Stewart Rhodes, the founder of the far-right Oath Keepers, has been sentenced to 18 years in federal prison in connection with the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol, after being convicted of seditious conspiracy. This sentence is the longest imposed on any Jan. 6 defendant to date. During his sentencing, Rhodes delivered a politically-charged speech claiming that he was a “political prisoner.” However, the judge disagreed, stating that Rhodes’ actions led to his criminal convictions. Judge Amit Mehta further highlighted that Rhodes poses a continuing threat to the country, the republic, and the fabric of democracy. Rhodes was found guilty of seditious conspiracy in November alongside Kelly Meggs, a fellow Oath Keepers member.
Rhodes’ pre-attack message, “They won’t fear us until we come with rifles in hand,” and his statement after the attack, where he expressed regret for not bringing rifles, were produced in court during his trial. He even wrote in a message before Jan. 6, “On the 6th, they are going to 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.” At the Olive Garden restaurant in Virginia after the attack, Rhodes met with other Oath Keepers and celebrated their actions, writing, “Patriots, it was a long day but a day when patriots began to stand.”
Wearing an orange prison jumpsuit during his sentencing, Rhodes claimed that the only crime he committed was opposing those who are “destroying our country.” Yet, Judge Mehta emphasized that Rhodes’ criminal convictions were based on his actions before, during, and after Jan. 6 and not his beliefs or political affiliations. Mehta also rejected Rhodes’ argument that he was a “political prisoner,” stating, “You are not a political prisoner, Mr. Rhodes.”
Meggs, another Oath Keepers member who was convicted of seditious conspiracy alongside Rhodes, was sentenced to 12 years in federal prison. Mehta noted that Meggs did not pose the same continuing threat as Rhodes and that a shorter sentence was more appropriate. At the hearing, Meggs expressed regret for his actions and apologized to his family.
Rhodes and Meggs were tried alongside Jessica Watkins, Kenneth Harrelson, and Thomas Caldwell, who were convicted of obstruction of an official proceeding and aiding and abetting, but not seditious conspiracy. Watkins and Harrelson will receive their sentences on Friday. Rhodes took the stand and distanced himself from the other Oath Keepers, stating that he believed that the storming of the Capitol was a foolish act. However, government messages showed that Rhodes viewed Jan. 6 as the last opportunity to prevent a government takeover.
Prior to Rhodes’ and Meggs’ sentencing, Peter Schwartz, who assaulted officers during the Capitol attack, was sentenced to just over 14 years in prison. Schwartz had 38 prior convictions. The Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol sparked outrage across the United States and prompted numerous investigations, arrests, and convictions. According to the Department of Justice, over 600 people have been charged in connection with the attack.