U.S. District Judge Amit Mehta on Thursday sentenced Oath Keepers founder Stewart Rhodes to 18 years in prison for his role in planning and directing the January 6, 2021 attack on the U.S. Capitol. The sentence, the longest to date for a Jan. 6 defendant, was the first handed down among the handful of rioters convicted of seditious conspiracy, and the first to be augmented with a “terrorism” enhancement. Mehta told Rhodes he presented “a continuing threat and peril to this country, to the republic and to the very fabric of our democracy”.
Later Thursday, Mehta sentenced Kelly Meggs, head of the Oath Keepers Florida chapter, to 12 years in prison. Meggs, a senior Rhodes lieutenant, was also convicted of seditious conspiracy in November. Mehta is expected over the next nine days to sentence the other four oath keepers and members of the far-right Proud Boys convicted of sedition. The sentences for Rhodes and Meggs suggest they will also face lengthy prison terms.
Meggs, unlike Rhodes, said in court that he was “sorry to be involved in an event that has put such a black eye on our country”. Rhodes called himself a “political prisoner” whose “only crime is to oppose those who destroy our country”. “You are not a political prisoner, Mr. Rhodes,” Mehta said, later adding, “As soon as you are freed, you will be ready to take up arms against your government.” Rhodes said he would appeal the conviction. Legal analysts have suggested his legal strategy is to seek clemency from the next Republican president.
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