Two ex-Proud Boys leaders get some of longest sentences in Jan. 6 Capitol attack

by Lucas Garcia
Proud Boys Sentencing

Two former leaders of the Proud Boys, an extremist group known for its far-right ideologies, have received lengthy prison sentences as a result of their involvement in the January 6th attack on the U.S. Capitol. The attack aimed to disrupt the peaceful transition of power from then-President Donald Trump to President-elect Joe Biden following the 2020 presidential election.

Joseph Biggs, one of the organizers of the attack, has been sentenced to 17 years in prison, while Zachary Rehl, a leader within the group, received a 15-year prison term. These sentences mark the second and third longest punishments issued in connection with the January 6th assault.

The sentences were handed down by U.S. District Judge Timothy Kelly, who presided over the hearings for these individuals. Notably, this was the first instance of Proud Boys members receiving sentencing from Judge Kelly, who will also oversee the sentencing of three others involved in the attack. These individuals were found guilty by a jury in May, following a comprehensive four-month trial in Washington. The trial exposed the ways in which far-right extremists aligned with false claims made by then-President Trump, a Republican, alleging the theft of the 2020 election.

Enrique Tarrio, the national chairman and top leader of the Proud Boys, is slated to be sentenced shortly after these proceedings. Tarrio’s sentencing was postponed due to Judge Kelly’s illness. It’s worth noting that Tarrio was not present in Washington on January 6th, having been arrested days prior for defacing a Black Lives Matter banner during an earlier rally in the capital city. In his absence, Tarrio selected Joseph Biggs and Proud Boys chapter president Ethan Nordean to lead the group on the ground during the events of January 6th.

These individuals, including Rehl, Biggs, Tarrio, and Nordean, faced convictions on charges such as seditious conspiracy, a seldom-invoked offense from the Civil War era. Another Proud Boys member, Dominic Pezzola, was found not guilty of seditious conspiracy but was convicted of other serious charges.

Federal prosecutors advocated for a 33-year prison term for Joseph Biggs, who played a prominent role in guiding dozens of Proud Boys members and associates toward the U.S. Capitol during the attack. Biggs and fellow Proud Boys participated in breaching police lines, resulting in the disruption of the joint Congressional session tasked with certifying Joe Biden’s electoral victory.

Judge Kelly remarked that the events of January 6th deeply undermined an essential aspect of American democracy: the peaceful transfer of power. He emphasized the significance of this tradition and how the attack disrupted its continuity.

Defense attorneys contended that the Justice Department unfairly held their clients responsible for the violent actions of others present among the crowd of Trump supporters at the Capitol. Joseph Biggs admitted to his missteps on January 6th, attributing his actions to being influenced by the fervor of the crowd. He emphasized that he is not inherently violent nor a “terrorist.”

During the trial, jurors were presented with a trove of private messages exchanged among Proud Boys leaders in the weeks leading up to the Capitol breach. These messages revealed Joseph Biggs encouraging Enrique Tarrio to adopt a more radical approach, particularly after Trump announced plans for the rally on January 6th.

On that fateful day, numerous Proud Boys leaders, members, and associates were among the initial group of rioters to breach the Capitol. Prior to breaching the building, Joseph Biggs used a megaphone to lead chants among the rioters, declaring ownership of the Capitol.

Prosecutors portrayed Biggs as the instigator of the attack, asserting that he actively participated in breaking down barriers and scaling scaffolding to enter the Capitol. Although he left the building at one point, he re-entered and even made his way to the Senate chamber.

Zachary Rehl, another key figure within the Proud Boys, faced the request for a 30-year prison term from prosecutors. Video evidence showed Rehl using a chemical irritant against law enforcement officers outside the Capitol on January 6th. During his trial, Rehl repeatedly lied about his involvement in this assault. The prosecution emphasized how Rehl crafted a misleading narrative to align with the evidence presented.

Rehl was also documented leading a group of men into the Capitol, ultimately entering a senator’s office. There, he posed for photographs while displaying the hand gesture associated with the Proud Boys. Prosecutors revealed that Rehl took pride in their proximity to the certification proceedings and expressed regret only for not advancing further.

