Stewart Rose, founder of the extremist group Oath Keepers, said on Thursday that supporters stormed the Capitol in an attempt to keep President Joe Biden out of the White House after winning the 2020 election. He was sentenced to 18 years in prison for orchestrating a week-long conspiracy.
Rose, 58, was the first person to be sentenced after being convicted of a sedition conspiracy charge in the Jan. 6, 2021 riots, and his prison term has been linked to hundreds of Capitol riots. It is the longest sentence ever handed down.
This marks another milestone in the Justice Department’s massive Jan. 6 investigation. Officials face inflammatory conspiracy convictions against top leaders of two far-right extremist groups who have come to Washington ready to fight at all costs to keep President Donald Trump in power. connected.
“The Department of Justice remains committed to holding those criminally responsible for the Jan. 6 attack on our democracy to account,” Attorney General Merrick Garland said in a statement.
In the Jan. 6 lawsuit, for the first time, a judge agreed with the Justice Department that Rose’s conduct should be punishable as “terrorism,” increasing the recommended sentencing based on federal guidelines. The decision could foreshadow long prison sentences for other far-right extremists, including former Proud Boys leader Enrique Tario. They too have been convicted of offenses rarely committed.
Before announcing Rose’s ruling, U.S. District Judge Amit Mehta said the defiant Rose was a continuing threat to the United States and democracy. Expressing concern that what happened on January 6th could be repeated, the judge said Americans “will collectively hold their breath every time an election approaches.”
“You’re smart, you’re charismatic, you’re persuasive, and frankly, that’s what makes you dangerous,” the judge told Rose. “The moment you are released, whatever it is, you will be ready to take up arms against the government.”
Rose did not use the opportunity to speak to the judge to express remorse or plead for leniency, instead claiming he was a “political prisoner” and criticizing the prosecution and the Biden administration, arguing in January. He tried to downplay his actions on the 6th.
“I am a political prisoner and, like President Trump, my only crime is to stand against those who destroy our country,” said Rose, who appeared in federal court in Washington in an orange prison uniform. It is.”
Mehta said Rose was indicted not because of his political beliefs, but because of what the judge described as a “crime against the public.”
“Mr. Rose, you are not a political prisoner,” said the judge.
Florida chapter leader Kelly Meggs, another Oathkeeper convicted of sedition conspiracy along with Rose, was sentenced to 12 years in prison late Thursday.
Megs said he regretted being caught up in the riots that left “a dark eye on the country”, but insisted he never intended to enter the Capitol.
The judge acknowledged that Megs did not pose an ongoing threat to the country like Rose did, but said, “You cannot resort to violence just because you disagree with who was elected.”
Other Oathkeepers are due to be sentenced on Friday and next week.
A jury in Washington, DC found Rose guilty of leading a conspiracy to coercively obstruct the transfer of presidential power. Prosecutors say Mr. Rose and his supporters recruited members, amassed weapons, set up “ready force” teams in Virginia hotels, and sent them to the capital when necessary to support the conspiracy. claimed to be able to carry a gun. Weapons were never deployed.
It was one of the most significant government-led Capitol riots, and the government believes that attacks by right-wing extremists like the Oathkeepers were not a sudden protest, but weeks of protests. I have tried to prove that it is the culmination of They are plotting to overturn Biden’s victory.
Rose’s arrest in January 2022 culminated in a decades-long trajectory of extremism that included armed clashes with federal officials at Bundy Ranch, Nevada. After founding the Orth Keepers in 2009, Yale law graduates turned it into one of the largest far-right rebel militias in the United States, but the arrest of the Orth Keepers appears to have weakened the organization. is.
The judge dismissed the prosecution’s request for so-called “terrorism enhancement” (which could lead to longer prison terms), under the allegation that the Oath Keepers tried to influence the government through “intimidation or coercion”. agreed. Six cases have previously denied such requests.
Prosecutors had sought 25 years in prison for Rose, arguing that a longer prison term is needed to deter future political violence.
U.S. Assistant Attorney Kathryn Rakozi noted that Rose repeated lies in interviews and speeches from prison that the 2020 election was stolen and said there would be another election in 2024. . Prosecutors said Rose had called for a “change of government” in remarks made a few days ago. .
Rose, who lives in Granbury, Texas, plans to appeal the conviction.
Attorney Philip Linder told the judge that prosecutors were unfairly trying to make Rose the “face” of Jan. 6, “if they really wanted to” block Congressional approval. He added that he could have had more Orthkeepers come to the Capitol. vote of the electoral college.
“If you want to put the face of J6[January 6th]you’re going to put your face on Trump, the right-wing media, the politicians, everyone who has spun that story,” Linder said.
Rose’s verdict could hint at the punishment prosecutors are seeking for Tario and other Proud Boys leaders who were convicted of seditious conspiracy. They are expected to be sentenced in August and September.
The Oathkeepers said they never planned to attack the Capitol or prevent Congress from recognizing Biden as winning. The defense sought to seize the fact that the Orth Keeper’s message did not give a clear plan for the attack on the Capitol. But prosecutors said the Oath Keepers and others saw an opportunity to further their goal of preventing the transfer of power and took action when the mob began storming the building.
Messages, recordings and other evidence presented at the trial showed that Mr. Rose and his supporters viewed the prospect of a Biden presidency after the 2020 election as a threat to the country and their way of life. It shows that he is getting more and more angry. In an encrypted chat two days after the election, Mr. Rose called on his supporters to prepare “mind, body and spirit” for “civil war.”
By Thursday, the longest sentence in more than 1,000 Capitol riots was 14 years in prison for a man with a long criminal record who attacked police officers with pepper spray and chairs as they stormed the Capitol. More than 500 of the defendants were sentenced, more than half to prison terms, and the rest to probation or house arrest.
Mr. Richer reported from Boston.