(Luis Cornelio, Headline USA) The leader and founder of the pro-liberty Oath Keepers has been sentenced to 18 years in federal prison for protesting the certification of the controversy-ridden 2020 election on January 6. The verdict has ignited a wave of criticism from conservatives who view the punishment as harsh and excessive.
Stewart Rhodes, alongside Oath Keepers member Kelly Meggs, was convicted of seditious conspiracy in November 2022. Meggs was sentenced to 12 years followed by three years of supervised release, according to a DOJ announcement. Rhodes’s punishment marks the longest sentence slapped on a J6 protestor. Right before his sentencing, Rhodes called himself a “political prisoner” and voiced support for former President Donald Trump’s 2024 campaign.
An emotional Meggs, accompanied by his sister, brother and son, delivered a powerful statement, apologizing for the suffering the trials have caused to his family. NBC News reported that Meggs’s wife Connie was not present. Connie also joined the J6 protests and was convicted in a separate case.
“I want to apologize to those that I’ve disappointed and let down,” Meggs said. “My deepest regret is the pain and suffering I’ve caused my family.”
Rhodes, who said his only crime has been pushing back against those who are actively “destroying our country,” gained support on Twitter from several conservative personalities. Some believe the sentence was disproportionate to the supposed offense.
Conservative TV host Mark Levin blasted the DOJ’s hypocrisy in protecting BLM hecklers. “18 years? The same DOJ that fought for no prison time for two Antifa-BLM rioters who threw a Molotov cocktail into a NYPD cruiser?” Levin said on a Thursday tweet.
Echoing Levin’s comments, senior writer for The American Greatness, Julie Kelly, called the protectors “political prisoners'”.
Matthew Graves: “More people were convicted of seditious conspiracy in connection with the siege of the Capitol on January 6, 2021, than any other criminal event since the statute was enacted during the Civil War.”
Political prisoners. https://t.co/khsGx8fGXj
— Julie Kelly 🇺🇸 (@julie_kelly2) May 25, 2023
The controversial sentencing came after U.S. District Judge Amit Mehta, an Obama appointee, refused to move the trials of the Trump supporters out of Washington, D.C., following the televised Congressional hearings that painted the Oath Keepers as the culprits of J6.
Metha called Rhodes an “ongoing threat and peril to this country” during the sentencing, also adding, “Your are not a political prisoner, Mr. Rhodes.”
The conservative news platform Gateway Pundit joined the outcry behind the sentencing by highlighting that Rhodes did not riot inside the Capitol Building and bore no weapons, saying that Rhodes “ordered Oath Keepers to leave their weapons outside of DC, committed no violence, and did not organize a single event that day.”
The two leading Republican candidates for the president, Trump and Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis have said they will issue presidential pardons to those who have been politically persecuted for their roles in the January 6 protest.