UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURTFOR THE DISTRICT OF COLUMBIAUNITED STATES OF AMERICA v.ELMER STEWART RHODES III,KELLY MEGGS,KENNETH HARRELSON,JESSICA WATKINS,ROBERTO MINUTA,JOSEPH HACKETT,DAVID MOERSCHEL,THOMAS CALDWELL, andEDWARD VALLEJO, Defendants.Case No. 22-cr-15-APMGOVERNMENT’S OMNIBUS SENTENCING MEMORANDUM ANDMOTION FOR UPWARD DEPARTURE
These defendants were prepared to fight. Not for their country, but against it. In their own words, they were “willing to die” in a “guerilla war” to achieve their goal of halting the transfer of power after the 2020 Presidential Election. As a co-conspirator recognized, their actions made these defendants “traitors.”
Using their positions of prominence within, and in affiliation with, the Oath Keepers organization, these defendants played a central and damning role in opposing by force the government of the United States, breaking the solemn oath many of them swore as members of the United States Armed Forces. To support their operation, they amassed an arsenal of firearms across the Potomac River and led a conspiracy that culminated in a mob’s attack on the United States Capitol while our elected representatives met in a Joint Session of Congress. Two juries found all nine defendants guilty of participating in this grave conduct. These defendants are unlike any of the hundreds of others who have been sentenced for their roles in the attack on the Capitol. Each defendant therefore deserves a significant sentence of incarceration.
“[T]he violent breach of the Capitol on January 6 was a grave danger to our democracy.” United States v. Munchel, 991 F.3d 1273, 1284 (D.C. Cir. 2021). “The chaos wrought by the mob forced members of Congress to stop the certification and flee for safety.” United States v. Fischer, 64 F.4th 329, 332 (D.C. Cir. 2023). As this Court has explained:
January 6, 2021 was supposed to mark the peaceful transition of power. It had been that way for over two centuries, one presidential administration handing off peacefully to the next. President Ronald Reagan in his first inaugural address described “the orderly transfer of authority” as “nothing less than a miracle.” Violence and disruption happened in other countries, but not here. This is the United States of America, and it could never happen to our democracy. Thompson v. Trump, 590 F. Supp. 3d 46, 61 (D.D.C. 2022) (footnote omitted).
But, because of these defendants’ actions, it did happen to our democracy. Rioters injured more than a hundred members of law enforcement and inflicted significant emotional injuries on law enforcement officers and Capitol employees alike. The attack caused substantial damage to the Capitol, resulting in millions of dollars of financial losses. But the cost to our democracy and system of government was incalculable. See United States v. Gardner, No. 21-cr-622 (Mar. 16, 2023), Sent. Tr. at 68 (identifying one of the “victims” on January 6 as “democracy itself”)
In short, the defendants’ conduct displayed a clear, shared intent to stop Congress from certifying the results of the election, including through the organized use of force and the staging of weapons nearby. That conduct—calculated to stop the peaceful transfer of Presidential power for the first time in the nation’s history—is a quintessential example of an intent to influence government conduct through intimidation or coercion and warrants an upward departure pursuant to Note 4. Indeed, the terrorism enhancement in Section 3A1.4 is meant to “punish more harshly than other criminals those whose wrongs served an end more terrible than other crimes.” Benkahla, 530 F.3d at 313