(CNN) — Stewart Rhodes, the founder and leader of the Oath Keepers, was sentenced to 18 years in prison on Thursday for leading a far-reaching plot to keep then-President Donald Trump in power after he lost the 2020 election.
The sentence is the first handed down in over a decade for seditious conspiracy.
“A seditious conspiracy, when you take those two concepts and put it together, is among the most serious crimes an American can commit,” said District Judge Amit Mehta. “It is an offense against the government to use force. It is an offense against the people of our country.”
Mehta on Thursday previously ruled that Rhodes’ actions amounted to domestic terrorism.
“He was the one giving the orders,” Mehta said. “He was the one organizing the teams that day. He was the reason they were in fact in Washington DC. Oath Keepers wouldn’t have been there but for Stewart Rhodes, I don’t think anyone contends otherwise. He was the one who gave the order to go, and they went.”
Rhodes was convicted of seditious conspiracy by a Washington, DC, jury in November in a historic criminal trial that was a test of the Justice Department’s ability to hold January 6 rioters accountable and validated prosecutors’ arguments that the breach of the Capitol was a grave threat to American democracy.
The seditious conspiracy charge has rarely been brought in the century and a half that the statute and its forerunners have been on the books.
Prosecutors had asked Mehta to sentence Rhodes to 25 years behind bars, and to apply enhanced terrorism sentencing penalties.
“This is terrorism,” prosecutor Kathryn Rakoczy said Thursday.
“It is not blowing up a building directly or telling someone to blow up a building, but in light of the threat of harm and historic nature of attempting to stop the certification of an election for the first time in American history,” Rhodes and other Oath Keepers leaders should be punished more harshly, she said.
Rhodes, who was accused of leading dozens other individuals in a coordinated plot that culminated in the January 6 siege, was also found guilty of obstructing an official proceeding and tampering with documents.
Of those that Rhodes led, 22 have already been convicted of various federal crimes by a jury or guilty plea. Eight, including Rhodes’ codefendant Kelly Meggs who will be sentenced later Thursday as well, were convicted of seditious conspiracy.