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Former Proud Boys Leaders Receive Some of the Lengthiest Sentences for January 6 Capitol Assault

by Sophia Chen
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Proud Boys Sentencing

Two previous high-ranking members of the Proud Boys, a far-right extremist organization, were sentenced on Thursday to over a decade in prison each for their roles in orchestrating the January 6, 2021, assault on the United States Capitol. The aim of the attack was to obstruct the peaceful transfer of presidential power from Donald Trump to Joe Biden following the 2020 election.

Joseph Biggs, an organizer, was given a 17-year prison sentence, while Zachary Rehl received 15 years. These sentences rank as the second and third most severe punishments meted out to date for the events of January 6. U.S. District Judge Timothy Kelly, who delivered the sentences, is also slated to oversee upcoming hearings for three other individuals convicted in May after a four-month trial. This trial exposed the extremist group’s embrace of Donald Trump’s baseless claims that he was unjustly deprived of victory in the 2020 election.

Enrique Tarrio, formerly the national chairman of the Proud Boys, will face his sentencing next week, a delay attributed to Judge Kelly’s illness. Although Tarrio was not present in Washington on the day of the attack, he had assigned Biggs and another Proud Boys chapter president, Ethan Nordean, as field leaders in his absence, according to prosecutors.

Charges against Biggs, Rehl, Tarrio, Nordean, and a fifth member, Dominic Pezzola, included seditious conspiracy—a seldom-used Civil War-era offense. Pezzola was acquitted of this charge but found guilty on other serious counts. Federal prosecutors had recommended a 33-year sentence for Biggs, who was instrumental in leading a contingent of Proud Boys to the Capitol, where they joined a mob that breached police lines and forced lawmakers into hiding, disrupting the Congressional session to certify Biden’s electoral win.

Judge Kelly emphasized that the attack violated a core American tradition—peaceful transition of power—saying, “That day shattered our custom of peacefully transferring power, which is one of the most sacred values we possess as Americans.”

Defense attorneys claimed that their clients were unfairly being held responsible for the actions of other Trump supporters present at the Capitol. Biggs, a resident of Ormond Beach, Florida, admitted to errors in judgment but attributed them to being swept up by the crowd. He insisted he was neither violent nor a terrorist.

During the trial, a large cache of private messages exchanged among Proud Boys leaders prior to January 6 was presented as evidence. Biggs was particularly active in these exchanges, encouraging more radical actions.

Federal prosecutors had also recommended lengthy sentences for other individuals involved, including Tarrio, Nordean, and Pezzola, whose hearings are upcoming.

As of now, more than 1,100 individuals have faced federal charges related to the Capitol riot, with over 600 having been convicted and sentenced. Stewart Rhodes, the founder of the Oath Keepers, another anti-government group, currently holds the record for the harshest sentence with 18 years in prison.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) about Proud Boys Sentencing

What are the prison sentences handed to Joseph Biggs and Zachary Rehl?

Joseph Biggs received a 17-year prison sentence and Zachary Rehl received a 15-year sentence for their roles in the January 6, 2021, attack on the U.S. Capitol.

Who is presiding over the sentencing and upcoming hearings?

U.S. District Judge Timothy Kelly presided over the sentencing for Joseph Biggs and Zachary Rehl. He is also slated to oversee upcoming hearings for three other individuals convicted in a four-month trial.

What charges were levied against the former Proud Boys leaders?

Joseph Biggs, Zachary Rehl, Enrique Tarrio, Ethan Nordean, and Dominic Pezzola faced multiple charges, including seditious conspiracy—a rarely-used Civil War-era offense. Dominic Pezzola was acquitted of seditious conspiracy but was convicted on other serious counts.

What was the role of Enrique Tarrio?

Enrique Tarrio, the former national chairman of the Proud Boys, was not present on January 6 but had assigned Biggs and Ethan Nordean as field leaders in his absence. He is scheduled to be sentenced next week.

Were defense attorneys able to make any significant arguments?

Defense attorneys argued that their clients were unfairly being held responsible for the actions of other Trump supporters at the Capitol. They labeled Biggs and Rehl as “misguided patriots” rather than terrorists.

How many people have been charged and convicted in relation to the January 6 Capitol riot?

More than 1,100 individuals have faced federal charges related to the Capitol riot, and over 600 of these have been convicted and sentenced.

Who has received the harshest sentence for the January 6 attack so far?

The 18-year prison sentence for Oath Keepers founder Stewart Rhodes is currently the most severe punishment meted out for the January 6 Capitol assault.

What was Judge Kelly’s view on the impact of the attack on American tradition?

Judge Kelly stated that the attack violated the important American custom of peaceful transition of power, describing it as one of the most sacred values Americans possess.

What were the prosecutors’ recommended sentences for other involved individuals?

Federal prosecutors have recommended prison sentences of 33 years for Enrique Tarrio, 27 years for Ethan Nordean, and 20 years for Dominic Pezzola, whose sentencings are upcoming.

More about Proud Boys Sentencing

  • Sentencing Guidelines for January 6 Capitol Riot Cases
  • Proud Boys: Who They Are and What They Stand For
  • Civil War-era Offenses: Understanding Seditious Conspiracy
  • Overview of the January 6 Capitol Assault Trials
  • Enrique Tarrio’s Legal Troubles: A Timeline
  • Stewart Rhodes and the Oath Keepers: In-Depth Analysis
  • U.S. District Judge Timothy Kelly: Career and Cases
  • Impact of the January 6 Attack on U.S. Democracy and Governance

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1 comment

Jake S September 2, 2023 - 4:39 pm

Whoa, 17 and 15 years? thats a long time. Really makes ya think twice about actions and consequences.

Reply

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