A second Oath Keepers member, Kelly Meggs, the leader of the Florida contingent of the group, was sentenced to 12 years in prison.
The sentenes are the first handed down in over a decade for seditious conspiracy.
“What we absolutely cannot have is a group of citizens who – because they did not like the outcome of an election, who did not believe the law was followed as it should be – foment revolution,” District Judge Amit Mehta said before handing down the sentence. “That is what you did.”
“I dare say, Mr. Rhodes – and I never have said this to anyone I have sentenced – you pose an ongoing threat and peril to our democracy and the fabric of this country,” Mehta said.
The judge added: “I dare say we all now hold our collective breaths when an election is approaching. Will we have another January 6 again? That remains to be seen.”
Mehta said Rhodes, 58, has expressed no remorse and continues to be a threat.
“A seditious conspiracy, when you take those two concepts and put it together, is among the most serious crimes an American can commit,” the judge said. “It is an offense against the government to use force. It is an offense against the people of our country.”
Earlier on Thursday, Mehta 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.
US Capitol Police officer Harry Dunn, who testified earlier this week about his experience on January 6, told CNN that Donald Trump should be “next.”
“It is a step towards full accountability,” Dunn said. “His lawyers argued that Donald Trump is the root of the problem, and I totally agree. Let’s get him next.”
“I have a hard time finding joy or celebration in a sentence of 18 years,” Dunn said. “I believe that justice shouldn’t be celebrated – it should be expected.”
CNN National Security Analyst Juliette Kayyem said the sentencing should have a “chilling effect on these groups,” especially as the presidential election season begins.
“This tough sentence is going to make the Oath Keepers, the Proud Boys, all these organizations, it’s going to make them more difficult for them to recruit and, as important, for them to raise money,” Kayyem said.