Stewart Rhodes, head of the far-right group Oath Keepers and one of the protagonists of the assault on the United States Capitol on January 6, 2021, received the strongest sentence handed down to date for the fact in which dozens of Donald Trump supporters conspired to keep the Republican in power.
The leader of the far-right militia Oath Keepers, Stewart Rhodes, was sentenced this Thursday, May 25, to 18 years in prison for orchestrating a plot that culminated in the attack on the United States Capitol, on January 6, 2021, in a attempt to keep President Joe Biden out of the White House after the 2020 election.
The founder of the extremist group received the heaviest sentence to date for the fact that he targeted hundreds of people who illegally entered the Capitol, an assault that left five dead and more than 140 wounded uniformed officers.
Rhodes is the first person charged in the January 6, 2021 attack to be convicted of seditious conspiracy and his case becomes another milestone in the Justice Department’s extensive investigation into the January 6 case in which thousands of supporters of Donald Trump were willing to fight to keep the tycoon in power despite having lost the elections.
The sentence is considered an achievement of the Department of Justice. He charged the main leaders of the revolt with seditious conspiracy, a highly serious crime that he considers the attempt to “overthrow, quell or destroy the government of the United States by force.”
At the hearing, Magistrate Amit Mehta charged Rhodes. Before reading the sentence, the togado considered that a “group of citizens, who just because they did not like the result of the elections or believe that the law was complied with as it should, should not be allowed to promote a revolution.” “That’s what you did,” he concluded as part of his considerations.
“For decades, Mr. Rhodes, it is clear that you have wanted democracy in this country to turn to violence,” the judge said at another point. At the defendant’s insistence that he was a political prisoner, the magistrate replied that he was not, even considering him a political threat to the country.
Amit Mehta also made the conviction look like a lesson, foreseeing events similar to those experienced in 2021. “Now they will hold their collective breath every time an election approaches,” he said.
According to one of the prosecutors in the case, Kathryn Rakoczy, “Mr. Rhodes led a conspiracy to use force and violence to intimidate and compel members of our Government to stop the legal transfer of power after a presidential election.” .
“As the court has just determined, that is terrorism,” Rakoczy said, referring to the application, for the first time in a case linked to July 6, of aggravated penalties for the same concept. In this sense, the proposal at first was 25 years of punishment.
Laments of the far-right leader before what he considers an “exaggerated” sentence
The far-right, dressed in the usual orange jumpsuit worn by detainees, attacked the battery of prosecuting lawyers. “I think this country is incredibly divided,” he said. Sterwart Rhodes further highlighted all of them are being condemned in a grossly exaggerated way, what he considered a “persecution”.
The defense considered that the members of the Oath Keepers who were around Washington, stationed in hotels, had the intention of intervening in case the then president, Donald Trump (2017-2021), asked them to act to bet on power and prevent the confirmation of Joe Biden as president.
The central argument for this hypothesis was a law written in 1807, in which the president was empowered to request help from citizen militias to restore order in the event of insurrections, not considered valid by the accuser.
The 18 years against Rhodes represents the longest sentence handed down against a participant in the assault on the United States House of Congress. Until now, the most extensive one had been issued against another of the participants for attacking a police officer. They are counted in more than 1000 people, they present charges for January 6.
This sentence is considered a preamble to what can happen with the leader of the Proud Boys, another of the groups involved in the seizure of the parliamentary building.
“Willing to die” for the United States
Among the evidence presented at the trial, messages and recordings were shown showing the annoyance of the head of the Oath Keepers and his followers at the possibility that Joe Biden managed to take over the White House. They considered the current president as a threat to the country and his way of life, according to the AP news agency.
The jewel in the crown was the testimony of one of the group’s members, who listened to a conference call in which Rhodes asked the ‘Keepers’ to convey to President Trump the message that they were “willing to die” for the United States. .
The recording ended up in the hands of the FBI, in addition to testifying at the trial that “it looked like we were going to war against the United States government.”
Who are the Oath Keepers?
Sterwart Rhodes founded the armed group in 2009. Since then, it has become one of the largest far-right militias in the United States.
Its members include retired and serving military. Also lifeguards and police officers. Defenders of the second amendment, they have participated in countless political rallies and protests.
Although Rhodes never entered the Capitol, some of his supporters did. They even split into two groups: one for the House of Representatives and one for the Senate.
All this happened as part of the attempt to prevent the confirmation of the then president-elect, Joe Biden, which was carried out under the command of the vice president of the nation, Mike Pence.
Thousands of Trump supporters gathered in a rally in front of the White House and from there they went to Congress, alleging that the then head of state had induced them. Donald Trump was acquitted in an “impeachment” or political trial that tried to demonstrate his alleged responsibility in the events.
With AP, EFE and Reuters