The rebellion verdict for the leader of the Oath Keepers marks the moment of accountability (2023)


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The 18-year prison sentence handed down to Stewart Rhodes for a rarely charged crime underscores the efforts of the Justice Department and the courts to deal with the Capitol bombing.

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    (Video) Oath Keepers to receive first seditious conspiracy sentences over Jan. 6

The rebellion verdict for the leader of the Oath Keepers marks the moment of accountability (1)

A few hours later, Stewart Rhodes, leader of the Oath Keepers militia, arrivedsentenced to 18 years in prison on ThursdayMatthew M. Graves, the federal prosecutor who oversaw the government's investigation into the bombing of the US Capitol, has released an investigation into his role in a troubled plot to incite pro-Trump violence on January 6, which includes landmark The character of the attack on the Capitol characterizes the moment.

"Several people have been convicted of seditious conspiracy in connection with the siege of the Capitol on January 6, 2021," said Mr. Graves, "than for any other criminal event since the statute was enacted during the Civil War."

Nearly two and a half years after supporters of President Donald J. Trump stormed the Capitol to prevent a peaceful transfer of power, Mr. Rhodes' conviction was the most prominent account yet in an episode that is sure to occupy a dark place in history. American history. and remains a focal point in American politics.

Amid the more than 1,000 criminal cases brought so far by the Justice Department against those involved in the attack, Mr. Rhodes has been accused of conspiring to lead his supporters into two separate military "stacks" to mobilize the Capitol, which stood out as judge who sentenced him, Amit P. Mehta, put it in court Thursday.

"Mr. Rhodes, you have been convicted of seditious conspiracy. You are a lawyer and you understand what that means," Judge Mehta said. "Conspiracy is one of the most serious crimes a man can commit in America."

(Video) Oath Keepers founder sentenced to 18 years in prison for Jan. 6 attack

Perhaps that is precisely why sedition charges have been rare in recent decades, reserved only for select groups of defendants whom prosecutors believe posed a unique threat to the government.

Sedition cases have been filed against communists, Islamic terrorists and white nationalists. Some cases have been successful. But because the law requires prosecutors to prove an agreement to use force against the law or a government agency — a difficult hurdle to overcome — many cases have failed.

The January 6 riot trials all took place a short walk from the site of the actual attack — at the federal courthouse, just down Constitution Avenue from the Capitol.

Scholars who study political violence generally see the trial as a major effort by the Justice Department to respond to the attack with substantive charges and go as far as the law allows to keep the extremists at bay and lay the groundwork for it. democratic system.

As of January 6, there have been three separate sedition charges resulting in a total of ten convictions for sedition and four acquittals for sedition. Four other people have pleaded guilty to sedition and have escaped trial. All of these defendants were members of Mr. Rhodes' organization, the Oath Keepers or the Proud Boys, another prominent far-right group.


But even the deluge of hate speech convictions has done sohas done little to stem the rising tide of far-right radicalism. this month onlya Texas man addicted to Nazi ideologyHe shot and killed eight people at a mall outside Dallas. When one of the sedition cases came before the jury in late April, a neo-Nazi group raised a swastika flagprotested a drag showi Columbus, Ohio.

At the same time, the two leading Republican presidential candidates - Mr. Trump and Florida Governor Ron DeSantis - signaled that they may pardon many of those convicted of involvement in the events of January 6. Rhodes himself said at his sentencing that those accused of the Capitol uprising were increasingly seen by many on the right as "patriots" and "political prisoners" rather than violent criminals.

On Friday, two Oath Keepers were indicted with Mr Rhodes, Jessica Watkins and Kenneth Harrelson, sentenced to eight-and-a-half and four years in prison respectively - but accused of obstructing the confirmation of the election rather than instigating it.Four members of Proud Boys convicted of sedition- including their former leader Enrique Tarrio - will be sentenced in August along with a fifth member of the group who was found guilty of lesser conspiracy charges.

In each of the trials—two against the Oath Keepers and one against the Proud Boys—lawyers consistently argued that prosecutors only proved their case by expanding or even distorting traditional conspiracy law beliefs.

The lawyers pointed out that the government has never been able to find any clear evidence that either group had a clear plan or an explicit agreement to use force to stop the legitimate transfer of power on January 6. As it did so, it collected hundreds of thousands of internal text messages and made various members of the groups cooperating witnesses.

Lawyers also argued that the defendants who went on trial on January 6 were not particularly violent, especially compared to other rioters. Mr. Tarrio, for example, was in a hotel room in Baltimore, 50 miles from Washington, at the time of the attack.

In response, prosecutors argued all thatThe suspect had connections to associates who had actually committed violent crimesin the Capitol or had an armory ready in Virginia. They also argued that criminal conspiracies are rarely hatched in public and that the agreements of the Oath Keepers and Proud Boys to disrupt the democratic process were tacit and unspoken.

"It can be a mutual understanding reached with a wink and a nod," said Conor Mulroe, prosecuting the Proud Boys case.told the jury during closing argumentsS.

(Video) Oath Keeper Jessica Watkins sentenced to more than 8 years in Jan. 6 case

The fact that both judges and juries in Washington seem to have accepted this broad definition of conspiracy has given the Justice Department significant victories in the prosecution of the January 6 rioters at the site.

But law enforcement has done little to address another question: What legal liability does Mr. Trump have for an attack aimed at keeping him in office despite his election defeat?

That question is at the center of an investigation by Jack Smith, the special counsel appointed by Attorney General Merrick B. Garland. It is not clear what charges, if any, Mr. Smith may go against the former president in the Jan. 6 hearing, but the outcome of the prosecution of the Oath Keepers and Proud Boys has led some lawyers and legal experts to question whether a similar approach could potentially be used to establish a sedition case against Mr. Trump.

If it only required a wink or a nod, the theory goes, to plot with the conspirators to violently defy the authority of the government, it might be possible to devise a rousing plot to kill Mr. Trump connects with the mob that stormed the Capitol and his inflammatory speeches andthe tweet?

Justice Mehta made his own decision more than a year agohas given judgment in three civil lawsuitsis trying to hold Mr. Trump responsible for the violence in the attack on the Capitol, suggesting that there was evidence that the former president actually conspired with the Oath Keepers and the Proud Boys on January 6.

More importantly, Judge Mehta also said it was likely that Mr Trump - based largely on his words alone - aided and abetted the rank and file rioters who threatened or assaulted police officers that day.

But Alan Rozenshtein, a former Justice Department official who now teaches at the University of Minnesota Law School and has written extensively on rebellion, warned that using the Oath Keepers and Proud Boys cases as precedents could be difficult. against Mr. Trump.

“Trump is a unique defendant in a league of his own,” Mr. Rozenshtein said. "He's also an agent of chaos, and it's always been difficult to frame his actions in a way that shows he had any kind of planning."

Zach Montague contributed coverage.

(Video) Oath Keepers founder sentenced, record holiday travel, more | Prime Time with John Dickerson

Alan Feuer deals with extremism and political violence. He joined The Times in 1999. @Alan Fire

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(Video) Legal Expert: Oath Keepers Leader Stewart Rhodes Is Done And Looking For Way Out


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