The Justice Department is seeking 25 years in prison for Stewart Rhodes, the Oath Keepers founder convicted of seditious conspiracy for what prosecutors described as a violent plot to keep President Joe Biden out of the White House, according to court papers filed Friday.
A Washington, D.C., jury convicted Rhodes in November in one of the most consequential cases brought in the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the U.S. Capitol, when a mob of then-President Donald Trump’s supporters assaulted police officers, smashed windows and temporarily halted Congress’ certification of Biden’s victory.
Rhodes was convicted of plotting an armed rebellion with members of his far-right extremist group to stop the transfer of presidential power from Trump to Biden.
The sentencing recommendation comes a day after jurors in a different case convicted four leaders of another extremist group, the Proud Boys — including former national chairman Enrique Tarrio — of seditious conspiracy. The Proud Boys were accused of a separate plot to forcibly keep Trump in power after he lost the 2020 election.
Rhodes is scheduled to be sentenced later this month. Rhodes’ attorneys haven’t yet filed papers indicating how much time they will ask the judge to impose. They have vowed to appeal his conviction.
Prosecutors built their case around dozens of encrypted messages and other communications in the weeks leading up to Jan. 6 that showed Rhodes rallying his followers to fight to defend Trump and warning they might need to “rise up in insurrection” to defeat Biden if Trump didn’t act.
Hundreds of people have been convicted in the attack that left dozens of officers injured and sent lawmakers running for their lives. But Rhodes and a co-defendant — Florida Oath Keepers chapter leader Kelly Meggs — were the first Jan. 6 defendants to be convicted at trial of seditious conspiracy.
Rhodes, who didn’t go inside the Capitol, was cleared of two other conspiracy charges, but found guilty of obstructing Congress’ certification of Biden’s electoral victory.
The Yale Law School graduate and former Army paratrooper, who took the witness stand at trial, insisted there was no plan to attack the Capitol and said the Oath Keepers who did acted on their own. Rhodes said the Oath Keepers’ only mission that day was to provide security for Trump ally Roger Stone and other figures at events before the riot.