The leader of the extreme right-wing militia “Oath Keepers” has been sentenced almost two years after the storming of the US Capitol. As US media reported from the court in the US capital Washington on Tuesday, a jury found Stewart Rhodes guilty of “seditious conspiracy” – a crime rarely recognized in the country’s judicial history.
Rhodes was accused, along with co-defendants, of plotting to use force to prevent the transfer of power after the 2020 presidential election. After three days of deliberations, the jury found Rhodes, 56, of Texas, guilty of three counts, including obstruction of an official process and tampering with documents. Another defendant, Kelly Meggs, was found guilty of sedition charges. However, three other defendants were acquitted of these charges.
Maximum penalty of up to 20 years imprisonment
Earlier this year, the US Department of Justice filed charges against Rhodes and other participants in the Capitol attack. Among other things, they planned to travel to Washington on January 6, 2021 and organized weapons, paramilitary equipment and training in combat techniques in advance, it said. Several of the defendants had entered the Capitol themselves, while others had taken care of further coordination outside the seat of Congress and partly outside the city. The Justice Department said the maximum penalty could be up to 20 years in prison for “seditious conspiracy.” Rhodes’ sentence will be determined at a later date.
The guilty verdicts are seen as a major victory for the Justice Department in its effort to hold individuals accountable for the storming of the Capitol. Supporters of then President Donald Trump stormed the Houses of Parliament in Washington on January 6, 2021 to prevent Democrat Joe Biden’s November 2020 election victory from being confirmed. Five people died in connection with this. 140 police officers were attacked and more than $2 million in damage was caused to the building.
Attack on the heart of US democracy
The attack on the heart of US democracy shook the country. Trump had previously incited his supporters in a speech. Rhodes claimed during the trial that he had no plans to attack the US Capitol. “On January 6, our democracy was attacked,” Assistant US Attorney Kathryn Rakoczy said in her closing argument. “For these defendants, it was ‘everything we trained for,'” Bloomberg said.
During the trial, the defendants testified that they had no malicious intent and had traveled to Washington to protect prominent figures at pro-Trump events. They also claimed that the so-called rapid reaction force, which was armed with firearms, was only for emergencies, such as an attack by left-wing activists or if Trump invoked a law they thought he would give them the power to act as a militia, according to Bloomberg.
Two other seditious conspiracy trials are pending, involving the Oath Keepers and another far-right group called the Proud Boys.