The article titled “Court Sentences Two Oath Keepers Leaders to 18 Years in Prison on Seditious Conspiracy and Other Charges Related to U.S. Capitol Breach” highlights the recent sentencing of Elmer Stewart Rhodes III and Kelly Meggs, leaders of the Oath Keepers, for their involvement in the breach of the U.S. Capitol on January 6, 2021. The court found that Rhodes and Meggs had been plotting for weeks to disrupt the lawful transfer of power following the 2020 presidential election. Rhodes received a sentence of 18 years in prison, the longest to date related to the Capitol attack, while Meggs was sentenced to 12 years. This landmark decision marks the first time a court has classified a defendant’s conduct in relation to the January 6 attack as terrorism, warranting an upward departure in sentencing. The article emphasizes the seriousness of their actions and the threat they posed to democratic institutions, and highlights the commitment of the Justice Department to hold those responsible for the attack accountable.
Court Sentences Two Oath Keepers Leaders to 18 Years in Prison on Seditious Conspiracy and Other Charges Related to U.S. Capitol Breach
Background of the Case
The sentencing of two leaders of the Oath Keepers, Elmer Stewart Rhodes III and Kelly Meggs, has concluded with both individuals receiving lengthy prison terms for their involvement in the seditious conspiracy to breach the U.S. Capitol on January 6, 2021. This case has been closely watched as it marks the first time that a court has found a defendant’s conduct in relation to the attack to be tantamount to terrorism, warranting an upward departure under the sentencing guidelines.
Sentencing of Elmer Stewart Rhodes III
Elmer Stewart Rhodes III, the founder and leader of the Oath Keepers, has been sentenced to 18 years in prison and 36 months of supervised release. This sentence is the longest to date related to the January 6 attack on the Capitol. Rhodes played a significant role in plotting and organizing the breach, and his actions disrupted the joint session of Congress that was in the process of counting the electoral votes.
Sentencing of Kelly Meggs
Kelly Meggs, the leader of the Florida chapter of the Oath Keepers, has been sentenced to 12 years in prison and 36 months of supervised release. Meggs was actively involved in coordinating and planning the Oath Keepers’ actions leading up to January 6, 2021. His sentence reflects the gravity of his role in the seditious conspiracy.
First Time Terrorism Upward Departure
The court’s finding that the defendants’ conduct was tantamount to terrorism is a significant development in this case. This ruling marks the first time that such an upward departure under the sentencing guidelines has been applied in relation to the January 6 attack. It underscores the seriousness of the defendants’ actions and the threat they posed to our democratic institutions.
Attorney General’s Statement
Attorney General Merrick B. Garland has acknowledged the grave threat posed by the actions of the Oath Keepers leaders. He emphasized that the Department of Justice proved at trial that the defendants had been plotting for months to violently disrupt the peaceful transfer of power. The Justice Department remains committed to holding those responsible for the attack on our democracy accountable for their actions.
U.S. Attorney’s Statement
U.S. Attorney Matthew M. Graves has affirmed the rule of law and highlighted the substantial consequences imposed on Stewart Rhodes and Kelly Meggs. He noted that the conviction of seditious conspiracy in connection with the siege of the Capitol on January 6, 2021, is a historic event, with more people convicted of this crime than in any other criminal event since the statute was enacted during the Civil War. This sentencing sends a clear message that acts of violence against our government and democracy will not be tolerated.
David Sundberg, Assistant Director in Charge of the FBI Washington Field Office, has condemned the violent criminal activity displayed at the U.S. Capitol on January 6, 2021, as a betrayal of democracy. He emphasized the FBI’s commitment to holding accountable those who sought to use force to stop the peaceful transition of presidential power. Sundberg reiterated the importance of upholding our democratic values and ensuring the safety and stability of our institutions.
