By Jacqueline Thomsen and Andrew Goudsward WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Oath Keepers militant group members David Moerschel and Joseph Hackett were sentenced on Friday to prison 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. Hackett, a Florida chiropractor and low-level Oath Keepers […]
Oath Keepers get prison sentences for sedition in US Capitol attack
By Jacqueline Thomsen and Andrew Goudsward
WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Oath Keepers militant group members David Moerschel and Joseph Hackett were sentenced on Friday to prison 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.
Hackett, a Florida chiropractor and low-level Oath Keepers leader, was sentenced to 42 months in prison while Moerschel received a three-year prison term.
The sentences were both significantly lower than prosecutors’ recommendations of 12 years for Hackett and 10 years for Moerschel.
U.S. District Judge Amit Mehta said that Moerschel’s transport of weapons, including a semiautomatic AR-15 rifle, to the Washington area ahead of Jan. 6 brought “its own degree of danger” because of his political motivations.
But the judge said Moerschel was less culpable than other Oath Keepers convicted in the Capitol attack.
Mehta described Hackett as a “kind, caring man,” but said false claims of fraud in the 2020 U.S. presidential election and the extremist rhetoric of the Oath Keepers “sucked you in like a vortex.”
Mehta since last week has sentenced six other members of the far-right Oath Keepers 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.
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 election. Hackett and Moerschel were near the House of Representatives chamber as lawmakers were gathered for the certification process.
In an emotional statement, Moerschel said that when he was in the Capitol on Jan. 6, “I felt like God was saying to me, ‘Get out of here,’ and I didn’t. And I disobeyed God and I broke laws.”
Moerschel’s lawyer on Friday asked that this client be sentenced to home detention or minimal incarceration. “He has lived an exemplary life other than those 11 minutes” Moerschel was in the Capitol building, attorney Scott Weinberg said.
Prosecutor Troy Edwards said Moerschel’s bringing of guns to a Virginia hotel near Washington merited a strong sentence.
The two 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.
Prosecutor Alexandra Hughes said Hackett took steps to avoid detection by law enforcement and “anticipated violence” even before the 2020 election.
Addressing the court, Hackett apologized for his role in the attack and said he regretted joining the Oath Keepers in July 2020.
“I truly am sorry for my part in causing so much misery,” Hackett said.
Hackett’s lawyer pleaded for leniency and told the judge that Hackett did not join the Oath Keepers “to fight any sort of political or ideological battles.”
Two other Oath Keepers convicted of seditious conspiracy, Roberto 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 was acquitted on the seditious conspiracy charge but convicted of other crimes.
(An earlier version of this story was refiled to correct Oath Keeper Minuta’s first name to Roberto from Robert in paragraph 15)
(Reporting by Jacqueline Thomsen and Andrew Goudsward in Washington; Editing by Alistair Bell and Matthew Lewis)