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Oath Keepers militia founder and former Granbury resident Stewart Rhodes was sentenced Thursday to 18 years in federal prison for seditious conspiracy after playing a leading role in the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the U.S. Capitol in an effort to keep Donald Trump in office.
Rhodes and other members of the right-wing Oath Keepers played a crucial part in the violence that broke out at the Capitol and stashed weapons around the Washington, D.C., area in the expectation that Trump would declare martial law.
Leaders of the group, which includes military veterans and active-duty law enforcement as members, hoped they’d be deputized by the former president and discussed plans for a “civil war” if Democrat Joe Biden’s win was certified that day by Congress. The day of the insurrection, Rhodes and other Oath Keepers also discussed providing security to Republican officials, including Rep. Ronny Jackson, R-Amarillo.
Rhodes founded the group in 2009, after the election of former President Barack Obama. In November, a jury found him and other Oath Keeper leaders guilty of seditious conspiracy.
Rhodes has routinely referred to himself as a “political prisoner” whose “only crime is opposing those who are destroying our country” and has compared himself to a Jew living in Nazi Germany.
At a Thursday sentencing hearing, U.S. District Judge Amit Mehta condemned those claims and said Rhodes poses “an ongoing threat and peril to our democracy and the fabric of this country.”
“For decades it is clear that you wanted the democracy in this country to devolve into violence,” Mehta said, according to ABC News. “You're not a political prisoner. You're here because 12 jurors in D.C. who acquitted you of multiple counts found you guilty of sedition.”
The sentencing is a crucial win for prosecutors who, for decades, had shied away from pursuing seditious conspiracy cases after a series of humiliating acquittals of white nationalists in the 1980s and 1990s. Federal prosecutors recently won a similar case against members of the Proud Boys, the violent group that was key to the outbreak of violence at the Capitol.
The Jan. 6 insurrection was fueled and fomented with significant help from Texans such as Rhodes, InfoWars host Alex Jones, Dallas lawyer and election fraud conspiracy theorist Sidney Powell and Ali Alexander, the Fort Worth-based “Stop the Steal” activist who is reportedly under investigation in Colorado for allegedly soliciting nude photos from teen boys.
Texas also has the highest number of Jan. 6 defendants. Among the at least 75 Texans charged so far are Kellye SoRelle, a Granbury attorney who represented the Oath Keepers after meeting Rhodes at a COVID-19 lockdown protest; Wylie resident Guy Reffitt, who prosecutors allege “lit the match” of the riot at the Capitol; and Joshua Lollar, an Army veteran from Spring who was sentenced to 30 months in prison on Tuesday.
Many of the defendants have cited Trump’s lies about widespread election fraud as key reason for their involvement in the insurrection. Despite that, such claims continue to be promoted by top Texas Republicans.
Last year, the Republican Party of Texas codified election denialism into its platform after delegates at the state convention voted to declare that Biden was not the legitimate president. And Republican leaders such as Attorney General Ken Paxton, Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick and Agriculture Commissioner Sid Miller have helped spread a debunked conspiracy film that claims there was widespread fraud in the 2020 contest.
A 2022 NPR investigation also found that, in the 18 months after the insurrection, dozens of conservative groups in Texas hosted prominent election deniers.
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