Capitol assault: far-right leader Stewart Rhodes sentenced to 18 years in prison

One of the figures of the American far right, Stewart Rhodes, was 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 « Oath Keepers » 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”.

Acts of a “terrorist” nature

The charge, which involves planning the use of force against the government, is punishable by up 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.

A premeditated and prepared act

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.

But only ten activists from far-right groups, six members of the « Oath Keepers » 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 eye patch and fiery rants, 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 “to have planned” the attack and argued that the « mission » 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”, has 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.

“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 judged “oppressive”.

Like other radical groups, this militia was seduced by Donald Trump’s anti-elite discourse 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 leader 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.

Source : Nouvelobs

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