Far-right figure Stewart Rhodes sentenced to 18 years in prison
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Stewart Rhodes, founder of the Oaths Keepers, was sentenced to 18 years in prison for sedition on May 25, 2023.
UNITED STATES – The sentence is heavy, very heavy. One of the figures of the American extreme right, Stewart Rhodeswas sentenced this Thursday, May 25 to 18 years in prison for “sedition”the highest sentence to date related to the assault on the Capitol.
THE founder of the militia “Oathkeepers” adopted a defiant stance until the end: “I am a political prisoner”, “my only crime is to oppose those who destroy our country”he launched just before being fixed on his sentence.
Federal Judge Amit Mehta curtly put him in his place: “You are NOT a political prisoner, Mr. Rhodes”he said. “You are here because twelve jurors (…) found you guilty of sedition”, “one of the most serious crimes an American can commit”.
Lack of remorse
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 nature “terrorist”.
Without completely following them, Judge Mehta endorsed their analysis on this point. “Acts of intimidation or coercion that are intended to weigh on the government” fall into this category, he said.
He also justified the severity of the sentence by the leadership role of Stewart Rhodes, a 58-year-old ex-serviceman, and his lack of remorse. “You represent a persistent threat and danger to the country”asserted the magistrate.
Members of the Proud Boys also sentenced
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 for President.
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. But only ten activists from far-right groups – six members of the “Oathkeepers” and four “Proud Boys” – were found guilty of “sedition” after three separate trials in Washington.
After weeks of hearings, jurors felt they 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 rants, remained outside the Capitol but, according to the prosecution, he led his troops by radio “like a general on the battlefield”.
Against the Federal State “oppressive”
During his trial, the tribune had denied “to have planned” the attack and argued that the ” assignment “ of the Oath Keepers was to provide security for the demonstration called by Donald Trump to denounce alleged “election fraud”.
Maintaining to have been presented with a fait accompli, he had estimated ” stupid “ that Kelly Meggs, who leads the Florida chapter of the Oath Keepers, entered the Capitol. “It opened the door to our political persecution”, he said. Kelly Meggs, also convicted of sedition, will be sentenced in the afternoon.
A former soldier and Yale University law graduate, Stewart Rhodes founded the Oath Keepers in 2009, recruiting former soldiers or police officers, initially to fight against the federal state judged “oppressive”.
Trump, the hero of the far right
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 attempted 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”retorted the prosecutors.
Judge Mehta also ruled that the presence of the Chief of the Oath Keepers was generally not good news due to his “appetite for violence”. “You are intelligent, charismatic and eloquent. That’s what makes you dangerous.”he told her.
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