Former Proud Boys leaders could face longest sentences yet for US Capitol attack

By Sarah N. Lynch

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – A federal judge on Thursday will consider whether to impose the steepest sentences yet on two former leaders of the Proud Boys who stormed the U.S. Capitol seeking to overturn Donald Trump’s 2020 election defeat, after a jury convicted them of seditious conspiracy.

Federal prosecutors have asked a judge to sentence Joseph Biggs to 33 years in prison and they are seeking a 30-year sentence for co-defendant Zachary Rehl. They are due to become the first Proud Boys convicted of seditious conspiracy to be sentenced for their roles in the Jan. 6, 2021, attack.

Those recommendations exceed the longest sentence handed out so far over the assault by the former president’s supporters on the Capitol, including Oath Keepers founder Stewart Rhodes, who was sentenced in May to serve 18 years.

Former Proud Boys Chair Enrique Tarrio and another former leader, Ethan Nordean, were scheduled for sentencing on Wednesday but their hearings were postponed after the judge called out sick.

The attack was meant to stop Congress from certifying Democratic President Joe Biden’s election, which Trump falsely claims was the result of widespread fraud.

Trump currently holds a wide lead in the race for the Republican nomination to challenge Biden in 2024.


Prosecutors also asked U.S. District Judge Timothy Kelly to agree to a terrorism enhancement – a move that has the potential to add roughly 15 years to a prison term.

“Biggs viewed himself and his movement as a second American revolution where he and the other ‘patriots’ would retake the government by force,” federal prosecutors wrote in their sentencing memo.

Rehl, meanwhile, “spent his time as president of the Philadelphia Proud Boys trying to present a legitimate-looking front while behind the scenes amassing an army that was ready and willing to fight,” they added.

More than 1,100 people have been arrested on charges related to the Capitol assault. Of those, more than 630 have pleaded guilty and at least 110 have been convicted at trial.

Five people including a police officer died during or shortly after the riot and more than 140 police officers were injured. The Capitol suffered millions of dollars in damage.

Special Counsel Jack Smith, who was tapped to investigate broader efforts to overturn the 2020 election, has since charged Trump for trying to keep himself in power.

Norm Pattis, an attorney for both Biggs and Rehl, will ask Kelly to sentence his clients to a term that is below U.S. sentencing guidelines and “far below the sentencing recommendation” made by prosecutors.

“The defendants are not terrorists,” he wrote. “Whatever excesses of zeal they demonstrated on January 6, 2021, and no matter how grave the potential interference with the orderly transfer of power due to the events of that day, a decade or more behind bars is an excessive punishment.”

In May, a jury convicted Biggs, Rehl, Tarrio and Nordean of seditious conspiracy, a Civil War-era law that makes it a crime to conspire to oppose the government by force, and other felonies.

Prosecutors are seeking a 33-year prison term for Tarrio and a 27-year term for Nordean.

Also facing sentencing, on Friday, is Dominic Pezzola. Pezzola was acquitted of seditious conspiracy but convicted of other serious felonies including obstructing an official proceeding. Prosecutors are requesting a 20-year sentence for him.

(Reporting by Sarah N. Lynch; Editing by Scott Malone and Mark Porter)

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