Oath Keepers founder Stewart Rhodes was given an 18 year prison sentence Thursday for his involvement in the Jan. 6 riot, the longest sentence given to date for defendants involved, according to Politico.
Rhodes, one of 14 Jan. 6 defendants to plead guilty to or be convicted of seditious conspiracy, is the first to be sentenced, Politico reported. Four Proud Boys members were found guilty of the same charge early May, including former Proud Boys national chairman Enrique Tarrio and members Ethan Nordean, Joseph Biggs and Zachary Rehl.
“The moment you are released, whenever that may be, you will be ready to take up arms against your government,” U.S. District Judge Amit Mehta told Rhodes before giving his sentence, according to AP.
Prosecutors urged Mehta to hand Rhodes a minimum sentence of 25 years, arguing that he encouraged Oath Keepers members to assemble weapons that could be used in the city and prepare for violence if former President Donald Trump did not prevent Congress from certifying the 2020 election results, per Politico.
Mehta applied enhanced terrorism penalties to Rhodes, though judges resisted doing so in previous sentences for other Jan. 6 defendants, according to the AP. He said Rhodes presents “an ongoing threat and a peril to this country, to the republic and to the very fabric of our democracy,” according to Politico.
Prior to sentencing, Rhodes characterized himself as a “political prisoner,” likening his case to the former president’s and Kafka’s “The Trial”—maintaining that he did not intend to disrupt the transfer of power but was present in Washington as security for speakers at the rally and noting that he never entered the Capitol.
Mehta cited messages sent between Rhodes and other members of the group that were revealed during last fall’s trial to demonstrate he had plans to disrupt the transfer of power, including one sent two days before the election telling members to prepare for “civil war,” according to AP.
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