US District Judge Amit Mehta heard victim impact statements on Wednesday as he prepares to deliver the first Jan. 6 seditious conspiracy sentence to the Oath Keepers.
Prosecutors are seeking 25 years behind bars for Oath Keepers founder Elmer Stewart Rhodes and Florida chapter leader Kelly Meggs for seditious conspiracy. If imposed, the sentence would be the longest by far handed down among hundreds of J6 cases, for “plotting to block the transfer of power from President Donald Trump to President Joe Biden.”
The government is also insisting the judge apply enhanced penalties for terrorism, arguing the Oath Keepers sought to influence the government through “intimidation or coercion.”
Attorneys for Rhodes are urging the judge to sentence him to the roughly 16 months behind bars he has already served since his January 2022 arrest.
Rhodes and Meggs will be sentenced on May 25 at 9:30 am and 1:30 pm.
Police are seen shooting rubber bullets, sting balls and flash grenades at a moderately calm, unarmed crowd of demonstrators, in footage published by The Gateway Pundit last week. The government opened fire, escalating a typical rowdy protest into mayhem by using deadly force against nondeadly force, defense attorney Steven Metcalf explained.
Members of the Oath Keepers are seen attempting to rescue police officers in the Capitol on Jan. 6, in footage sent to TGP on Wednesday from Condemned USA, a non-profit assisting J6 defendants with legal expenses.
In victim statements submitted to Judge Mehta, law enforcement officials painted a much different picture, portraying themselves as casualties of a deadly insurrection.
As Metha prepared to hand down sentences in the landmark January 6 case, he heard the victim statements from cops and government workers who claimed they are still haunted and traumatized following the riot.
Metropolitan Police Officer Christopher Owens, who walked past Oath Keepers members in the Senate hallways as protesters entered the building, describes how his wife burst into tears when she saw the blood and bruises on his arms.
“We experienced physical trauma, emotional trauma and mental trauma,” Owens wrote. “The traumas we suffered that day were endless.”
Terri McCullough, chief of staff to then-House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, alleged that protesters were trying to hunt down Pelosi as her staffers hid in a conference room for hours.
“The defendants violated our workplace, our government and our democracy. Democracy succeeded,” McCullough wrote.
Capitol Police Special Agent David Lazarus, assigned to Pelosi’s 2021 security detail, claimed some of his co-workers quit because of what they experienced.
“Lives and careers have been ruined and will never return to normal,” he wrote.
Capitol Police Officer Harry Dunn, who crossed paths with Oath Keepers in the Rotunda, told the court rioters turned the “citadel of American democracy” into a crime scene.
Dunn said he lives in “constant fear for my daughter, my loved ones, and myself” following Jan. 6, and has become a “shell of his former self” and dreads coming to work every day, but the seditious conspiracy conviction and potential terrorism enhancements helped him find “a little relief.”
“I am profoundly grateful that in this case, justice has been done,” he wrote.
Dunn used to love going to work at the Capitol, he writes in his victim impact statement. But now, he dreads it. The halls remind him of everything he saw, and experienced. He has to reopen these wounds every time these defendants refuse to take responsibility for their actions. pic.twitter.com/dijkaC0aCE
— Brandi Buchman (@Brandi_Buchman) May 24, 2023
Virginia Brown, a Senate chamber assistant that helped carry a box of electoral votes across from the Rotunda on Jan. 6, said she kicked off her shoes so she could run faster as she “feared for her life” as the “mob” breached the Capitol.
“I constantly relive the memories of that day,” she said. “I cannot measure how many hours of sleep I’ve lost.”
Prosecutors leveling the Civil War-era charges argued for weeks that Rhodes and his “extremist group” plotted an armed rebellion to keep Joe Biden out of the White House.
Some Oath Keepers brought weapons to their hotels in Virginia but left the weapons behind when they traveled to DC. The government contends they stashed the weapons at the hotel for “quick reaction force,” to get weapons into the nation’s Capitol quickly.
The weapons were never deployed. None of the Oath Keepers are charged with assaulting officers—with or without a weapon. None of the Oath Keepers have any prior criminal convictions.
Rhodes did not go inside the Capitol.
** Please donate to the Stewart Rhodes Legal Defense Fund here if you can.
The government’s built its case against the Oath Keepers around dozens of encrypted messages and communications in the weeks leading up to Jan. 6 that showed Rhodes rally support for Trump.
In court filings, Rhodes’ attorneys contend all of Rhodes’s communications and statements are “protected political speech.”
“None of his protected speech incited or encouraged imminent violent or unlawful acts, nor were any likely to occur as a result of his speech,” they wrote. “In particular, nothing Mr. Rhodes wrote or published concerned the direct prevention of the transfer of power between then President Trump and President-elect Biden.”
Defense attorneys also rejected the government’s portrayal of the Oath Keepers as an extremist group, highlighting when its members provided community assistance after Hurricane Katrina and other major disasters.
When Rhodes took the stand at trial, he told jurors that there was never any plan to attack the Capitol and the Oath Keepers who did so acted on their own. His attorneys say they will appeal his conviction.
Among the nine convicted Oath Keepers, prosecutors are seeking the most severe enhancement for Rhodes.
Judges have yet to accept the Justice Department’s request to apply the “terrorism enhancement” in any Jan. 6 case, but its unclear whether lengthier sentences will be handed down for the seditious conspiracy, “terrorist” convictions.
“Prosecutors have sought a terrorism enhancement in four previous cases stemming from Jan. 6, but judges have rebuffed the invitation each time, not seeing a sufficient basis for singling out those defendants for such grave treatment. None of those earlier cases involved conspiracy, however—let alone seditious conspiracy,” Lawfare reports. “Without the enhancement, the guidelines counsel a sentence for Rhodes of 135 to 165 months (11.25 to 14 years). With the enhancement, his guidelines vault to 262 to 327 months (21.83 to 27.25 years).”
Just 15 people have been sentenced for seditious conspiracy since the US Sentencing Guidelines took effect in 1987, the publication notes. “All previous cases involved people prosecuted for conduct ‘tantamount to waging war against the United States,’ a term of art in the sentencing guidelines that the government concedes is not met here.”
The sentences for the Oath Keepers may set the precedent for how much time the government will seek for leaders of the Proud Boys, members of the pro-freedom group, who were convicted of seditious conspiracy on May 4.
Former Proud Boy national chairman Enrique Tarrio, one of the most high-profile J6 defendants, was not in Washington, DC on January 6.
Tarrio was arrested when he arrived in Washington DC on January 4 for burning a Black Lives Matter flag during a Stop the Steal rally on December 12. A judge ordered Tarrio to stay away from Washington. Law enforcement later said he was apprehended to help quell potential violence.
When Tarrio was released from jail on January 5, he met with Rhodes for the first time.
As TGP has reported, an FBI operative undercover as a Proud Boy drove him to a parking garage for a meeting with Oath Keepers. The FBI operative, Ken Lizardo, refused to testify about the meeting during the seditious conspiracy trial.
The Proud Boys are scheduled to be sentenced in August, but they have been notified that their sentencing could be postponed until next year as they endure a third year of solitary confinement at the Alexandria Detention Facility.