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Judge Amit Mehta Sentences Oath Keepers Leader to 18 Years in Prison for Jan. 6 Attack

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India-born Judge Amit Mehta hands down tough sentence for far-right leader.

description: an anonymous image of a courtroom with judge mehta presiding over a trial. the judge is wearing a black robe and appears to be listening intently to the proceedings. the defendant, who is not identifiable, is seated at a nearby table with their legal team.

U.S. District Judge Amit Mehta made headlines on Thursday when he sentenced Stewart Rhodes, leader of the far-right militant group Oath Keepers, to 18 years in federal prison for his role in the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol. The sentencing marks a significant victory for prosecutors seeking to hold accountable those responsible for the deadly insurrection.

Mehta, who was born in India and appointed to the federal bench by President Barack Obama in 2014, had some tough words for Rhodes before handing down the sentence. He called the crime of seditious conspiracy "among the most serious crimes an individual American can commit," and emphasized the need to deter others from following in Rhodes' footsteps.

Rhodes, who founded the Oath Keepers in 2009, played a key role in organizing and leading a group of Oath Keepers who stormed the Capitol on Jan. 6, according to prosecutors. He was charged with seditious conspiracy, which carries a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison, as well as obstruction of an official proceeding and destruction of government property.

At his trial, Rhodes argued that he never entered the Capitol and was merely exercising his First Amendment rights to protest against what he saw as a stolen election. But prosecutors presented evidence that Rhodes had directed his followers to bring weapons and gear to Washington, D.C., and had coordinated their movements as they breached the Capitol.

Mehta was not swayed by Rhodes' defense. In his sentencing remarks, he said that Rhodes had "abused the trust of his followers" and had shown "total disregard for the rule of law." He also noted that Rhodes had a history of promoting violence and had previously called for the use of lethal force against government officials.

The sentencing of Rhodes is just one of several high-profile cases related to the Jan. 6 attack that Mehta has presided over. Earlier this year, he sentenced two other members of the Oath Keepers, Jessica Watkins and Kenneth Harrelson, to several years in prison on charges of conspiracy and obstruction.

In addition to his work on the Jan. 6 cases, Mehta has also been involved in several other politically sensitive matters during his time on the bench. In 2019, he ruled against the Trump administration's attempt to block a subpoena for the president's financial records, a decision that was later upheld by the Supreme Court.

Mehta's background as an Indian American has also made him a symbol of diversity and inclusion in the legal profession. He is the first person of South Asian descent to serve as a federal judge in the District of Columbia, and has spoken publicly about the importance of promoting diversity in the legal system.

Despite the challenges of serving on the federal bench during a period of intense political polarization, Mehta has remained committed to upholding the rule of law and ensuring that justice is served. His sentencing of Stewart Rhodes sends a clear message that those who seek to undermine democracy and incite violence will be held accountable for their actions.

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