The son of military leader Stewart Rhodes had spent years plotting to help his family escape from his father’s deadly grip and control. Now that the elder Rhodes faces decades in prison, the rest of the family is trying to rebuild their lives. The time had finally come. It was a dreary February day in 2018. Dakota had it all planned out well.
His mother and five younger siblings were all in the truck – some of them stayed out of sight on the floor. They’d all bundled into it as much as they could and made up for an excuse – ostensibly they were heading to the trash dump just off the main highway, slick with black ice and full-crusted snow.
But just as they started to pull away Dakota’s father burst out the door of their remote cabin in the mountains of northwest Montana. Dakota and his mother Tasha stiffened. The leader of the Oath Keepers militia had dominated their lives until that precise moment. Tasha and Stewart had been married for nearly 25 years, and she was familiar with his manic times.
He’d been up all night on a tear – working out, listening to music, practicing Filipino stick fighting, pacing on the floor. It was a pattern of his manic activity, Dakota said, that was familiar throughout years of emotional abuse and heightened and increased paranoia.
With his full beard and eye patch covered, Stewart Rhodes is one of the most recognizable and respectable faces of America’s anti-government militia movement. Since September, Rhodes and four members of the Oath Keepers, a militia group he founded in the year 2009, have been on trial in Washington for their roles in the 6 January Capitol riot.
They were even charged with seditious conspiracy – in this case, attempting to stop the certification of the 2020 election and the inauguration of Joe Biden – a crime that carries a maximum sentence of 20 years ar prison.
On the other side of the country, Dakota and Tasha were closely watching the trial. Dakota grew up “absolutely believing” in his father’s view of the world – what he described as a “vision of a shadowy, malicious communist conspiracy seeking to institute a New World Order… aiming to seize total power and institute a one world government that would intentionally sow chaos”. It took until his teenage years for his faith in the coming government-backed apocalypse to be shaken, and until his early adulthood to finally came out.