The Justice Department asked the court on Friday to sentence Stewart Rhodes, founder, and leader of the Oath Keepers, to 25 years imprisonment. Following his conviction by a jury in November for seditious conspiracy following January 6, 2021, US Capitol insurrection, prosecutors said Rhodes and the other eight members of Oath Keepers should be locked away for a long time to deter others.
Government prosecutors are charging Rhodes with terrorism. They said he and his team strove before and on January 6 to keep former President Donald Trump in power and newly democratically-elected Joe Biden out of the White House in a move seen as an attack on America’s democracy.
Some days back, a jury convicted four leaders of the Proud Boys – another extremist group – who worked to undermine the country’s democracy by keeping Trump as president after he lost the 2020 presidential election to Biden. The Proud Boys’ former national chairman, Enrique Tarrio, was also convicted of seditious conspiracy and they are all awaiting sentencing.
Prosecutors said Rhodes worked hard before the Capitol riot to “influence the government through intimidation or coercion – in other words, terrorism” by organizing and executing an attack on legislators working to declare Biden as president. In a 200-page court filing, prosecutors said the Oath Keepers swore to defend Trump and even lay down their lives to keep him as America’s president.
“These defendants stand out among January 6 defendants because they not only joined in this horrific attack on our democracy as it unfolded, but they all took steps, in advance of January 6, to call for and prepare for such an attack,” prosecutors wrote. “A lesser sentence could encourage further abuses not only by these defendants, but by others who disagree with the next elections in our country’s local, state, and federal governments.”
Citing numerous pieces of evidence, the Justice Department said Rhodes, a Yale Law School graduate, and former Army paratrooper, was said to have spent thousands of dollars to buy an AR-platform rifle, magazines, mounts, sights, and other equipment while headed to Washington before the riot. Although the weapons were not used in the insurrection, the Oath Keepers kept a reserve team with enough weapons to come to the scene if they were needed.
“These defendants attempted to silence millions of Americans who had placed their vote for a different candidate, to ignore the variety of legal and judicial mechanisms that lawfully scrutinized the electoral process leading up to and on January 6, and to shatter the democratic system of governance enshrined in our laws and in our Constitution,” prosecutors wrote in the filing. “And when they did not get what they wanted, they acted by together attacking the very people and place at the very time when those laws were in action.”
Rhodes is due for sentencing on May 25.