Stewart Rhodes: Yale Law Grad, Seditionist, Terrorist, and Ongoing Threat to Democracy

Judge Amit Mehta, one of the most measured judges in DC, just sentenced Stewart Rhodes to 18 years in prison.

In sentencing Rhodes, Judge Mehta observed,

I dare say Mr. Rhodes, and I have never said this to anyone I have sentenced: You, sir, present an ongoing threat and a peril to this country, the Republic and the very fabric of democracy.

Brandi Buchman will have a much more detailed report much later today, after fellow seditionist Kelly Meggs also gets his sentence.

Until then, consider this an thread for talking about Yale Law Grads who take up terrorism.

Update: Kelly Meggs, the car salesman who set up cooperation between the Oath Keepers, Proud Boys, 3 Percenters, and Roger Stone before the attack and led the main stack into the Capitol, was sentenced to 12 years.

I’m really grateful we’ll have more of Brandi’s evocative reports from the courthouse. If you’d like to support Brandi’s coverage, please consider donating

95 replies
  1. Bobby Gladd says:

    Stewie, “UNLV summa cum laude” 🤣

    I have a Master’s from UNLV. I joke that my diploma authorizes me to legally park in the handicap spaces.

    Buh bye, Stewie.

  2. Fran of the North says:

    Wither thou goest O’Keeper of Oaths?

    I’m goin down to the FCI Farm, Gonna join in a rock breakin’ band. To get back to the land, and set my soul free.

    • Commander Ogg says:

      But we have verify it legally, to see, if he, Is morally, ethically, spiritually, physically, positively, absolutely, undeniably and reliably going to prison.

  3. Raven Eye says:


    The whole premise of the Oath Keeper organization, and their membership targets of current and former military and law enforcement personnel, is a gross contradiction that starts with its very name. To be an “Oath Keeper” you have to be an oath breaker.

  4. Former AFPD says:

    In one of the federal jurisdictions in which I practiced, the judges regularly handed out 12, 15, 20 and 25 year sentences to unarmed and armed bank robbers. They were first offenders, repeat offenders, all indigent, poorly educated, and substance abusers. The crimes were usually opportunistic and not well planned, if planned at all. Judges handed out these sentences without a second thought. Stewart Rhodes, you will be incarcerated in the company of these common criminals because your behavior was criminal. You are just a number now, no matter how mightily you squawk from wherever you get sent to serve out these years. I’m not a fan of prisons, or long prison sentences, but I am a fan of democracy. You and your pals need a long time out to reflect on what you forcibly tried to do to those of us who prevailed in this election and to the elected officials who were present at the Capitol on January 6.

    • Peterr says:

      He will also be in the company of a non-trivial number of racist white supremacists who may be inclined to view him as a hero.

      This worries me, as to the possibility of radicalizing others who may have much shorter sentences. “When you get out, look up my friend XXX, and tell him I sent you.”

      • canajan-eh_I says:

        Yes. History teaches. Michael Collins did a lot of recruiting at Frongoch internment camp after the Easter Rising and before the Irish War of Independence.

      • Epicurus says:

        Radicalizing and teaching specific illegal applications are a major problem in French prisons. I imagine he has enough presence and probably cache that he will be a major mentor in the wrong way. Just being able to guide other inmates in legal matters will be a huge plus in his favor and would offset the ability to otherwise diminish his anarchistic effect.

      • Gerard Plourde says:

        I suspect that the because of the danger that he’ll attempt to recruit others, the Bureau of Prisons may confine him at Supermax.

        • bmaz says:

          No, Rhodes will never be assigned to a SuperMax. Where do you come up with stuff like this?

        • timbozone says:

          He would have to pose an ongoing and present danger to the prison in which he is housed for them to send him to supermax. Recruiting that doesn’t interfere with prison safety, etc, shouldn’t get you moved to SuperMax. The only other reason he might be put in SuperMax is for his own safety.

          Note though that if he continues the crime for which he was convicted while serving the sentence for that crime, that might make it harder for him to get parole early. So, his trying to recruit others to his “cause” might not be a swift move.

    • Ginevra diBenci says:

      Rhodes is way too old. Spiritually, they are bros. Yale Law has been getting nervous about bad press for awhile, if you follow these things, which I do since Yale is across the street and newsy gossip about it runs rampant here.

      • posaune says:

        and Yale Law deserves every bit of bad press they get: rape culture, the spiked clerkship pipeline, tiger mom and all.

  5. vigetnovus says:

    An oldie but goodie from my younger days—

    “Check the locks!!! You’re not in jail — You’re at YALE!!”

    Godspeed, Elmer. Enjoy your time in jail, you’ve earned it!

  6. Spank Flaps says:

    That eye socket might be a bit tempting to some people in prison.
    Any hole’s a goal?

