HomePoliticsSedition Sentence for Oath Keepers Leader Marks Moment of Accountability - UnlistedNews

Sedition Sentence for Oath Keepers Leader Marks Moment of Accountability – UnlistedNews

Just hours after Stewart Rhodes, the leader of the Oath Keepers militia, was sentenced Thursday to 18 years in prison for his role in a seditious conspiracy to incite pro-Trump violence on January 6, Matthew M. Graves, the The federal prosecutor who oversaw the government’s investigation into the attack on the Capitol issued a statement with a fact that underscored the historic nature of the moment.

“More people were convicted of seditious conspiracy in connection with the siege of the Capitol on January 6, 2021,” Graves wrote, “than 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 in an effort to derail the peaceful transfer of power, Mr. Rhodes’ sentencing was the most high-profile statement of liability yet for an episode that seems certain to occupy a dark place in American history and remains a flashpoint in American politics.

Amid more than 1,000 criminal cases filed so far by the Justice Department against those who played a role in the attack, the prosecution of Rhodes, accused of conspiring to mobilize his supporters to storm the Capitol in two separate “stacks” of military ”, he highlighted in a way that the judge who sentenced him, Amit P. Mehta, embodied in court this Thursday.

“Mr. Rhodes, you are convicted of seditious conspiracy; you are a lawyer, you understand what that means,” Judge Mehta said. “Seditious conspiracy is one of the most serious crimes an individual in the United States can commit.”

Perhaps for that very reason, sedition charges have been used rarely for decades, reserved for select groups of defendants who prosecutors say uniquely threatened the government.

Sedition cases have been brought against communists, Islamic terrorists, and white nationalists. Some of the cases have been successful. But since the statute requires prosecutors to show an agreement to use violent force to oppose laws or government authority, a difficult hurdle to clear, many of the cases have failed.

All of the January 6 sedition trials were held just a short walk from where the attack itself occurred, in the federal courthouse just a few blocks up Constitution Avenue from the Capitol.

The proceedings have been widely viewed by scholars of political violence as a major effort by the Justice Department to respond to the assault with meaningful charges and to go as far as the law allows to set extremists toe-to-toe and defend the foundations of the democratic system.

There have been three separate sedition trials on January 6 so far, leading to a total of 10 sedition convictions and four sedition acquittals. Four more people pleaded guilty to sedition and avoided 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 spate of sedition convictions has done little to stem the larger wave of far-right radicalism. Just this month, a Texas man, a slave to Nazi ideology, fatally shot eight people in a shopping center outside of Dallas. In late April, as one of the sedition trials reached the jury, a neo-Nazi group waving a swastika flag protested a drag show in Columbus, Ohio.

At the same time, the two leading Republican presidential contenders, Mr. Trump and Governor Ron DeSantis of Florida, have suggested that they could grant pardons to many of those convicted of participating in the January 6 events. As Mr. Rhodes himself said at his sentencing hearing that those accused of the Capitol riots are increasingly viewed by many people on the right not as violent criminals, but as “patriots” and “political prisoners.” ”.

On Friday, two Oath Keepers who stood trial with Mr. Rhodes, Jessica Watkins and Kenneth Harrelson, received prison sentences of eight and a half years and four years, respectively, albeit on charges of obstructing the certification of the election, rather than of sedition. Four members of the Proud Boys convicted of sedition, including their former leader, Enrique Tarrio, are scheduled to be sentenced in August with a fifth member of the group found guilty on lesser conspiracy charges.

Throughout the trials, two involving the Oath Keepers and one that focused on the Proud Boys, defense attorneys repeatedly claimed that prosecutors proved their case only by expanding, or even distorting, the traditional understanding of conspiracy law.

The government, the lawyers noted, was never able to find irrefutable evidence indicating that either group had formed a clear plan or reached an explicit agreement to use force to stop the legal transfer of power on January 6. And that was despite collecting hundreds of thousands of internal text messages and turning several members of the groups into cooperating witnesses.

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

In response, prosecutors argued that all of the defendants had ties to comrades who had committed violence on Capitol Hill or had hidden an arsenal of weapons in Virginia. They also claimed that criminal conspiracies are rarely hatched in the light of day and that the Oath Keepers and Proud Boys deals to disrupt the democratic process were reached implicitly and tacitly.

“It can be a mutual understanding reached with a wink and a nod,” Conor Mulroe, a prosecutor in the Proud Boys trial, told the jury during closing arguments.

The fact that both judges and juries in Washington appear to accept this broad definition of conspiracy has given the Justice Department significant victories in the prosecution of the rioters who were on the ground on January 6.

But the prosecutions have done little to resolve a different question: What legal responsibility does Trump bear for an attack aimed at keeping him in office despite his defeat at the polls?

That issue is the focus of an investigation by Jack Smith, the special counsel appointed by Attorney General Merrick B. Garland. It is unclear what, if any, charges Mr Smith might bring against the former president in the January 6 inquest, but the outcome of the Oath Keepers and Proud Boys trials has led some lawyers and legal experts to question whether a similar approach could be used to build a sedition case against Mr. Trump.

If all it takes is a wink or a nod, the theory goes, to join the cabalists in a plot to violently oppose government authority, then would it be possible to build a seditious conspiracy connecting Trump to the mob that stormed the Capitol through his incendiary speeches and tweets?

More than a year ago, Judge Mehta himself ruled in three civil lawsuits seeking to hold Trump accountable for the violence of the attack on the Capitol, suggesting there was evidence that the former president had in fact entered into a conspiracy with the Oath. Keepers and Proud Boys on January 6.

More importantly, Justice Mehta also said it was plausible that Mr. Trump, largely based on his words, aided and abetted the common 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 sedition, cautioned that it might be difficult to use the Oath Keepers and Proud Boys cases as any kind of precedent to build a sedition. case against Mr. Trump.

“Trump is a defendant in a league by himself,” Rozenshtein said. “He’s also an agent of chaos and pinning down his actions in a way that he shows he did some planning has always been the hard part.”

Zach Montague contributed reporting.


Sara Marcus
Sara Marcushttps://unlistednews.com
Meet Sara Marcus, our newest addition to the Unlisted News team! Sara is a talented author and cultural critic, whose work has appeared in a variety of publications. Sara's writing style is characterized by its incisiveness and thought-provoking nature, and her insightful commentary on music, politics, and social justice is sure to captivate our readers. We are thrilled to have her join our team and look forward to sharing her work with our readers.


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