The sentencing for Oath Keeper founder Elmer Stewart Rhodes began at 9:30 am.
US District Judge Amit Mehta, presiding over the Oath Keepers seditious conspiracy trial, evaluated the “terror enhancement” penalties the government is seeking to justify keeping Rhodes behind bars for 25 years on Thursday morning during the sentencing hearing.
At 1:30 pm, US District Judge Amit Mehta, presiding over the Oath Keepers seditious conspiracy trial, will begin sentencing for Florida Oath Keeper Kelly Meggs.
At about 1:30pm, USDJ Amit Mehta will begin the sentencing hearing for FL Oath Keeper Kelly Meggs, for whom the govt seeks 21 years. I’ll be here for that, too.
— Roger Parloff (@rparloff) May 25, 2023
The government sought “terror enhancements” for all 9 of the first Oath Keepers being sentenced. The government has sought the terrorist penalties in four other J6 cases, but judges have rebuffed each time.
On Wednesday, Judge Metha held a sentencing-related hearing in which five witnesses, government workers and law enforcement officials, provided testimony about how they are traumatized by the “mob of insurrectionists storming the Capitol.”
The government is caught on camera in numerous videos published by The Gateway Pundit using deadly force against unarmed protesters. In footage published last week by TGP, cops are seen sniping rubber bullets and sting balls from an incline on the Capitol Steps and throwing flash grenades at the moderately calm protesters who knocked over a back rack security barrier as they approached the Capitol building.
The witnesses omitted details about the lethal force cops used against protesters as they testified about how they are still haunted by the Capitol riot.
Capitol Police Officer Harry Dunn claims he is, “Still dealing with threats against my life and the lives of my loved ones for simply doing my job on January 6.”
“Why am I and my fellow officers still called liars and traitors?” Dunn told the judge. “Why must I suffer two and a half years later? While I will always live with the mental scars of January 6, I find a measure of relief in the jury’s guilty verdict: relief that my fellow officers and I did not suffer in vain; relief that what I was protecting on January 6 was worth defending; and relief that, in the end, our American system of justice prevailed and thus Court will administer accountability.”
Court reporter Roger Parloff describes their accounts as peculiar:
“It is very striking when huge, tough men like USCP officer [Dunn] & MPD officer Chris Owens begin to present their statements and then choke up or break into tears outright when they remember that day,” Parloff tweeted from the media room of the Barry Prettyman Federal Courthouse, where nearly all J6ers are tried.
“Ofc Owens apologized at some point for crying & Judge Mehta quickly told him no apology was needed. He thanked each of the five witnesses for their statements & added words that were hard to hear from the gallery…The victims aren’t sworn in and don’t speak from the witness box. So they face away from the gallery. Their colloquy with the judge can be hard to hear,” he wrote. “Judge Mehta thanked the witnesses for their services and I thought he thanked one for his heroism but I may have made that up.”
J6 defendants detained in the DC jail, where Rhodes has been transferred during the sentencing hearing, called TGP on Wednesday. While Rhodes has managed to raise money for his attorney fees, he has not received donations to his GiveSendGo account for over a year and no longer has funds for commissary. Food served in the jail is inedible, typically moldy and rotten. Inmates rely on Ramen, bags of chips, and a package of refried beans for nourishment, which Rhodes can no longer afford. Phone and monthly bills that he has in the world. Court payments mortgage.
“it cost money to use the phone it cost money to feed ourselves the commissary I can only imagine what kind of bills he has in his own life that he still has to keep up. These lawyers accept the donations but the J6er is left out to dry, in Rhodes’ case specifically. refried beans, ramen noodles, and powdery dried corn, toothbrushes, hygiene products stamps, batteries for AM FM radio.
Judge Metha, Rhode’s sentencing hearing, 11 am:
“The defense claim that evidence showed no conspiracy to oppose the transfer of power after the election. That’s contrary to what the jury found. There’s also a defense claim that QFRs [quick reaction forces — the arsenals in VA hotels] were to be defensive forces…Abundant evidence from which the jury concluded otherwise.
“Defense makes contention that Rhodes did not instruct Oath Keeper Kelly Meggs or other Oath Keepers to enter the Capitol. There is an abundance of evidence to the contrary…Defense points out that gun purchases were legal. True, but beside the point. The purpose of buying the guns was to oppose the authority of the US and to create an arsenal for that purpose.
