Oath Keepers Founder Stewart Rhodes Sent to Prison for 18 Years over Jan. 6 Plot to Storm the Capitol

“You pose an ongoing threat and peril to our democracy and the fabric of this country," a judge told the far-right leader before handing down the lengthy sentence

Aaron C. Davis/The Washington Post via Getty Images
Aaron C. Davis/The Washington Post via Getty Images

Elmer Stewart Rhodes III, the founder and leader of far-right militia group Oath Keepers, was sentenced to 18 years in prison on Thursday for his role in coordinating the violent Jan. 6, 2021, Capitol riot — one of the longest sentences handed down by the courts as a result of the insurrection.

Rhodes was charged with seditious conspiracy along with 10 others in January 2022, though he denied any wrongdoing. In November, a criminal trial in Washington D.C. resulted in a conviction.

In court, District Judge Amit Mehta told Rhodes, 58, per CNN: “I dare say Mr. Rhodes, and I never have said this to anyone I have sentenced, you pose an ongoing threat and peril to our democracy and the fabric of this country.”

While Rhodes had not physically entered the Capitol building, prosecutors accused Rhodes of guiding the rioters during the incident. Judge Mehta reportedly compared his actions on Jan. 6 to that of domestic terrorism, which factored into his sentencing.

Related: Founder of Anti-Government Militia Is Charged with Seditious Conspiracy in Jan. 6 Plot to Storm the Capitol

“He was the one giving the orders,” Mehta said, per the outlet. “He was the one organizing the teams that day. He was the reason they were in fact in Washington, D.C. Oath Keepers wouldn’t have been there but for Stewart Rhodes, I don’t think anyone contends otherwise. He was the one who gave the order to go, and they went.”

Kelly Meggs, the leader of Florida’s Oath Keepers chapter, also was sentenced to 12 years in prison.

Meggs had shown remorse for his actions in court and the judge remarked that he did not “pose the same kind of threat as Mr. Rhodes.”

Related: Family of 5 Sentenced After Crawling Through U.S. Capitol Window During Jan. 6 Riot

Responding to Rhodes' sentencing in a statement, U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland said, "Today's sentences reflect the grave threat the actions of these defendants posed to our democratic institutions. The United States proved at trial that the Oath Keepers plotted for months to violently disrupt the peaceful transfer of power from one administration to the next."

Prosecutors with the Justice Department argued that Rhodes had gone to the Capitol with violence in mind, citing his text messages to other Oath Keepers, and argued for Rhodes to be sentenced to 25 years, per NPR.

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Rhodes said he planned to appeal his conviction and sentence, the outlet reported.

In October, two parents and their three adult children were sentenced to 36 months of probation. They had been captured on camera using a window to enter the Capitol complex on Jan. 6, according to Department of Justice charging documents.

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