WASHINGTON — Two more members of the far-right Oath Keepers militant group are set to be sentenced on Thursday 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.
Federal prosecutors are asking U.S. District Judge Amit Mehta to sentence Roberto Minuta and Edward Vallejo to 17 years in prison each after they were convicted in January alongside two other Oath Keepers members.
If the judge follows that recommendation, those would be the second-longest sentences for any of the 1,000-plus people charged in the Capitol attack that was intended to block Congress from certifying Democrat Joe Biden’s November 2020 election victory over the Republican Trump.
Oath Keepers founder Stewart Rhodes, convicted in November of seditious conspiracy and other charges, was sentenced by Mehta last week to 18 years in prison, the longest of any of the sentences. Three co-defendants of Rhodes were given between four and 12 years in prison. Two of those three were acquitted of seditious conspiracy – is a felony charge involving attempting “to overthrow, put down or to destroy by force the government of the United States” – but convicted on other felony counts.
Minuta, who provided a security detail to Trump ally Roger Stone during political rallies on the day of the attack, entered the Capitol with other Oath Keepers and, according to prosecutors, pushed past police officers while screaming obscene language.
In their sentencing memo, prosecutors said Minuta has failed to accept responsibility and has “continued to spread lies and sow distrust in the criminal investigation” by referring to himself and other Jan. 6 defendants as “political prisoners.”
Vallejo was not at the Capitol on the day of the attack. Prosecutors said he stayed at a suburban Virginia hotel where the Oath Keepers had staged a “quick reaction force” and stashed firearms to be quickly ferried into Washington if needed.
Attorneys for Minuta and Vallejo are expected to tell the judge on Thursday that the evidence against their clients was thin and did not justify the stiff sentences the prosecution is recommending.
“The government’s sentencing statement is a farce,” Minuta’s attorney William Shipley wrote in his sentencing memo to the judge.
Matthew Peed, Vallejo’s attorney, intends to ask the judge to give his client no more time incarcerated beyond the amount he already has served.
Peed sought to shift blame to Trump, who during a speech to supporters shortly before the riot repeated his false claims that the election had been stolen from him through widespread voting fraud and urged them to march on the Capitol and “fight like hell.”
“The tragedy of January 6 is that hundreds of lifelong law-abiding people like Edward Vallejo were lied to by the sitting president and told that the certification was an orchestrated assault on our democracy,” Peed wrote.
“The people who broke the law that day were not al Qaeda members bombing the World Trade Center or even ‘traitors’ who consciously chose to attack democracy rather than accept that they validly lost. They were patriotic Americans who believed wrongly – very wrongly – that they were defending democracy against corrupt officials,” Peed added.
Joseph Hackett and David Moerschel, co-defendants in the trial in which Minuta and Vallejo were convicted – are due to be sentenced on Friday. They too were convicted of seditious conspiracy and other crimes. The prosecution has recommended a sentence of 12 years in prison for Hackett and 10 for Moerschel.
(Reporting by Sarah N. Lynch; Editing by Will Dunham)