Applying level 3 enhancement to the sentence depends on whether the Oath Keepers “caused” what happened on January 6, Mehta explained.
“I think this is circumstances were a strict but-for test is not required in order to carry out purposes of sentencing commission…Causation, cause met in this case and therefore the 3 level-enhancement will be applicable in this and the other matters.”
Judge: Two important issues. 1. Mr. Rhodes stands convicted of seditious conspiracy. 2. The facts I recited yesterday — not going to recite again today — al those facts and inferences I drew yesterday (with one exeception) I’m incorporating into the record. Some broad strokes of my findings to preponderance of evidence. Mr. Rhodes was convicted of leading conspiracy to oppose by force lawful transfer of power after the 2020 election. Because Mr. Rhodes’ position at top of hierarchy of the Oath Keepers and conduct and actions and words, I ascribe actions, of all his co-conspirators to him as well…in furtherance of conspiracy and reasonably forseeable. He used violent imagery and language, drew comparison to the American revolution and civil war to inspire use of force…signal messages and actions of coconspirators showed mutual understanding that force might be required.
Understanding that force might be required, understanding that force might be used to oppose transfer of power including on J6 iteself. He and coconspirators brought weapons to an area. The fact that they never brought weapons into the city does not defeat the reason he brought them. There is ample evidence of conscious of guilt. He sought to cover his own actions and those of coconspirators. Within 48 hours he told everon on the Leadership Chat to delete signal chats and “shut the fuck up.” Why else?
With respect to question whether Rhodes gave an order: I suspect the jury did not find you guilty of conspiracy to obstruct because of some confusion about what was said in that phone call. That’s not where we are, not making findings beyond reasonable doubt.
It was reasonably forseeable to Rhodes that people were going in. He would’ve known the objective that day was to resist transfer of power. When things went to hell at the Captol he didn’t tell people to stay at bay. He told them to come in, ‘I’m on sout side of the Capitol.’ Why do that if he didn’t know they’d join the melee? It defies explanation. Why would he order and bring another 30 people to the Capitol if he didn’t want them to go in. Just not plausible. It was reasonably forseeable to him that people would have entered the building and use force once in the building. Clearly forseeable. No doubt in my mind. Closer question: Whether I can conclude by preponderance of evidence that he in fact approved their entry into the Capitol. Mr. Bright, you’re right, there’s evidence that could cause a reasonable jury to question that. But here’s what other evidence showed: This was an extremely hierarchical organization. Rhodes was the one giving orders. He was the reason they were in Washington DC on January 6. Given that, I find it hard to believe Meggs would’ve led those people in there without a green light from Rhodes. Why? 1. Hierarchical relationship. 2. Testimony at trial: Meggs was trying to get ahold of somebody and thought it was Rhodes. A second witness said Meggs was contemplating whether to go in. Then Caleb Berry said Meggs said: ‘We’re going in to stop the vote’ I don’t ascribe Meggs’ ability to do that without clearing it with Rhodes.
Rhodes not only knew but in some sense authorized it after. After January 6, through testimony from Dolan — hear heard Rhodes say, “That was pretty stupid.” Exact testimony was a little equivocal. Dolan: ‘ I believe he was talking to Kelly at the time but I’m not 100 percent sure.’ Greene’s testimony: Somebody mentioned somebody by name and said they went in and Steward said that was fucking stupid. So some evidence, but compare that to what he said afterward.
Not once did Rhodes say on signal chats that he regretted people going in. Not once. Then there’s the consciousness of guilt. Not just protecting others; protecting self. He’s a Yale law grad, pretty smart guy. I find he knew and approved entry into the Capitol. As to “due administration of justice”… the essence of seditious agreement represented threat to threat to others and members of Congress. Arsenal on the other side of the Potomac… conspiracy contemplated use of force… threatened physical harm to a staff member of Speaker. Rhodes is responsible for actual injuries to certain officers and threatened injuries; to officers Salke and Carrion near the east rotunda door. Officer Christopher Owens and others in the Senate hallway who faced Watkins. Officers Jackson and Martha Lazzo who were the object of Joshua James’ assault; threats to Pelosi staffers cowering in fear in the conference room where Meggs and others were outside. Proceedings were adjourned for some period of time. That’s substantial interference with administrative justice. It was obstructed.
