WASHINGTON (AP) — A member of the far-right Oath Keepers extremist group who was a part of a safety element for former President Donald Trump ‘s longtime adviser Roger Stone earlier than storming the U.S. Capitol was sentenced on Thursday to greater than 4 years in jail.
Roberto Minuta, who was seen on video guarding Stone hours earlier than the riot on Jan. 6, 2021, was amongst six Oath Keeper members convicted by jurors of seditious conspiracy for what prosecutors stated was a violent plot to cease the switch of energy from Trump to President Joe Biden after the 2020 election.
Minuta is the third Oath Keeper to obtain his punishment for seditious conspiracy — essentially the most severe cost the Justice Division has introduced within the Capitol assault.
Oath Keepers founder Stewart Rhodes was sentenced final week to 18 years behind bars — the longest sentence that has been handed down thus far in lots of of Capitol riot instances. Kelly Meggs, who led the group’s Florida chapter, was sentenced to 12 years.
Minuta advised U.S. District Decide Amit Mehta that he’s ashamed of his actions, disavows the Oath Keepers and was “repulsed” by the shortage of regret Rhodes confirmed at his personal sentencing.
“My feelings received the very best of me, and I’m deeply apologetic, your honor,” he advised Mehta. “I used to be misled and naïve.”
Earlier than handing down the sentence of 4 years and 6 months, the choose advised Minuta that the regulation doesn’t allow anyone to “collect up arms to battle your authorities.”
“This isn’t about politics. This isn’t about your beliefs. It’s about your conduct,” Mehta stated.
Minuta, who owned a New York tattoo store, was in communication on Jan. 6 with Rhodes, who described Minuta in a message as considered one of his “most trusted males,” in line with federal prosecutors. Minuta bought 5,500 rounds of ammunition as Jan. 6 approached, prosecutors stated.
Prosecutors stated he hasn’t proven true regret, noting that Minuta took to social media after his arrest to slam the investigation as politically motivated and referred to Jan. 6 defendants as “POLITICAL PRISONERS.” A fundraiser web page that was linked to his Twitter web page stated the federal government “has been weaponized to destroy dissidents.”
“That’s his worldview,” Justice Division prosecutor Troy Edwards stated. “Mr. Minuta is a hazard to himself and to his republic due to his worldview.”
Legal professionals for the Oath Keepers say there was by no means any plot to storm the Capitol or cease the switch of energy.
Minuta’s lawyer, William Shipley, stated his consumer got here to Washington to serve within the Oath Keepers’ private safety element for Stone and “had no intention or plan to interact in some other exercise.”
Shipley stated Minuta’s fears of presidency “tyranny” weren’t sparked by the baseless claims that the 2020 election was stolen from Trump, however grew out of his tattoo store being shut down by lockdown measures in the course of the coronavirus pandemic. Shipley stated Minuta’s actions on Jan. 6 had been “regrettable” and “idiotic.”
“However worthy of a multi-year jail sentence? I don’t suppose so,” he added.
Minuta was amongst a number of individuals in Oath Keepers gear seen flanking Stone on Jan. 5 and Jan. 6.
Stone, an off-the-cuff Trump adviser, has denied having any data of or involvement in something unlawful on Jan. 6.
The choose agreed with the Justice Division that Rhodes and the opposite Oath Keepers’ actions might be punished as “terrorism,” growing the advisable sentence beneath federal tips. However the choose has constantly issued sentences shorter than these prosecutors have hunted for Oath Keeper members. The Justice Division had sought 17 years for Minuta and 25 years for Rhodes.
Edward Vallejo, who was additionally convicted of seditious conspiracy, is anticipated to be sentenced later Thursday. Prosecutors stated he was a pacesetter of a “Fast Response Drive” that stashed weapons at a Virginia lodge and was ready to convey them to Washington if known as. The weapons had been by no means deployed.
A day after the riot, Vallejo traveled into Washington to “conduct surveillance” and “probe the protection line” of police and Nationwide Guard troopers defending the Capitol, in line with prosecutors. He later tried to satisfy up with Rhodes in Texas.
Vallejo, a U.S. Military veteran, is a longtime resident of the Phoenix space. Protection lawyer Matthew Peed stated Vallejo wasn’t a part of any Oath Keepers calls or discussions earlier than he arrived within the Washington space a day earlier than the riot. In court docket papers, his lawyer known as prosecutors’ argument that the Oath Keepers must be sentenced as terrorists “borderline offensive.”
“The tragedy of January 6 is that lots of of lifelong law-abiding individuals like Edward Vallejo had been lied to by the sitting President and advised that the certification was an orchestrated assault on our democracy,” the protection lawyer wrote wrote.
Final Friday, the choose handed down punishments for 2 different Oath Keepers who had been acquitted of seditious conspiracy however convicted of different severe costs. Mehta sentenced Jessica Watkins, of Woodstock, Ohio, to eight years and 6 months behind bars and sentenced Kenneth Harrelson, of Titusville, Florida, to 4 years in jail.
The Oath Keepers sentencings come weeks after leaders of one other far-right group — the Proud Boys — had been additionally convicted within the Jan. 6 assault. Former Proud Boys nationwide chairman Enrique Tarrio and three different group leaders had been discovered responsible in Might of seditious conspiracy for what prosecutors stated was a separate plot to maintain Trump within the White Home. They’re scheduled to be sentenced in August.
Richer reported from Boston.