The leader of the Oath Keepers militia, Stewart Rhodes, has been sentenced to 18 years in prison for his role in a seditious conspiracy to instigate the pro-Trump violence that took place on January 6th. Matthew M. Graves, the federal prosecutor who has overseen the government’s investigation of the Capitol attack, stated that “more people were convicted of seditious conspiracy in connection with the siege of the Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021 than any other criminal event since the statute was enacted during the Civil War.” Rhodes’s sentencing was the most high-profile statement of accountability to date, after the incident that remains a dark element of American political history.
There have been over 1,000 criminal cases filed by the Justice Department against those involved in the attack on the Capitol, and the prosecution of Rhodes, who was accused of plotting to mobilize his followers into storming the Capitol, stood out. The judge who sentenced Rhodes expressed how serious these conspiracies are, calling them “among the most serious crimes that an individual in America can commit.”
Despite there now being 10 sedition convictions and four acquittals, and four more sedition charges avoided by defendants pleading guilty, many far-right groups continue to hold extremist ideologies. This creates concerns as both Donald Trump and Ron DeSantis of Florida have suggested they may issue pardons to many of those convicted of taking part in the events of January 6th. These defendants are often viewed by many on the right as “patriots” and “political prisoners.”
The prosecution of the far-right movements shows how federal law enforcement are responding to the insurgency. However, it does not yet answer who holds legal responsibility for an attack that was aimed at keeping the former president in office, despite losing the polls. If it can be argued that all it takes is a wink or a nod to join conspirators in a plot to violently oppose the government’s authority, then can it be possible to add a sedition charge against Mr. Trump?