A federal judge in the United States (USA) sentenced Stewart Rhodes, leader of the extremist group Oath Keepers, to 18 years in prison for orchestrating the attack on the Capitol of that country in January 2021, after the electoral defeat of former President Donald Trump.
Rhodes, 58, is the person to receive the longest sentence for seditious conspiracy, of the hundreds of cases investigated prosecutors for the assault on the Capitol.
The judge in the case, Amit Mehta, agreed to apply aggravated sentences for "terrorism", a decision that heralds long sentences in the future for the perpetrators of other extremist acts.
"For decades, Mr. Rhodes, it is clear that you have wanted the democracy of this country to turn into violence," the judge said, quoted by PA.
Despite this, the man convicted today defiantly asserted before the court that he was "a political prisoner" and that, "like former President Trump," his only crime was to oppose "those who are destroying our country."
However, the judge refuted the assertion and rebuked him by agreeing that "you are not a political prisoner, Mr. Rhodes."
Prosecutors asked for a longer sentence
During the judicial process, the prosecutors argued that a long sentence was necessary to deter future political violence, especially when a presidential electoral process looms in which Donald Trump, also under investigation for the assault, expressed his intentions to run as a candidate.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Kathryn Rakoczy showed in interviews and speeches that Rhodes kept repeating from jail that the 2020 election was stolen and saying it would be in 2024 as well.
So they requested 25 years for the head of the Oath Keepers, arguing that he was the architect of a plot to forcibly disrupt the transfer of presidential power that included "quick reaction force" teams at a Virginia hotel to transport weapons to the nation's capital if necessary.
The Oath Keepers, or Guardians of the Oath in its Spanish translation, is an ultra-right-wing and anti-government paramilitary group that keeps the promise of "defending the US Constitution" against "all enemies". Founded by Rhodes in 2009.
Members of the military include active and retired US military, law enforcement and first responders. They have appeared, often heavily armed, at protests and political events.