A federal judge on Thursday sentenced Oath Keepers founder Stewart Rhodes to 18 years in prison following his conviction on seditious conspiracy charges for his role in the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the Capitol.
The sentencing represents the longest prison term assigned to a figure involved in the riot, coming after Rhodes was found guilty on numerous other charges last November, including other felony charges such as obstruction of an official proceeding.
Judge Amit Mehta laid down the sentence with harsh words for Rhodes over a several-minute speech, castigating the leader for referring to himself as a political prisoner earlier in the hearing.
“You are not a political prisoner, Mr. Rhodes,” Mehta said, adding that he presents “an ongoing threat and a peril to this country.”
He added that what we “cannot have is a group of citizens … prepared to take up arms in order to foment a revolution.
“We now all hold our collective breaths every time an election is approaching. Will we have another Jan. 6?
The sentence comes ahead of those of numerous other Oath Keepers members slated to receive their punishment over the next two weeks for their role in the attack. Several in the group were found guilty of seditious conspiracy, as were members of another far-right group, the Proud Boys, who faced the charge in another trial.
It’s also significant because Rhodes never entered the Capitol that day, instead remaining on the grounds, directing his team via a walkie-talkie app as they entered the building via “stack” formation.
Mehta largely sided with the Justice Department, which suggested a 25-year prison sentence for Rhodes, arguing the former Army soldier encouraged other fellow veterans to violate the oaths to defend the Constitution they took when beginning their service.
Seditious conspiracy carries a maximum 20-year prison sentence, but the Justice Department also sought a terrorism enhancement for Rhodes and other Oath Keepers defendants.
“He exploited his vast public influence as the leader of the Oath Keepers and used his talents for manipulation to goad more than twenty other American citizens into using force, intimidation, and violence to seek to impose their preferred result on a US presidential election,” the Justice Department wrote in a sentencing memo earlier this month.
Rhodes’s attorneys argued he should be sentenced to 16 months — the time he has spent in prison for the duration of his trial.
Rhodes himself spoke during the hearing Thursday, claiming the only crime he is guilty of is “opposing those who are destroying our country” and complained others imprisoned for their role in Jan. 6 have been “grossly overcharged.”
“I hope Trump wins in 2024,” Rhodes said.
Rhodes, 58, is a Yale-educated lawyer and founded the Oath Keepers as a militia to defend citizens against the government.
Other Oath Keepers members are set to be sentenced in the coming days, including former Florida chapter leader Kelly Meggs, expected to be sentenced later Thursday.
Updated at 1:37 pm