Judge Delivers Harshest Sentence Yet for January 6 Defendant

The sentencing of Stewart Rhodes is a new chapter in the Biden administration’s historic targeting of political opponents.

By Hudson Crozier

What happened: Stewart Rhodes, leader of the right-wing Oath Keepers, was sentenced to 18 years in prison for his alleged role in the January 6, 2021, Capitol riot, the harshest sentence yet related to the attack. His most serious conviction was for seditious conspiracy, a Civil War-era charge.

For comparison: The last people convicted of seditious conspiracy were Islamic terrorists, including the man behind the 1993 World Trade Center bombing, which killed six people. Additionally, Rhodes received an equal or harsher sentence than individuals who were recently convicted of armed sexual abuse, distributing fentanyl, and distributing child pornography after being prosecuted by the same Washington, D.C., office of the Justice Department.

What exactly did he do? Rhodes repeatedly expressed a desire to violently resist the government to keep former President Donald Trump in office, according to testimony and group chats. None of his alleged crimes involved acts of violence, and he never entered the Capitol. Federal prosecutors nonetheless argued that his inflammatory words and actions were part of a concrete plan.

But they couldn’t prove it: Washington, D.C., jurors decided that Rhodes did not plan to disrupt the certification of Joe Biden’s presidential win but also convicted him of actually disrupting it, a “confusing” verdict, as The New York Times acknowledged. This incoherence and lack of evidence didn’t stop Judge Amit Mehta from declaring Rhodes “an ongoing threat and peril to our democracy and the fabric of this country.” Mehta, a Barack Obama appointee, even applied a “terrorism” enhancement to Rhodes’s sentence, setting a new precedent for January 6 cases.

Big picture: The Biden administration has made it clear through its rhetoric that it sees its political opponents as existential threats to America. In January 6 cases, liberal jury pools and sympathetic judges are helping the government carry out its new war on “terror.”