The seditious conspiracy sentencing of Stewart Rhodes is significant in its own right. The Oath Keepers founder is the first Jan. 6 defendant sentenced for that serious charge, and it’s the longest prison term yet in the Justice Department’s sprawling probe into the Capitol attack. It’s worth pausing on the solemn moment stemming from the violent attempt to thwart the peaceful transfer of power after the 2020 election.
On Thursday, U.S. District Judge Amit Mehta sentenced Rhodes to 18 years, telling the 58-year-old that he presents an “ongoing threat” to the country.
Seeking a 25-year term, federal prosecutors wrote in a sentencing memorandum that Rhodes “proposed that he and other Oath Keepers members and affiliates forcibly oppose the lawful transfer” of presidential power from Donald Trump to Joe Biden. Prosecutors wrote that Rhodes “pushed the idea among Oath Keepers members and others that with a large enough mob, they could intimidate Congress and its Members and impose the conspirators’ will rather than the American people’s: to stop the certification of the next President of the United States.”
Rhodes’ lengthy federal sentence could serve as an uncomfortable reminder for Trump, who has expressed sympathy for people with Jan. 6-related convictions and has said he would pardon them if he becomes president again. In addition to being investigated in Georgia and federally by a Justice Department special counsel, the Republican former president and 2024 presidential candidate already has an ongoing criminal prosecution in New York state court on charges that he falsified business records, with a trial set for March 2024.
But while every criminal case is serious, and the New York case involves an alleged cover-up of hush money payments to help Trump win the 2016 election that put him in office to begin with, those 34 New York charges are low-level felonies and carry relatively little to no prison time.
If federal charges are added to Trump’s docket, his prison outlook could change drastically.