    • Rayne says:

      That’s really offensive and unnecessary. Rhodes may be an unmitigated asshole but poking fun at his disability is outré.

      • BruceF says:

        Not much sympathy here for a Yale grad and supposed tough guy who is so dumb he shot himself in the face! I would never mock someone with a handicap but this guy’s condition is self induced, as will be his time behind bars!

        • ducktree says:

          Yup. Stupid is as Stupid Does:

          “SPL Center states in a bio of Rhodes that he joined the US Army as a paratrooper upon leaving high school, later receiving an honourable discharge after a “night parachuting accident”. ‘In 1993, he [Oath Keepers founder Stewart Rhodes] dropped a loaded handgun and it shot him in the face, blinding him in his left eye.'”

          No sympathy for This Devil.

        • Rwood0808 says:

          I remember seeing that story and shaking my head. We NEVER jumped with a round in the chamber of any weapon. Firearms don’t like hard impacts for one and for two there’s no practical reason to do so. And handguns were almost never pulled from their holster.

          My guess is Stewie was F-ing around and found out, and they invented a story to keep a BCD off his record.

        • earlofhuntingdon says:

          Steward Rhodes joined the Army after high school. He was invalided out seven months later after receiving a spinal cord injury during jump school. That means he would not have qualified as airborne, a ranger, or special forces. He graduated from YLS and was later disbarred, but he was a grunt in the Army.

          The incident involving the unintended discharge of a .22 pistol round, which resulted in the loss of his eye, happened several years later.

        • Peacerme says:

          When behavior is truly harmful to society, hyperbole only dilutes the impact. (Example: Jeffrey Dahlmer was a monster, compared to Jeffrey Dahlmer kidnapped, and killed his captors using torture and sexual abuse. He then ate some of their body parts”.

          Truth sets us free. I am far more interested in curbing the creation of this type of personality. Thirty percent and growing, people whose brains are unable to discern truth from fiction. Who can be manipulated by money and power to do unthinkable things. We don’t have much time. Much like climate change, as levels of trauma increase in society the number of people who will follow fascism increases every day.

          Words like evil only serve to separate us from the truth of our dilemma.

        • Rayne says:

          You want to mock his lack of gun handling skills, his poor gun safety? Go ahead — but I’m going to draw the line at mocking his disability itself.

          The really stupid part about this is the tack not taken: instead of picking on a self-imposed disability, Rhodes should be an example of SCOTUS’ refusal to recognize the importance of a “well regulated militia.” Mandatory gun safety programs along with gun registration should be normalized.

    • Dr. Pablito says:

      Both nastier and classier websites than emptywheel apply the banhammer for prison rape “jokes”. Please address this mess.

      • NickBarnes says:

        Logged in to say this. Rape is not a joke, and prison rape is not a statutory punishment.

      • Rayne says:

        I didn’t address that issue because the comment was written in a way that was not conclusively about rape. Rape is not acceptable but the obvious problem with that comment which needed no parsing was mocking a disability. That was quite plain and I’m not having it here.

        p.s. Let’s get back on topic.

    • solong tinman says:

      Leave off with the disability reference. That’s a comment I’d be not surprised to hear around a bar at closing time. Anyone with that eye-loss, and who has already read this comment, has just relived their own experience and re-experienced that trauma.

      Think first, with kindness to others.

  7. Tech Support says:

    Gratifying news but important to remember that the job isn’t even half over yet.

  8. Former Philadelphian says:

    I’m guessing his YLS skills will be highly sought after and can earn him many packages of ramen ghost writing habeas petitions for his fellow inmates.

  9. missinggeorgecarlin says:

    I’m happy to see one of the more serious members of this foolish krewe of DJT supporters get a serious sentence. Curious to hear how much time you all think he’ll actually do? Also, is it “too late” for him to roll over on anybody higher up the food chain or has that time passed?

    I’ll drink a cold one tonight to celebrate after doing my 5 minute “Open Mic Night” at the local comedy club. Hopefully the MAGA faithful are paying attention to how everybody connected to DJT always gets burned…

    Thanks to everybody at EW for all they do! :)

      • Rwood0808 says:


        I’m leaning toward him only adding to his sentence by making further trouble while inside. Like his hero trump, he doesn’t seem to know when to quit or when to shut up.

        Any predictions for his followers? They have to be changing their underwear today after hearing about Stewie.

        • bmaz says:

          And note that you are not totally free on the remaining 15% either, first transition is into a dedicated halfway house, then maybe home detention. Then there is the supervised release period after that. So the government will have their claws in him for a long time.

        • Charles Wolf says:

          Yea, but isn’t that release date based on the long shot he doesn’t do anything stupid during his time away?

