The Department of Justice (DOJ) has filed appeals against eight sentences handed to members of the Oath Keepers for their roles in the January 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol—including an appeal challenging the prison term handed to the group’s founder, Stewart Rhodes.
Rhodes was sentenced to 18 years last month on charges of seditious conspiracy, the longest conviction doled out for members of the far-right militia who participated in the pro-Trump riot. Other members of the group who’ve been sentenced include Joseph Hackett, Kenneth Harrelson, Kelly Meggs, Roberto Minuta, David Moerschel, Edward Vallejo and Jessica Watkins. In the move marking the DOJ’s disappointment by the punishment levels imposed by the court, it issued appeals on Wednesday for all of the Oath Keepers’ sentences.
Prosecutors in Rhodes’ case had originally recommended a 25-year prison stint for his role in the attack, and the U.S. Sentencing Commission recommends a prison sentence from 21 to 27 years, based off Rhodes’ “offense level.” As Politico legal correspondent Kyle Cheney noted on Twitter, “All of the sentences, even Rhodes’, were well below what the sentencing guidelines called for.”
“This is very surprising,” wrote former federal prosecutor Andrew Weissmann, who responded to Cheney’s report regarding the DOJ’s appeal. “Appeals of sentences by the [government] are rare. Note: not a lot of political skin to lose by bringing this appeal.”
Former federal prosecutor and legal analyst Joyce Alene echoed that the federal appeals were “unusual,” writing on Twitter that while the government “can object to procedural or substantive flaws at sentencing, the cases are hard to win.”
“Strong sign DOJ wants clear precedent for long sentences for those even more responsible for the insurrection [than] the Oath Keepers,” Alene added.
Some members of the Oath Keepers were handed much shorter prison sentences than originally sought by federal prosecutors. Minuta—who was convicted of seditious conspiracy charges in January alongside Moerschel, Hackett and Vallejo—was handed a 4 1/2-year sentence, while the DOJ originally requested 17 years.
In a rare occurrence, one member of the far-right group, James Beeks, was acquitted of both felony charges he faced in connection to January 6. He opted to represent himself in the trial and is only the second person to be acquitted in the Capitol riot.
Oath Keeper Donovan Crowl, who faced the same charges as Beeks but retained an attorney in his case, was convicted of both charges. U.S. District Judge Amit Mehta handed out both rulings in a Washington, D.C., court on Wednesday.
Newsweek has reached out to the DOJ via email Wednesday night for comment.
Last week, Rhodes issued a warning to former President Donald Trump that he likely will face a similar legal fate as those who have been convicted for their roles in January 6. The former president faces 37 federal felony counts in connection to his handling of classified documents and has a pending investigation led by Special Counsel Jack Smith over his activities surrounding January 6.
“They’re going to do the same thing to President Trump that they did to me,” Rhodes told The Washington Times while being held in isolation at the D.C. Department of Corrections Central Detention Facility.
“You’re going to get railroaded,” he added in a direct message to the former president. “You’re going to be found guilty if you try to go to trial. So, everyone’s been demoralized and more likely to take a plea deal and agree to ‘test-a-lie’ against President Trump.”
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