Guilty Verdict and Convictions
Elmer Stewart Rhodes III and Kelly Meggs were found guilty on November 29, 2022, following an eight-week trial and three days of deliberations. Rhodes was convicted of obstruction of an official proceeding and tampering with documents and proceedings in addition to seditious conspiracy. Meggs was also convicted of conspiracy to obstruct an official proceeding, obstruction of an official proceeding, conspiracy to prevent an officer from discharging duties, and tampering with documents or proceedings. These convictions reflect the extensive evidence presented during the trial, which clearly demonstrated the defendants’ roles in planning and executing the attack on the Capitol.
Evidence of Oath Keepers’ Plotting
The government’s evidence in this case revealed that the Oath Keepers, a large but loosely organized collection of individuals associated with militias, began plotting to oppose the transfer of presidential power by force following the November 3, 2020, presidential election. Elmer Stewart Rhodes III, Kelly Meggs, and others coordinated their actions and planned to travel to Washington, D.C., on January 6, 2021, the date of the certification of the electoral college vote. The defendants and their co-conspirators employed various strategies to achieve their objectives, including organizing into teams prepared to use force, bringing weapons and paramilitary gear to the Capitol, and breaching the Capitol grounds and building to disrupt the certification process.
Actions of the Defendants and Co-conspirators
On the day of the attack, Elmer Stewart Rhodes III entered the restricted area of the Capitol grounds and directed his followers to meet him there. Kelly Meggs, along with other Oath Keepers, marched in a “stack” formation up the east steps of the Capitol, joined a mob, and made their way into the building. While some Oath Keepers breached the Capitol, others remained outside in quick reaction force (QRF) teams, prepared to bring firearms and other weapons into Washington, D.C., to support the use of force in obstructing the lawful transfer of power.
Timeline and Events of the U.S. Capitol Breach
On January 6, 2021, a large crowd gathered outside the Capitol as the joint session of Congress began. The crowd eventually broke through barricades, assaulted law enforcement officers, and forcefully entered the Capitol building. Elmer Stewart Rhodes III and Kelly Meggs played distinct roles in the breach, with Rhodes coordinating activities outside and directing his followers, while Meggs marched into the building with other Oath Keepers. The use of force and violence displayed during the attack on the Capitol demonstrated a blatant disregard for our institutions of government and democratic processes.
Arrest and Prosecution of Rhodes and Meggs
Elmer Stewart Rhodes III was arrested on January 13, 2022, in Texas, and Kelly Meggs was arrested on February 17, 2021, in Florida. The prosecution of these cases has been led by the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Columbia, with invaluable assistance from other U.S. Attorney’s Offices throughout the country. The FBI’s Washington Field Office has been at the forefront of the investigation, with support from various FBI offices nationwide. Over 1,000 individuals have been arrested in connection with the Capitol breach, and the investigation remains ongoing.
Investigation and Ongoing Cases
The events of January 6, 2021, have resulted in a comprehensive investigation that spans nearly all 50 states. More than 320 individuals have been charged with assaulting or impeding law enforcement officers, and additional arrests and prosecutions are expected. The FBI remains committed to uncovering the full extent of criminal activity related to the breach and holding all responsible parties accountable.
Contact Information for Tips
To aid in the ongoing investigation, the FBI encourages anyone with tips or information related to the Capitol breach to come forward. Tips can be reported by calling 1-800-CALL-FBI (800-225-5324) or by visiting tips.fbi.gov. The public’s assistance is crucial in ensuring that all individuals involved in this attack are identified and brought to justice.
In conclusion, the sentencing of Elmer Stewart Rhodes III and Kelly Meggs to lengthy prison terms sends a clear message that the actions of the Oath Keepers leaders were a grave threat to our democratic institutions. The court’s finding that their conduct amounted to terrorism reflects the seriousness of their actions and the need to hold them accountable. The Department of Justice, U.S. Attorney’s Office, and FBI remain committed to bringing all individuals responsible for the January 6 attack to justice and upholding the rule of law.