Saturday, May 27, 2023
WASHINGTON: Two members of the far-right Oath Keepers were sentenced to prison on Friday for their roles in the deadly Jan 6, 2021, assault on the US Capitol by supporters of Donald Trump who attempted to overturn his election defeat.
Kenneth Harrelson and Jessica Watkins were convicted in November by a federal jury in Washington of obstructing an official proceeding during the storming of the Capitol. The rioters clashed with police, shattered windows, and sent lawmakers fleeing for their safety.
US District Judge Amit Mehta sentenced Harrelson to four years in prison, while Watkins received a prison sentence of eight and a half years. Harrelson was also found guilty of conspiring to impede the certification of President Joe Biden's election win and tampering with documents and proceedings. Watkins was also convicted of conspiracy and obstructing officers during the riots. Both were acquitted of seditious conspiracy charges.
Judge Mehta expressed that Harrelson showed genuine remorse and believed he bore less responsibility compared to other Oath Keepers charged alongside him. The evidence presented in Harrelson's case did not include messages from him discussing "revolution" or using extremist terms, unlike some other Oath Keepers. The judge also noted that Harrelson did not physically attack or threaten to assault any police officers during the Capitol incident.
During the trial, a video was presented in which Harrelson could be heard chanting the word "treason" as he entered the US Capitol. Prosecutors argued that he intended to intimidate members of Congress and individuals working in the building.
Harrelson, in an emotional statement to the court, expressed that he had never been involved in politics before January 6 and that he would have intervened to prevent violence against police officers if he had known about it. He acknowledged his responsibility and the pain his actions had caused.
Federal prosecutors sought a 15-year sentence for Harrelson, while his attorney requested a lighter sentence. For Watkins, prosecutors recommended an 18-year sentence, while her lawyer sought five years.
These sentencing hearings took place one day after Oath Keepers' founder Stewart Rhodes received an 18-year prison sentence for crimes including seditious conspiracy. The Oath Keepers, founded in 2009, comprise current and retired US military personnel, law enforcement officers, and first responders. Some members breached the Capitol, while others organized an armed "quick reaction force" at a suburban hotel.
Next week, four other Oath Keepers convicted of seditious conspiracy will face sentencing.