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Two more Oath Keepers to be sentenced for sedition in US Capitol attack

Two more Oath Keepers to be sentenced for sedition in US Capitol attack
Stephen Ayres and Jason Van Tatenhove, an ally of Oath Keepers leader Stewart Rhodes, are sworn in by the House select committee during a public hearing investigating the January 6th attack on the US Capitol, in Washington, DC, US, 12 July 2022. (Photo: EPA-EFE / Demetrius Freeman)

Another two members of the far-right Oath Keepers militant group are set to be sentenced on Friday for seditious conspiracy and other crimes arising from the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the U.S. Capitol by then-President Donald Trump's supporters.

Prosecutors have asked U.S. District Judge Amit Mehta to sentence Joseph Hackett to 12 years in prison and David Moerschel to 10 years. Mehta since last week has sentenced six other Oath Keepers members to prison terms ranging from three to 18 years.

Hackett and Moerschel were convicted of seditious conspiracy – a felony charge involving attempts “to overthrow, put down or to destroy by force the government of the United States” – as well as obstructing an official proceeding and conspiracy to prevent members of Congress from discharging their duties. Hackett also was convicted of tampering with documents or proceedings.

Both men were among a group of Oath Keepers who breached the Capitol on the day of the attack, clad in paramilitary gear. The attack was intended to prevent Congress from certifying Democrat Joe Biden’s victory over Trump, a Republican, in the November 2020 U.S. election. Hackett and Moerschel were near the House of Representatives chamber as lawmakers were gathered for the certification process.

Prosecutors described Hackett as a low-level leader in the Oath Keepers, and pointed to his call for the arrest of “corrupt politicians” as foreshadowing his actions at the Capitol including “forcing his way” toward the office of the leader of the House of Representatives.

Hackett’s lawyer asked that Mehta “primarily focus on alternatives to incarceration” in issuing a sentence.

Moerschel asked to be sentenced to home detention, with his lawyer saying his client “was along for the very foolish ride.” Prosecutors pushed back against that description, pointing to Moerschel leaving weapons including a semi-automatic AR-15 rifle in a Virginia hotel as he traveled to Washington on Jan. 6.

The men are among six Oath Keepers found guilty of seditious conspiracy. Oath Keepers founder Stewart Rhodes, a former U.S. Army paratrooper turned Yale University-educated lawyer, last week was sentenced to 18 years in prison, the longest sentence handed down yet over the Jan. 6 attack.

Two other Oath Keepers convicted of seditious conspiracy, Robert Minuta and Edward Vallejo, were sentenced on Thursday. Minuta was sentenced to 4-1/2 years in prison and Vallejo to three. Three others were sentenced last week to between four and 12 years in prison.

The judge has delayed the sentencing of Thomas Caldwell, another Oath Keepers member who acquitted on the seditious conspiracy charge but convicted of other crimes.

 

(Reporting by Jacqueline Thomsen in Washington; Editing by Will Dunham)

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