The case against Stewart Rhodes was one of rare and serious charges: seditious conspiracies. He was sentenced to the longest jail term in relation to the attack on the Capitol on Jan. 6, which was the most recent.
While people sometimes use terms like sedition and insurrection or domestic terrorism interchangeably to discuss the events of January 6, 2021, the legal definition for seditious conspiracies is different in subtle, but important, ways. Take a closer view.
What is sedition and what does it mean?
Incitement to violence against the government is the main purpose of this type of activity. It involves some form of communication, or an action that aims to get people to forcefully overthrow or prevent the state from enforcing the law.
What is seditious conspiracy?
Section 2384 in Title 18 of the United States Code is a federal offense. This law criminalizes two or more individuals who actively plot to overthrow the federal government by force, wage war against it, seize federal property unlawfully, or "by force prevent, hinder, or delay the implementation of any United States law." The maximum sentence for a conviction is 20 years.
In the Oath Keepers Case, prosecutors used text messages, videos, and other evidence in order to prove that Mr. Rhodes, along with other militia members, had agreed to stop Congress from certifying Joseph R. Biden Jr.’s Electoral College win, a critical step for the constitutional system of normal power transfer. Mr. Rhodes was sentenced to 18 years of prison and his deputy received a 12-year sentence.
Sedition and insurrection are the same?
Sedition and insurrection are two terms that overlap. However, sedition is more about plotting and inciting, while 'insurrection" refers to the actual violent actions of a uprising intended to overthrow the government.
The federal law against insurrection (Section 2383) blurs this line a little. The law states that anyone who incites or sets in motion a rebellion or insurrection, or assists or engages therein, or gives comfort or aid to such an act, is guilty. The penalty for this offense is a maximum of 10 years in jail and the disqualification to hold federal office.
Insurrection crimes are rare and difficult to prove. The Justice Department hasn't charged any of the rioters involved in the Jan. 6 events with the crime. The Justice Department has charged a number of rioters, including members of the Oath Keepers, Proud Boys and Oath Keepers, with crimes such as assaulting police officers and trespassing.
What about domestic terrorism
Domestic terrorism is not a separate crime, but has legal consequences and a definition. The judge in this case increased the sentence of Mr. Rhodes because the crimes he committed met the definition for terrorism. This is defined as crimes of violence intended to intimidate civilians or influence government policy.
The law that defines terrorist acts distinguishes 'international' terror, which must be based on a transnational or foreign connection, from 'domestic terrorism', which is primarily committed in the United States. Federal crimes are only 'acts of terrorism that transcend national boundaries'
In the United States, however, such crimes are dealt with by law enforcement officials using laws that don't include terrorism in their names -- for example seditious conspiracies. At the sentencing stage, convictions of crimes that qualify as terrorism are met with a longer sentence.
What is the difference between treason and all of this?
According to American law, there was no treason committed by the events on Jan. 6, because the acts did not betray the United States in favor of an enemy.
In the United States, treason is unique because it's the only crime defined in the Constitution. The founders also wrote that it's a very narrow definition: "Treason shall consist of waging war against them or adhering to them and giving them comfort and aid." Section 2381 of the federal statute echoed this definition, and stipulated a penalty ranging from five years to death.
In 2006, treason charges were brought against Adam Gadahn. He was a Californian-born Qaeda propagandist, who had called for the attack of Americans in videos. He was killed by a drone strike in 2015 and never went to trial.