Proud Boys leaders sentenced to a combined 32 years for Jan. 6 riot
Updated August 31, 2023 at 4:35 PM ET
Two former leaders of the Proud Boys, Joseph Biggs and Zachary Rehl, were sentenced to 17 years and 15 years respectively in prison for seditious conspiracy and other crimes committed during the riot more than two years ago.
Biggs is a former military service member who helped lead efforts by the Proud Boys to take over the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021. Rehl, also a former military service member, was a leader of the Philadelphia chapter of the Proud Boys.
Judge Timothy J. Kelly also sentenced Biggs to three years of supervised release and a ban on any interactions with organizations that advocate violence against the government.
In his sentencing of Rehl, Kelly said he, Biggs and others participated in "a national disgrace" that contributed to the ruin of America's tradition of a peaceful transfer of power.
The sentence is far below the 33 year sentence for Biggs and the 30 years for Rehl sought by prosecutors.
Both penalties are also below the most severe sentence of 18 years given to Oath Keepers founder Stewart Rhodes in his separate seditious conspiracy conviction for his actions during Jan. 6.
Back in May, Biggs and Rehl were convicted alongside former Proud Boys national chairman Enrique Tarrio and other fellow Proud Boys member Ethan Nordean. A fourth defendant, Dominic Pezzola, was acquitted of seditious conspiracy but found guilty of assaulting, resisting or impeding certain officers and robbery involving government property.
Prosecutors wanted to apply a "terrorism enhancement," which leads to longer prison terms.
Judge Kelly chose to apply that enhancement to one of Biggs' and Rehl's charges regarding their role in the destruction of a fence surrounding the U.S. Capitol building which, once gone, no longer kept the mob back from law enforcement protecting the building.
But Kelly said he believed Biggs and Rehl had no intention of killing anyone and had no motivation to incite mass casualties.
Kelly said in both hearings that he was "not trying to minimize the violence" that happened that day, but that he had to compare the sentences of other Jan. 6 defendants in other cases to avoid large disparities.
"There was a great deal of violence that day, no doubt," Kelly said. "It is a miracle there wasn't a greater loss of life."
As the first of the five co-defendants in the Proud Boys' Jan. 6 case to be sentenced, Biggs' and Rehl's punishments indicate what penalties the other three members they were convicted with could be facing.
Pezzolla will be sentenced Friday.
The sentencing hearings for Tarrio and Nordean, originally scheduled for Wednesday, were delayed after Kelly fell ill.
Nordean's hearing is rescheduled also for Friday with Pezzola and Tarrio's for Tuesday, Sept. 5.
Biggs says he was 'seduced' by mob on Jan. 6
Before being sentenced, Biggs begged for forgiveness and leniency. He downplayed his role in the Jan. 6 riots and said that day was set to be the last event he planned to do with the Proud Boys as he had plans to step back from the organization.
"I was seduced by the crowd," Biggs said of the mob in front of the U.S. Capitol. "Curiosity got the better of me and I will regret that for the rest of my life."
Biggs cried as he begged Kelly to allow him an opportunity to be present for his young daughter who he said was molested by a family member and is now in the care of his mother.
"I am not a terrorist," he said. "I know I have to be punished, but at least give me the opportunity to take my daughter to school one day."
Rehl in an emotional speech says he is 'done peddling lies'
During his trial, Rehl painted himself as a family man. He has repeatedly denied assaulting officers, even as he was confronted with video of him spraying law enforcement officers with chemicals.
When he addressed the court, Rehl was emotional throughout his speech.
Rehl said he lost military benefits and professional licenses he's worked for.
And he promised he was done with politics.
"I'm done with all of it," he said. "I'm done with peddling lies for other people that don't care about me."
He continued, "I'm sorry for everything that happened. January 6 was a despicable day. I did things I regret. I made my family suffer because of it."
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