Judge Kelly read excerpts from Rehl’s post-January 6th messages, describing them as “chilling.” One message, in particular, stood out, where Rehl suggested that individuals should have arrived armed to reclaim the country. The judge expressed his astonishment at such sentiments.

Emotionally, Rehl expressed deep regret for his involvement in the events of January 6th. He conveyed a desire to distance himself from falsehoods perpetuated by politicians and acknowledged being swayed by misinformation regarding the election. He stated that he had been deceived by those in power.

Rehl’s defense attorney, Norm Pattis, argued that Rehl and others who participated in the Capitol breach were influenced by then-President Trump’s claims of election fraud. This belief, he asserted, drove their actions on that day. Judge Kelly acknowledged this factor but characterized it as a relatively minor influence.

Prosecutors recommended prison sentences of 33 years for Enrique Tarrio, 27 years for Ethan Nordean, and 20 years for Dominic Pezzola. Sentencing for Nordean and Pezzola is scheduled for the near future.

The January 6th attack has led to over 1,100 individuals facing federal charges related to the Capitol riot. Out of this number, more than 600 have been both convicted and sentenced. Notably, the founder of the Oath Keepers, Stewart Rhodes, received an 18-year prison sentence, marking one of the most severe penalties to date for January 6th-related offenses. Additionally, six members of the anti-government Oath Keepers were convicted of seditious conspiracy in a separate trial conducted the previous year.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) about Capitol attack sentencing

What were the sentences for the former Proud Boys leaders involved in the January 6th Capitol attack?

Joseph Biggs received a 17-year prison term, and Zachary Rehl was sentenced to 15 years for their roles in the assault.

Who presided over the sentencing hearings for these individuals?

U.S. District Judge Timothy Kelly oversaw the sentencing hearings for the former Proud Boys leaders.

What charges were brought against the Proud Boys members?

Joseph Biggs, Zachary Rehl, and others were convicted of charges including seditious conspiracy, a rarely invoked Civil War-era offense.

How did the Proud Boys leaders participate in the attack?

Biggs led Proud Boys members in breaching police lines and entering the Capitol, while Rehl sprayed irritants at law enforcement officers.

What did the judge emphasize regarding the January 6th attack?

Judge Kelly noted that the attack disrupted the peaceful transfer of power, an essential American tradition.

Were other Proud Boys members involved in the attack?

Enrique Tarrio, another Proud Boys leader, faced sentencing. Dominic Pezzola and Ethan Nordean, also associated with the group, were convicted as well.

How many people have faced charges related to the Capitol attack?

Over 1,100 individuals have been charged with federal crimes related to the January 6th attack on the U.S. Capitol.

What was the significance of the messages exchanged among Proud Boys leaders?

Private messages revealed that Proud Boys leaders encouraged radical actions in the lead-up to the attack, following Trump’s rally announcement.

What impact did the attack have on American democracy?

Judge Kelly remarked that the attack disrupted the crucial American tradition of peacefully transferring power, underscoring its significance.

How did defense attorneys argue on behalf of their clients?

Defense attorneys contended that their clients were unfairly held responsible for the actions of others in the crowd of Trump supporters.

What punishment did Oath Keepers founder Stewart Rhodes receive?

Stewart Rhodes, founder of the Oath Keepers, received an 18-year prison sentence, the harshest penalty for January 6th-related offenses thus far.

More about Capitol attack sentencing

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EconNerd August 31, 2023 - 10:49 pm

these sentences, man, 17 years, 15 years. wonder how they’re gonna feel about economics and finance in prison.

PoliticJunkie September 1, 2023 - 3:17 am

you’d think people in leadership positions would be more responsible, not leadin’ crazy capitol attacks. 17 & 15 years is no joke.

CryptoEnthusiast September 1, 2023 - 9:25 am

i’m just wonderin’, did these guys really think attacking the capitol was gonna change the election outcome?

JournalistDude September 1, 2023 - 12:19 pm

man, those ex-proud boys leaders, they got some looong sentences for that capitol thing. like, 17 years & 15 years, whoa.

CarGeek September 1, 2023 - 8:30 pm

dang, these Proud Boys peeps got some serious time behind bars. 17 & 15 years, that’s a whole lotta car shows they’ll miss.


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