(MENAFN- Newsroom Panama)
Stewart Rhodes, the founder of the far-right extremist group the Oath Keepers, has been sentenced to 18 years in prison after being convicted of seditious conspiracy for his role in the January 6 attack on the US Capitol.
Rhodes, 58, is the first Jan 6 defendant charged with the offense to be sentenced.
His 18-year sentence is the longest in a case related to the riots to date.
US District Judge Amit Mehta handed down the sentence on Thursday, after a hearing in which Rhodes said he was being treated as a "political prisoner", and compared himself to former president Donald Trump.
Rhodes insisted that he didn't enter the Capitol building or tell anyone else to go in on January 6
Moments before he was sentenced, Rhodes said: "My only crime is opposing those who are destroying our country,"
Rhodes' lawyer told the judge that prosecutors were unfairly trying to make Rhodes "the face" of the attack, and is planning to appeal the conviction.
Rhodes, 58, is the first Jan 6 defendant charged with seditious conspiracy to be sentenced.
Messages, recordings, and other evidence that was presented at Rhodes' trial showed he and his followers grew increasingly enraged at the prospect of a Joe Biden presidency after the 2020 election, viewing it as a threat to the country.
In an encrypted chat two days after the election, Rhodes told his followers: "We aren't getting through this without a civil war... Prepare your mind, body, and spirit."
During a conference call days later, Rhodes urged his followers to let Trump know they were "willing to die" for the country.
Pro-Trump supporters and far-right forces flooded Washington DC on January 6, 2021, to protest Trump's election defeat.
Mehta also sentenced co-defendant Kelly Meggs, the far-right group's former Florida Chapter leader also convicted of seditious conspiracy, to 12 years in federal prison.
Four other members who were found guilty of seditious conspiracy are set to be sentenced next week, while two others who were acquitted of the sedition charge but convicted of other offenses are scheduled to be sentenced on Friday.