Two former leaders of the Proud Boys group were sentenced to more than a decade each in prison Thursday.
The 17-year prison term for organizer Joseph Biggs and 15-year sentence for leader Zachary Rehl were the second and third longest sentences handed down yet in the Jan. 6, 2021, attack.
Proud Boy Zachary Rehl was sentenced Thursday to 15 years in prison after being convicted of leading an inflamed mob toward the Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021, in an attempt to stop the certification of the 2020 election results.
Addressing the court Thursday, the former Philadelphia Proud Boys chapter president said he let politics consume his life, causing him to “lose track of who and what mattered most.”
Jan 6., he said, was a “despicable day.”
“I’m done with politics, done with peddling lies for other people who don’t care about me,” Rehl said, taking breaks from speaking to wipe his tears and catch his breath.
Rehl’s sentence is just half of the 33-year sentence prosecutors requested, a decision U.S. District Judge Timothy Kelly attributed to ensuring Jan. 6 sentences do not have too great a disparity between them.
“This was 15 years below guidelines and 15 years below what the government requested,” Kelly said, expressing disbelief. “I wonder if I will ever sentence someone to 15 years below the guidelines [again] in my career.”
A former U.S. Marine, Rehl testified at trial that no one told him to attack the Capitol or hurt anyone, and he did not do those things, according to The Associated Press. But on cross-examination, prosecutors presented evidence that showed him spattering law enforcement with a chemical spray — after he said he could not recall doing so.
Kelly said he would consider that fact in deciding Rehl’s sentence after determining via a preponderance of evidence that Rehl did spray an officer, despite not being charged for that action. He determined Rehl perjured himself during his testimony by the same standard.
The judge also applied a terrorism enhancement to Rehl’s sentencing guidelines, wherein a defendant must have committed an offense that “was calculated to influence or affect the conduct of government by intimidation or coercion, or to retaliate against government conduct.” The enhancement’s weight was weakened because significant loss of life was not incurred, Kelly said.
Ahead of the Capitol attack, Rehl advocated for “firing squads” to be used against “the traitors that are trying to steal the election,” according to trial evidence. After it, he said the attack was a “good start” but that the rioters should have shown up armed and “[taken] the country back the right way.” On Thursday, Kelly called those statements “chilling.”
“Every time someone dreads what might transpire on Jan. 6, 2025 … does so in no small part because of what Zachary Rehl and his co-conspirators strove for and did accomplish,” Assistant U.S. Attorney Erik Kenerson said Thursday, advocating for a lengthy sentence.
The Pennsylvania Proud Boy in turn asked for a sentence of three years or less. Norman Pattis, Rehl’s attorney, said the government’s proposed sentence was “disproportionate, uncalled for and will not create a respect for the law.” He called it an equivalent to “burning Waco down,” referencing a deadly FBI siege in Waco, Texas, after a 1993 standoff between a religious group and federal agents.
Pattis also claimed that Rehl and other rioters were acting on former President Trump’s false claims of election fraud and questioned why the former president does not face charges of seditious conspiracy, as well.
“What they’re guilty of is believing a president who said the election had been stolen from them,” Pattis said of Rehl and other rioters.
Proud Boy Joe Biggs on Thursday was sentenced to 17 years in prison, the second-highest sentence handed down to anyone convicted in connection with the Capitol attack.
Biggs was convicted of sedition and other serious felonies earlier this year after being accused of leading members of the right-wing group to the Capitol and talking with the first rioter to breach police barricades just minutes before he acted.
The Florida Army veteran appeared in court Thursday wearing an orange prison-issued jumpsuit with a white undershirt and black thick-frame glasses, his white hair styled into a mohawk and beard outgrown.
Addressing the court, Biggs said he is “sick and tired of left versus right,” and that the only group he wants to be a part of in the future is his daughter’s parent-teacher association.
“I know I messed up that day, but I’m not a terrorist,” he said through tears.
U.S. District Judge Timothy Kelly ultimately applied a terrorism enhancement to Biggs’s sentencing guidelines, wherein a defendant must have committed an offense that “was calculated to influence or affect the conduct of government by intimidation or coercion, or to retaliate against government conduct.”
Kelly cited Biggs’s efforts to tear down a fence separating rioters from the Capitol and bringing them “one step closer” to their objective of halting the 2020 election certification as reason for applying the enhancement .
“I really don’t think this is a close call,” he said of the decision.
Still, the 204-month sentence was significantly short of what prosecutors requested — 33 years in prison, the highest sentencing request for any defendant tried in connection with the Capitol attack.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Jason McCullough argued Thursday that Biggs’s rhetoric leading up to and after the Capitol attack demonstrated the need for a significant sentence. While the 2020 election votes were still being tallied, Biggs began advocating for violence and espousing claims of election fraud — claims that prosecutors said ultimately motivated him and other Proud Boys to try to stop the certification of the vote on Jan. 6, 2021.
“Joe Biggs will continue to carry out acts of political violence to meet his agendas,” McCullough said. “Until this country bends to his will — to his view of the world — these are not words; they’re convictions.”
Biggs requested a sentence between 27 months and 33 months in prison, or less than three years. His attorney, Norman Pattis, said Thursday that the nation’s political strife cannot be attributed to Biggs when the front-runner in the 2024 presidential race — former President Trump — has been criminally indicted four times.
“To suggest this is Biggs’s fault is silly,” Pattis said.
Biggs and defendant Zachary Rehl placed blame on Trump for the Capitol attack in their joint sentencing memo. They said that Trump’s role is not “justification for their actions” but suggested that having heeded the former president’s calls that day “should yield some measure of mitigation.”
Pattis represented Biggs throughout the five Proud Boys’ four-month trial, and after the trial ended, also began representing Rehl. He has also represented Alex Jones, who runs the website “InfoWars” for which Biggs was once a correspondent.
During their trial, the five Proud Boys defendants often suggested Trump was responsible for the riot at the Capitol that day — not them.
“It was Donald Trump’s words, it was his motivation, it was his anger that caused what occurred on Jan. 6,” Tarrio attorney Nayib Hassan said in closing remarks of the trial.