Additional costs in terms of clean up and additional Secret Service personnel that had to come to the Capitol; substantial planning for events of January 6, even if just taking time from December 19 [Stop the steal rally] forward — hotels, bringing weapons, creating groups. The way people entered in a line. Whether you call it stack or not, that shows organization and planning. Rhodes was top of the chain, not just founder and leader. Oath Keepers don’t come to DC on January 6 but for Mr. Rhodes. He directed co-conpsirators to the Capitol and they abided.
He told them to come to the Capitol. There was testimony that he would have been the one to say whether to bring the arms in [to DC]. He referred to Minuta as “one of my most trusted men,” suggesting control. He designated Siekerman and Green and Meggs as operational leaders. So, level 4 enhancement for leadership applies. Not a close call.
The 6-level enhancement for terrorism — definition of seditious conspiracy meets that. Their objective was to affect the conduct of the government through intimidation and coercion by means of force. In terms of levels, I disagree that it’s an all-or-nothing proposition. [i.e., 12 levels or nothing]. It only establishes a cap, not a floor. I think the 6 levels is appropriate. How do I get there? There is separate and more serious conduct than what’s captured by guideline. This is an additional level of planning and targeting of the institution of American democracy at its most important point — its transfer or power. That’s what jury found and I agree with them. A 6-level enhancement is appropriate. What all of that means. Three other things: defense has requested 2 level reduction for acceptance or responsibility. I [reject] that. Mr. Rhodes’ comments since January 6 clearly demonstrate no acceptance of responsibility. Defense has requested downward departure for military service — doesn’t apply here. Rhodes served the country but not to an unusual degree. I’m not going to say there weren’t charitable purposes that the Oath Keepers [sometimes] undertook, but not extraordinary and doesn’t eclipse what happened on January 6.
Guidelines calculations is for seditious conspiracy: treason is analog but conduct not “tantamount to waging war” so all in agreement that guideline [begins with obstruction of justice] base offense is 14.
8-Level enhancement for causing or threatening injury. 3-levels for interference, etc, etc… total offnse of 39 guideline range: 262 to 327 months.
RAKOCZY: The government is asking 25 years incarceration, in middle of applicable guidelines the court just found. The court has found [what he did] is terrorism, conduct that threatened and continues to threaten rule of law in the United States. One of the the great tragedies to see ordinary Americans turn into criminals on Januray 6. Rhodes along with eight codefendants played a leadership role. He inspired more than 30 Americans to travel across the country to oppose by force election results from becoming final. Hundreds of people followed the Oath Keepers website where he place open letter essentially calling for revolution against the United States. I’d like to focus on this attempts to radicalize his co-conspirators. He doggedly drilled the lie of election fraud and false need to act like the Founding Fathers and save the Consitution and country. Witness after witness told us they were lost in 2020, former or aspiring military members.
You heard how Rhodes capitalized at their [weaknesses]. He gave their anger a direction, plotted to exploit thme.. seeking to radicalize and lead other in seditious conspiracy needed for general detterance and critically to ensure respect for rule of law. The theme running through this case is Rhode’s view. That his view of the law is supreme. That vigilantism, which is fatal to our system of government. A long sentence is also demanded by goal of specific deterrence.
J6 is neither the first or last time he will seek to organize political violence. He’s been calling for violent [resistance] to government for well over a decade. He continues to advocate for political violence from jail. Just four days ago, he addressed by phone a “freedom corner rally.” He warned those in attendance that: “They’re going to keep coming after those on the political right.” It’s a terror campaign against political opposition. It’s not going to stop until it’s stopped. We’re going to have to stop it. It’s going to take regime change.”
Most of us want to believe January 6 was an outlier. Not defendant Rhodes. The court should and must impose sentences of 25 years.
ATTORNEY PHIL LINDER, REPRESENTING RHODES: This court ha sat through three jury trials. You’ve read all the presentence reports. You have a good grasp of evidence ads you see it. No magic witness I can bring to change your mind. However, the government wants you to sentence Rhodes out of fear. Fear he’ll do it again. They want to make Rhodes the face of J6; want a 25 year sentence. Nothing has come close to that. Go back to the election in November. Rhodes is upset as are millions of Americans.
