they’re told to do, they can’t you see what they want, and then end up like Tucker, more on that to come and looking forward to that.
Liberals used to love whistleblowers, what happened?
Come on now. You know he did more than our his feet on a desk.
Yeah, and some other guy who just made a few phone calls got taken out by a Navy Seal Team. What's your point ?
and why would they do that? Seditious Conspiracy is just a step down from treason.
Sure, but it has been put beyond doubt now that he has been found guilty of sedition in court. I thought the GOP were the law and order party. Well this is law and order.
Carlson Trucker would have been all over the TV on this one, oh but he was fired.
tbh, I'm just really happy there are actually armed, bald white guys called Elmer in the US. I thought it was something I just imagined as a child. Can't think why.
If a little fascist cos-play artist can get 18 years, what sentence should his "Fuehrer" in the White House expect to get? - the chair, or a bed in a super-max cell for life (without parole); that would only be fair to fit the crimes of a traitor, but as everybody knows, in Amerika's two-tier injustice system, that ain't gonna happen. Whatever the ultimate punishment for 45, "ill-health" and "old age" will soon spring him free from his cozy confinement.
If you think so.
we offer law and order, that’s the reason why after the Democrats are gone in 2024 then justice can truly come to fruition
What do you think should be the penalties for things like sedition, treason, and espionage? You know those things have the potential to harm a lot more than one person (namely the entire country). This is why we take these crimes seriously.
A bald, middle-aged, white guy called Elmer convinced enough people to 'keep an oath', when he couldn't even keep his own eyes.
other things that liberals USED to care about.
excessive use of force. police murdering unarmed people.
thats still a "thing" right? but not in this one specific case, wonder why?
Readers, please do not get obsessed with this story. If you have already posted here, please take a break.
if this is the new default setting, rule of law in America is over.
you, not the jury, are the politicized activist.
the blind delusions held by these rabid rightists is almost comical. That they openly embrace and support treacherous criminals and proudly announce their poisonous toxic bile, makes them a danger to society.
What you said here is just the kind of threatening rubbish that one-eyed criminal subscribed to. I guess you’d agree with me there, which makes you just like him. Congratulations.