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Oath Keepers founder sentenced to 18 years in riotous conspiracy case on January 6

WASHINGTON — The founder of the far-right Oath Keepers was sentenced to 18 years in federal prison in connection with the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol following his conviction for seditious conspiracy.

Stewart Rhodes’ sentence is the longest given to a defendant from January 6 to date. “You, sir, present a permanent threat and peril to this country and to the republic and to the very fabric of this democracy,” Judge Amit Mehta said before handing down the sentence.

Rhodes was found guilty of seditious conspiracy in November with Kelly Meggs, another member of the Oath Keepers who will be sentenced later Thursday afternoon.

“They won’t fear us until we come with guns in hand,” Rhodes wrote in a post before the Jan. 6 attack. After the attack, in a recording played in court during his trial, he said his only regret was that they “should have brought guns”.

When given the chance to speak before sentencing, Rhodes, dressed in an orange prison jumpsuit, called himself a “political prisoner” and said he believed the only crime he committed was to oppose those who “destroy our country”. He added that he hopes former President Donald Trump wins in 2024.

Mehta told Rhodes he was convicted of seditious conspiracy “not because of your beliefs, not because you supported the other guy, not because Joe Biden is president right now,” but because of the facts of the case and his actions before, during and after January 6.

“You are not a political prisoner, Mr. Rhodes,” Mehta said.

Rhodes and Meggs were tried alongside Jessica Watkins, Kenneth Harrelson and Thomas Caldwell, other oath keepers who were found guilty of obstructing official process and aiding and abetting, but not seditious conspiracy. Watkins and Harrelson will be sentenced on Friday.

Rhodes spoke up in his case, saying that the other members of the Oath Keepers were “stupid” to storm the Capitol and that he disagreed with those who went inside; Rhodes did not enter the building. “I had no idea an Oathkeeper was even thinking about going in or going inside,” Rhodes said.

But the government also produced messages in which Rhodes said he believed Jan. 6 was the last chance to stop what he saw as a government takeover.

“On the 6th they will put the final nail in the coffin of this Republic, unless we fight our way out. With Trump (preferably) or without him, we have no choice,” Rhodes wrote. in a post before Jan. 6.

He also celebrated the actions of the Oath Keepers in the aftermath of the attack, having met other members of the group at an Olive Garden in Virginia that night.

“Patriots, it’s been a long day but a day when Patriots have begun to rise up,” Rhodes wrote on the night of Jan. 6. “Rise now or kneel forever. Honor your oaths. Remember your heritage.”

Prior to Thursday’s sentencing, Peter Schwartz, who was armed with a wooden door knocker and engaged in a series of assaults on officers during the Capitol attack, had served the longest time behind bars for a defendant on the 6 January: just over 14 years old. Schwartz had 38 prior convictions.

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