Justice Department seeks 25 years in prison for Oath Keepers founder Stewart Rhodes, convicted of seditious conspiracy in what prosecutors have described as a violent conspiracy to keep President Joe Biden out of the House -Blanche, according to court documents filed Friday.
A Washington D.C. jury convicted Rhodes in November in one of the most significant cases brought during the January 6, 2021 assault on the U.S. Capitol, when a crowd of supporters of then-President Donald Trump, assaulted police officers, smashed windows and temporarily halted congressional certification of Mr. Biden’s victory.
Stewart Rhodes has been found guilty of plotting an armed rebellion with members of his far-right group to prevent the transfer of presidential power from Donald Trump to Joe Biden.
Prosecutors asked the judge to impose the quarter-century sentence, noting that Mr. Rhodes had been convicted of multiple crimes – which also carry stiff penalties – in addition to seditious conspiracy, which is punishable by a 20-year prison term.
They asked the judge to go beyond standard sentencing guidelines, arguing that the offenses amounted to terrorism.
“Using their prominent positions in and in affiliation with the Oath Keepers organization, these defendants played a central and damning role in opposing the government of the United States by force, breaking the solemn oath that many of them loaned out as members of the United States Armed Forces,” prosecutors wrote.
Prosecutors are seeking prison terms ranging from 10 to 21 years for eight other Oath Keepers defendants convicted at trial.
The sentencing recommendations come a day after jurors in a separate case convicted four leaders of another extremist group, the Proud Boys, including former national president Enrique Tarrio, of seditious conspiracy. The Proud Boys have been accused of a separate plot to forcibly keep Donald Trump in power after his defeat in the 2020 election.
Stewart Rhodes is scheduled to be sentenced on May 25. Lawyers for Mr. Rhodes have not yet filed documents indicating how long they will ask the judge to impose. They vowed to appeal his conviction.
Prosecutors built their case around dozens of cryptic messages and other communications in the weeks leading up to January 6, showing Mr. Rhodes rallying his supporters to fight to defend Mr. Trump and warning them that they may need to “rise in insurrection” to defeat Joe Biden if Donald Trump does not act.
Mr. Rhodes, who did not enter the Capitol, was cleared of two other conspiracy charges but found guilty of obstructing Congress’ certification of Mr. Biden’s election victory.
The Yale Law School graduate and former Army paratrooper, who testified on the stand at the trial, insisted there was no plan to attack the Capitol and said that the Oath Keepers who did so acted on their own. Mr. Rhodes said the only mission of the Oath Keepers that day was to provide security for Mr. Trump’s ally Roger Stone and other prominent figures during pre-riot events.