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Prosecutors Take Aggressive Sentencing Stance on Oath Keepers

As a judge prepares to begin sentencing nine members of the Oath Keepers paramilitary group for their roles in the Jan. 6, 2021, insurrection, federal prosecutors' sentencing demands are both aggressive reads of the federal sentencing guidelines and a long shot, in light of comparable cases in the past, Lawfare reports. The government seeks 25 years imprisonment for the group’s founder and leader that day, Elmer Stewart Rhodes III, and sentences ranging from 10 to 21 years for the other eight. Six of those sentences, if imposed, would become the longest to date for any Capitol Siege rioter.


The sentences, which will be imposed by U.S. District Judge Amit Mehta of Washington, D.C., raise difficult questions with no close precedents. Six of the Oath Keepers were convicted of seditious conspiracy. All 15 of the previous seditious conspiracy cases sentenced since the guidelines took effect in 1987 have centered on different provisions of the law, concerning "levying war" against the U.S., while the Oath Keepers' charges were akin to obstructing official proceedings, a distinction that could prove meaningful in the Oath Keepers cases. None of the nine Oath Keepers being sentenced has any prior criminal convictions deemed relevant by the Guidelines. None were charged with assaulting officers. The government's sentencing memorandum argues the defendants' offenses "are unlike any others" stemming from the Capitol attack, and "align much more closely with the acts of terrorism for which other courts have imposed lengthy sentences in other seditious conspiracy cases." The key distinction, prosecutors argue, was the Oath Keepers' conspiracy in advance of Jan. 6, which they used to seek terrorism enhancements under the guidelines. A close examination of the evidence against each of the defendants shows how at least some of them don't deserve the harsher punishment sought by the government, the Lawfare article argues.

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