Rhodes didn’t plan event in November, December or January. He’s a participant. They want to say Rhodes caused this. Rhodes did not cause this. The court and the public need to look at who cause this. It wasn’t Rhodes. He was a participant. He didn’t create all that. He didn’t start the million MAGA march on November 14 or January 6. If he’d been hauled away, J6 would have still happened. Want to put a face on J6, put it on Trump, right-wing media, politicians. Rhodes was just a participant. He didn’t create it.
Of 450-some odde people sentenced, 17 people have gotten 60 months or more. Peter Schwartz got 170 months. He has 38 priors and assaulted police officers. Tom Webster, 120 months, assaulted police. Guy Reffitt, 87 months. The assaultive person is the dangerous person, not the person who runs at the mouth and riles people up. If you give Rhodes 25 years, does it box the court into giving the cooperators 15 years?
AUSA NESTLER: [references Patrick McCaughey, Webser and Albuquerque Head convicted of violent assaults, says none of them were plotting a conspiracy.]
LINDER: All the previous seditious conspiracy cases involved people plotting to kill Americans. Khan, Al-Timimi, Battle, Ford, Batsie. Rhodes didn’t plot to kill Americans. He has no criminal history. I’d ask for sentences of less than 60 months, sentences of more than 60 have been reserved for those who engaged in assaults. I’d ask that people not sentence Rhodes out of fear bur for how his actions fit into everything that happened that day.
RHODES: I’ll start by saying I’m a political prisoner, like President Trump and my only crime is opposing those who are destroying our country… using protected speech because of systemic violence of the left to shut down speech of Trump supporters. It started at the Trump inauguration. We started protecting vulnerable Trump supporters from attacks by Antifa — none of them was ever prosecuted to my mind — Obviously, seditious conspiracy, trying to stop the transfer of power To Trump. We’ve protected people outside Trump rallies from Antifa.
Antifa like to have unarmed victims. [Provides alleged examples.] We stepped across the country to protect unarmed or elderly back to their vehicles. We shouldn’t have to do that in this country. There are repeated systemic examples. One, in Berkeley, a transgender Trump supporter attacked. We stepped in. We did so peacefully. We deterred Antifa. That’s been our focal point. Unlike the characterization of the Souther Poverty Law Center, our people are nonviolent with zero record of actual use of force. We deter like other groups — unlike Proud Boys, who seek out street violence.
In DC, we did many security operations without incidents, without a hitch. We give our people the option to wear helmets and body armor because Antifa stabs people, throw bottles, [other things]. On January 6, I did not go inside, nor did I epect anyone else to. I had just spoken at the Latinos for Trump rally about a block north. When I was standing at the north east corner of the Capitol, that’s where the next event was going to be for Ali Alexander. Kelly Meggs’ team was escorting people from the ellipse to Ali Alexander’s event.
My concern was they would get caught up in turmoil outside the Capitol. I wanted to make sure they didn’t get caught up. That’s why I said, “If anyone is not still on duty come to us.” When they did come to me, they said they had gone inside and I said that was stupid. Mr. Green was actually in charge of assigning the teams that day. I never take personal leadership unless I have no choice. Green is a retired police officer. I put good men in charge, trust them to do the right thing. On January 6, I saw a problem — saw a riot happening. I didn’t want our guys to be a part of it, so, I said, “Come to me.” I wanted them to be with Mr. Green and me to keep our guys from being caught up with that.
Josh James was with the team protecting Roger Stone. I didn’t want them caught up with this. No Oath Keeper took part in any of the fighting. No Oath Keeper punched anyone, kicked anyone, pepper sprayed them, struck them with a stun gun. The worst thing an Oath Keeper did that day: Jessica Watkins pushed in a Senate hallway. She was leader her own little militia. The other one was Josh James, he lost his military bearing.
[I feel for the police who testified yesterday]. None of us caused that. It was bizarre to hear all that. I find it offense, frankly. This has been a surreal experience. I feel I’m the lead character in ” Kafka’s The Trial.”
[Rhodes objects to characterizations of the Oath Keepers as “white supremacists”]
I find it very offensive, all meant to smear the Trump supporters and link them to the Ku Klu Klan, which was a Democrat organization. The Oath Keepers — the New York Times blames the Oather Keepers and the Proud Bous. They hate us because we stopped the violence in the streets and they don’t like that.
