June 5, 2023
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One of the figures of the American far right, Stewart Rhodes, was sentenced Thursday to 18 years in prison for “sedition”, the highest sentence to date linked to the assault on the Capitol, on January 6, 2021.

Stewart Rhodes, one of the figures in the assault on the Capitol on January 6, 2021, was sentenced on Thursday to 18 years in prison for “sedition”.

This leader, who involves having planned the use of force against the government, is liable to 20 years in prison. But prosecutors had requested 25 years against Stewart Rhodes, relying on a device which allows to raise the sentences for acts of a “terrorist” nature.

The founder of the “Oath Keepers” militia adopted a defiant posture until the end: “I am a political prisoner”, “my only crime is to oppose those who are destroying our country”, he said. launched just before being fixed on his sentence.

A lack of remorse

Federal Judge Amit Mehta also justified the harsh sentence on the leadership role of Stewart Rhodes, a 58-year-old ex-serviceman, and his lack of remorse. “You represent a persistent threat and a danger to the country,” asserted the magistrate.

On January 6, 2021, thousands of supporters of Donald Trump had sown chaos and violence in the seat of Congress, when elected officials certified the victory of his rival Joe Biden in the presidential election.

The sprawling investigation that followed resulted in the arrest of more than 1,000 people. Nearly 300 received prison sentences, the heaviest of which so far was 14 years.

After weeks of hearings, jurors ruled that the far-right activists had prepared, amassing weapons and entering military training in the Capitol to block the formalization of Donald Trump’s defeat.

On D-Day, Stewart Rhodes, known for his black eyepatch and fiery diatribes, remained outside the Capitol but, according to the prosecution, he led his troops by radio “like a general on the battlefield “.

During his trial, the tribune had denied “planning” the attack and maintained that the “mission” of the Oath Keepers was to provide security for the demonstration called by Donald Trump to denounce alleged “electoral fraud”.

“Enjoy the Chaos”

A former soldier and law graduate from Yale University, Stewart Rhodes founded the Oath Keepers in 2009, recruiting former soldiers or police officers, initially to fight against the federal state deemed “oppressive”.

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Like other radical groups, this militia was seduced by Donald Trump’s anti-elite rhetoric and fully subscribed to the allegations of electoral fraud brandished, against all evidence, by the Republican.

In court documents, lawyers for Stewart Rhodes have tried to portray them as “philanthropists”, called upon to deploy to prevent riots, after natural disasters or during demonstrations against police violence.

“For Rhodes, imposing the Oath Keepers in crisis situations was not intended to help but to contribute and profit from the chaos,” prosecutors retorted.

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