        • bmaz says:

          Not necessarily, but it depends. The federal system is normally fairly set in stone unless there is additional criminal offense charged. Are you asking about the 15% remainder?

  10. Sambucus says:

    Almost 50 years ago, I enlisted in the Navy and took the standard oath to defend the Constitution from “all enemies foreign and domestic”. They were talking about this guy and his ilk.

  11. Dedalus says:

    The republic sorely needs judges like this, who clearly speak the unvarnished truth without mincing words. May all the judiciary and the press please take note, because the truth alone will set us free from these wretched men.

    Especially as the season of vitriol comes upon us.

  12. Bay State Librul says:

    My fear is, that if elected, Trump will pardon him.
    A tragic flaw in the Constitution?
    Anybody worried?

    • Sandwichman says:

      My fear is that Trump will be sentenced to anything less than the 18-year precedent set by Rhodes.

    • RyanEvans says:

      I would like to see the pardon power amended to require more than the President’s sole discretion. I think we’ve seen many presidents abuse it, though Trump’s was the grossest abuse.

      De Santis today saying he might pardon J6 defendants got me thinking about it again.

      • bmaz says:

        Lol, so you think there will be a Constitutional Amendment, which is the only way that could occur?? Patently laughable. Not happening.

  13. NaMaErA says:

    E L M E R

    So gratifying to see traitors go to prison for long periods — as a result of a justice system and jury separating obvious lies from truth.

    • bmaz says:

      A seditionist. Trying to blithely expand that into “traitor” is ridiculous. People really need to stop with the “treason” and “traitor” bullshit. Use the right words that are applicable.

      • Troutwaxer says:

        Once again, colloquial vs. technical. Colloquially he’s a traitor. Technically he’s a seditionist. Since we’re not talking about criminal charges I think either is acceptable.

        Scum either way.

        • Troutwaxer says:

          ~Shrugs~ Not the hill I’d die on, unless we were actually talking about a charging decision, in which case I’d be behind you all the way.

        • earlofhuntingdon says:

          Humpty Dumpty’s definition of the meaning of a word is not the gold standard. It is, however, what Trumpists want words to mean: whatever they choose them to mean, which can change every time they use them, neither more nor less.

  14. giantpsych says:

    Whiskey Rebel Philip Wigal is my 5 great grandfather. He was convicted of treason and sentenced to hang for participating in a riot at Taxman Reagan’s house in Fayette County, PA as well as helping ransack Taxman Benjamin Wells house and burning it down. Afterwards happening to come across Wells he also imprisoned him, until he would swear that he would no longer act as Excise Officer. Technically back then he was a traitor, but not colloquially today. He was certainly not scum. But that was a different era.

    The May, 1795 trial established the constitutional definition of treason as Philip was the first convicted of treason in the history of the young republic. Judge William Paterson presided at the Federal District Court for the trial as a sitting Supreme Court Justice. President Washington pardoned Philip about 10 months later. He returned to his wife Barbara and farm in Western PA and had several more children. They named their next son, George, who is my 4 great grandfather.

    • bmaz says:

      And that, while interesting, has NOTHING to do with any modern legal definition of “treason”. Welcome to Emptywheel, but please do not make people here dumber with old and archaic stories.

  15. burnitclean says:

    Let’s see if this upgrades me to an eight-plus character username. Delurking to say I’m treating this sentence as partial payback for the Bundy standoff in 2014, Malheur in 2016, and all the other things Rhodes and his Oath Keepers have been involved in leading up to January 6th–even if Judge Mehta didn’t. These yahoos have been a direct threat to our democracy for a long time. I am pleased to be raising a gin and tonic to Stewart and a substantial sentence for someone his age.

    [Thanks for updating your username to meet the 8 letter minimum. /~Rayne]

      • burnitclean says:

        Bittersweet and I will likely be in your neighborhood around Thanksgiving. We are going on a few mountain biking junkets: Cuyuna in June and the Maah Daah Hey in August. And to keep this on topic I’m sure with the latter trip I’ll hear about the injustice of Mr. Rhodes’ sentence from the locals and my relatives.

    • AgainBrain says:

      IANAL (so likely why), so I’m still a bit confused by the sentence: Reconciling Judge Mehta’s words about the threat Rhodes poses, versus the seemingly “light” sentencing given. For as strongly as Judge Mehta comments on Rhodes’ continued threat to the nation, Rhodes’ sentencing feels “at odds” with those comments.

      Q for the lawyers: Could the “extra-reasonable” sentence represent Judge Mehta trying to further deny Rhodes grounds for appeal? If not, any thoughts on the seeming disconnect between Judge Mehta’s words and the sentencing?

      • earlofhuntingdon says:

        No one sent to federal prison would consider eighteen years a light sentence. It’s more than many European countries impose for homicide.