JUDGE: I’m going to ask you to wrap up.
RHODES: After I saw we need “regime change” [in an interview four days ago] I said I hoped Trump won in 2024. Rakoczy took that out of context. Every J6er is a political prisoner, all being grossly overcharged. It’s not going to deter people. It’s going to make people even more [angry with the government.]
[Rhodes references TX v. PA original suit in Supreme Court claiming constitutional violations.]
I cannot ignore text of the Constitution under my oath. Characterizing Trump supporters as racists or fools is not going to help. I am the American Solzhenitsyn to expose the criminality of this administration.
[Rhodes concludes statement.]
JUDGE: [Short Break]
The guidelines that Judge Mehta has found to apply to Rhodes, 262 to 327 months, comes to 21 years 10 months to 27 years 3 months. Those were the guidelines the governement sought. Thus, it’s recommended sentence. Maximum for seditious conspiracy is 20 years, to achieve 25 he would have to impose some consecutive sentences.
[Judge Mehta returns to bench]
JUDGE METHA: Guidelines: 262 to 327 months, beggining with disparities: The defense has rightly brought forward a compilation of other sentences in J6 cases. The most serious was 14-plus years. Next most serious 10 years. Both involved serious assaultive conduct. I don’t find those cases to be useful comparators. None convicted of conspiracy let alone seditious conspiracy. I have considered two things though. Seditious conspiracy sentences in other cases. As you have pointed out some involved the actual targeting and killing of Americans. I am also considering need for proportionality with other members of this conspiracy. Mr. Rhodes, you were convicted of seditious conspiracy. You are a lawyer, you understand what that means. For those who are not, it’s true neither Rhodes nor a conspirator used weapons against a police officer that day. Here’s what the Supreme Court has said: Collective agreement presents greater danger to the public than individual criminal conduct, [cites Callanan v. US 364 US 587].
The danger a conspiracy creates is not confined to [facts that occur] seditious conspiracy. At the start of Civil War, treason was a primary tool available but the Constitution defined that narrowly. Congress enacted statutes, seditious conspiracy is among the most serious crimes and American can commit, offenses against the people of the country. It’s not confirmed to one day, actions of one day. It’s a series of acts in which you and others committed to use force including potentially with weapons against the government of the United States as it transitioned from one president to another. What was the motive? You didn’t like the new guy. I get it. Let me be clear, we don’t paint with a broad brush. Shame on you if you do. Just because you support the former president doesn’t meant you are a white supremacist. You voted for the other guy. But what we cannot have, absolutely cannot have, is a group of citizens who because they didn’t like the outcome of an election or because they didn’t think the law was carried out the way they think it should be, were prepared to take up arms to foment a revolution. That’s what you did. Those are your words, not mine. You’re not a political prisoner. You are here because 12 jurors in DC who acquitted you of multiple counts found you guilty of sedition. Jury of your peers, make no mistake.
Two enduring impacts of January 6: Now we all hold our breaths every time an election approaches. The enduring legacy is what we saw yesterday: Herorism, of police officers and people working on Capitol Hill that day to protect this democracy as we know it. They laid their bodies on the line. You talk about keeping oaths? Nobody is more emblematic than those police officers, Mr. Rhodes. Their heroism, stamina, courage — but for their acts, J6 couldn’t have been far blacker a day than one, already one of the blackest of this country.
[Mehta discusses history and characteristics of the Rhodes]
Rhodes is now 58. Has a wife, 6 kids. He is an educated, accomplished man. He served the country . Graduated from UNLV summa cum laude, Yale Law School, clerked fro the Arizona Supreme Court, founded the Oath Keepers? I don’t consider it white supremacist or racists. They have been civic minded in some instances. They have helped after hurricanes. None of that is in dispute. None to be questioned. It is not my job to pass judgement on the Oath Keepers organization, but to pass judgement on Rhodes, the founder of that organization. Regrettably, many of these positive attributes Have been turned against the US governement. There’s been a history of this. The Oath Keepers have been involved in standoffs with the government… the Bundy ranch. I was chilled by your remarks at that time: “It was going to be sheepdog versus sheepdog that day, b