Capitol Assault: Founder of Oath Keepers Militia Sentenced for 'Sedition'
Stewart Rhodes, founder of the Oath Keepers, a far-right American militia (Archives)
The founder of the Oath Keepers, Stewart Rhodes, and another member of this militia. on Tuesday became the first participants in the Capitol assault to be convicted of “sedition”.
After two months of trial and three days of deliberations in federal court in Washington, the 12 jurors on the other hand dismissed this extremely rare charge, punishable by 20 years in prison, for three other members of the Oath Keepers. /p>
The five defendants were convicted of obstructing an official process. Their sentence will be handed down in the spring of 2023.
This nuanced verdict, delivered after three days of deliberations, represents a victory for the prosecutors who have been investigating the attack on the January 6, 2021.
On that day, a crowd of supporters of Republican President Donald Trump had sown chaos and violence in the seat of Congress as elected officials certified the victory of his Democratic rival Joe Biden in the presidential election.
On January 6, 2021, supporters of Donald Trump stormed the Capitol in an effort to prevent certification of the 2020 election results, which confirmed the Republican President's defeat.
Since this coup, nearly 900 people have been arrested and around 100 have received prison sentences, including the perpetrators of violence against the police. However, so far no one has been convicted of sedition.
The charge, which stems from a law passed after the Civil War to repress the last southern rebels, involves planning the use of force to oppose the government. It differs from insurrection, which has a more spontaneous character.
Since sedition is difficult to prove, this charge has been used very little: the last Conviction for sedition was handed down in 1998 against Islamist militants responsible for a bombing of the World Trade Center in New York five years earlier.
During the trial, the prosecutors showed that Stewart Rhodes had started to rally his troops in November 2020. We are not going to get out of it without a civil war, he had written to them two days after the presidential election on an encrypted message.
Over the next few weeks, they said, he spent thousands of dollars buying night vision devices, weapons and ammunition. He then stored this arsenal in a hotel in the suburbs of Washington.
On January 6, helmeted and dressed in combat gear, several members of the Oath Keepers marched on the Capitol. Some had formed a column to break in and had turned back after receiving irritant gas. Others had entered its compound in military formation.
Stewart Rhodes had remained on the outside, but according to prosecutors, he had led his troops with a radio like a general on the battlefield.
Stewart Rhodes at a rally for Donald Trump in October 2019 in Minneapolis
On the witness stand, this tribune, recognizable by his black eye patch, denied having planned the attack and maintained that the mission of the Oath Keepers was to provide security for the demonstration called by Donald Trump to denounce alleged electoral fraud .
Maintaining to have been presented with a fait accompli, he considered stupid that Kelly Meggs, who heads the Florida chapter of the Oath Keepers and who has also been convicted of sedition, entered the Capitol.
It opened the door to our political persecution, and look where we are, said Stewart Rhodes in particular.
A former law graduate from Yale University, this 50-year-old with a winding career founded the Oath Keepers in 2009 by recruiting former soldiers or police officers, initially to fight against the federal state, judged oppressive.
Like other radical groups, this militia was seduced by Donald Trump's anti-elitist rhetoric and has fully embraced the allegations of voter fraud brandished – against all evidence – by the Republican.