      • Ebenezer Scrooge says:

        Sentences can always be appealed. If the DC Circuit thinks Judge Mehta went too light or heavy, it can remand for resentencing. However, any reasonable appellate court is going to be deferential to any reasonable trial court sentence. The DC Circuit is mostly reasonable, and so is Judge Mehta.

  16. Bay State Librul says:

    If Kurt Vonnegut was alive today, he would have passionately used the T word.
    “But I myself feel that our country, for whose Constitution I fought in a just war,” he writes, “might have been invaded by Martians and body snatchers. Sometimes I wish it had been.” He continues, “what has happened instead is that it was taken over by means of the sleaziest, low-comedy, Keystone Cop-style coup d’état imaginable.” from A Man Without a Country (2005)
    And he was not referencing the January 6th insurrection, because, you know, he is dead.

    • bmaz says:

      If Vonnegut utilized “treason”, then he would be an ignorant ass. JFC, please stop with this bunk.

    • Rayne says:

      If Vonnegut was alive he’d probably be annoyed at your insistence on stuffing words into his mouth like this.

      I don’t know how many goddamned times we’ve had to explain the “T word” doesn’t mean what you think it means. Note that Rhodes was charged with and found guilty of seditious conspiracy. The S-word — that’s what this was.

      • Rugger_9 says:

        And, which got Rhodes 18 years worth of navel gazing. I sense a lot of the social media emanations belching out of M-a-L are desperate attempts to change the subject far away from the very significant possibility of indictments from SC Smith. The reasons have been documented thoroughly on this board.

        OT, I wonder why these aren’t in the news more:
        1. Comer’s IRS complaint ‘whistleblower’ filed his complaint in 2020 while Defendant-1’s lackeys were still in charge of the IRS and FBI. Note also that this claim assumes that no one considered it politically useful to hammer the then-candidate’s son in a smear campaign.
        2. The ‘whistleblower’ apparently backed out of a deal to testify / be deposed because he want’s to go only to Gym Jordan’s committee in closed session.

        It’s almost as if there is nothing but smoke and mirrors out of the GOP.

    • earlofhuntingdon says:

      Funny how your quote makes no mention of treason. Ferdinand Marcos is still dead, too.

  17. harpie says:

    I’m not able to participate fully right now as I would like,
    but this news does give me a great sense of relief.

  18. Male Stacy says:

    My law school lacked the cachet of Yale, but I am willing to bet that everyone of its alumni know that, if you think you were gypped in an election, your only remedy is to go to court. I really get the impression that Elmer is sincere in his failure to grasp this pretty rudimentary principle. Too much time at “the tables down at Morey’s” perhaps.

    [Welcome back to emptywheel. Please use the same username each time you comment so that community members get to know you. This is your second user name; you’ve previously posted 16 comments to date as “Stacy (Male!).” If “Male Stacy” is the name you’re going to use going forward, please confirm by replying below. Thanks. /~Rayne]

    • earlofhuntingdon says:

      Other options besides the legal ones are always available. Taking it to the streets in non-violent protest is one. But like other forms of civil disobedience, it has consequences one must be prepared to accept, going to gaol among them.

      Trump’s special sauce is to persuade his followers that he can pixie dust away the consequences of their behavior, which enables all sorts of magical thinking. Of course, Rhodes and his pals were not engaged in non-violent protest. Theirs was willfully deadly and could have been more so. This time, we were lucky, an unlikely outcome when the next time comes.

      • Badger Robert says:

        Usually nations that are taken over by a demagogue followed by a militarized cadre end up in a useless and destructive war, or a series of such catastrophes. So far, as noted above, we have been lucky. The Ukrainians, and the Russians, have not been lucky. They are experiencing what could have been our war.

  19. Bay State Librul says:

    Earl, Bmaz, and Rayne

    Don’t panic.
    Vonnegut died in 2007, nine years before Trump rose to power and 14 before our insurrection.
    He was interested in politics and the state of America’s soul.
    The operative word in the quote I referenced was coup d’état.
    Vonnegut was a humanitarian, spent time in Dresden Prison as a Prisoner of War and would rage at Rhodes/Trump’s attempts to derail our democracy.
    He had a great sense of humor and an open mind.
    He would marvel at our slicing and dicing words like sedition versus treason.

    • bmaz says:

      Maybe he would be smart and honest enough to be accurate and get it right, unlike some intransigent people here. Like you for instance. JFC, PEASSE quit trying to falsely put that square peg into the proper round hole and bitching all the way. It is seriously tiring.

    • Rayne says:

      You’re going to be told once more to knock it off. I’m ready to stick you in perma-moderation because you’re not only DDoS-ing this thread but your distortion of literary references combined with incorrect definitions borders on conspiracy theory type nonsense.

Comments are closed.