In the years following the Jan. 6 attack, we’ve seen hundreds of criminal suspects face a variety of charges related to the assault on the U.S. Capitol. Some of the accused have been convicted of felonies and begun lengthy prison sentences.
But as we’ve discussed, a seditious conspiracy trial is a qualitatively different kind of case. With this in mind, it was dramatic to see a jury in Washington, D.C., last fall find Oath Keepers founder Stewart Rhodes guilty. As NBC News reported, Rhodes today received his prison sentence.
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 following his conviction on seditious conspiracy. The sentence for Stewart Rhodes is the longest imposed on a Jan. 6 defendant to date.
Circling back to our earlier coverage, part of what made this case striking was the seriousness of the details: Prosecutors accused Rhodes of conspiring to use force to stop the peaceful transfer of power. To that end, the Oath Keepers founder and his confederates not only targeted the Capitol, they also stashed a significant number of weapons just outside of D.C. in preparation for an escalated offensive.
As Rachel recently noted on the show, there’s also a historical dimension to this: Rhodes’ case is the largest sedition trial in the United States since the aftermath of World War II. Charges like these are incredibly uncommon — Americans rarely try to overthrow their own government — and hard to prove.
In Rhodes’ case, however, prosecutors succeeded anyway.
While some Jan. 6 defendants have expressed some degree of contrition after their convictions, in the hopes of receiving a lighter sentence, Rhodes did largely the opposite this morning. Offered an opportunity to speak, the Oath Keepers founder characterized himself as a “political prisoner,” condemned his political opponents for “destroying our country,” and voiced his support for Donald Trump’s 2024 candidacy.
He showed no remorse.
The judge was unimpressed. After explaining the significance of the law Rhodes broke — seditious conspiracy is “an offense against the government [and] the people of the country” — Mehta reminded the defendant, “You are not a political prisoner, Mr. Rhodes.”
The judge added, “I dare say, Mr. Rhodes — and I never have said this to anyone I have sentenced — you, sir, present an ongoing threat and a peril to this country and to the republic and to the very fabric of this democracy. ... We all now hold our collective breaths when an election is approaching. Will we have another Jan. 6 again? That remains to be seen.”
As the sentence came down, I found myself thinking, not of the defendant or his crime, but of Rep. Thomas Massie. After all, it was just a couple of days ago when the Kentucky Republican published a tweet offering what appeared to be tacit support for Rhodes, lamenting the felon’s looming sentence, and questioning whether prosecutors were engaging in the “weaponization of speech.”
In other words, in the biggest sedition trial in generations, a member of the ostensible “law and order” party thought it’d be a good idea to offer some encouragement for a convicted felon who conspired against his own country.
As for the near future, Rhodes is headed to prison, though it remains an open question as to whether or not the Oath Keepers founder would receive a pardon from Trump should the Republican be elected to a second term.
This post revises our related earlier coverage.