Two Proud Boys leaders get some of longest sentences for January 6 Capitol attack

Joseph Biggs and Zachary Rehl sentenced to 17 years and 15 years in prison for roles in US Capitol insurrection

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A federal judge on Thursday sentenced former far-right Proud Boys leaders Joseph Biggs co-defendant Zachary Rehl to 17 years and 15 years in prison over the January 6, 2021, US Capitol riot.

A jury convicted the two of seditious conspiracy for storming the Capitol in a failed bid to overturn Donald Trump's 2020 election defeat.

The prison terms handed down by US District Judge Timothy Kelly for Biggs and Rehl, the first Proud Boys convicted of seditious conspiracy, were below US sentencing guidelines and far lower than the 33-year and 30-year terms sought by federal prosecutors.

Mr Kelly said on Thursday that he was not “trying to minimise the violence” that occurred on January 6, but he noted that it was still not on par with a mass casualty event and imposing a stricter sentence could create disparities.

Before his sentencing, Biggs apologised for his actions as he faced Mr Kelly, choking up as he spoke.

“I was seduced by the crowd and I just moved forward. My curiosity got the better of me,” he said. “I’m not a terrorist. I don’t have hate in my heart.”

Rehl, meanwhile, broke down in tears as he read a statement, as his lawyer stood next to him with his hand on his back.

“I regret involving myself with any of it,” Rehl said.

He said he let politics consume his life and “lost track of who and what matters".

Rehl also apologised for letting his family down and asked if Mr Kelly could send him to a federal prison close to his home.

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

“These are very serious crimes,” federal prosecutor Jason McCullough said on Thursday.

“There is a reason why we will hold our collective breaths as we approach future elections. … they pushed this to the edge of a constitutional crisis.”

Two other Proud Boys – Ethan Nordean and Dominic Pezzola – will face sentencing before Mr Kelly on Friday, while the group's former chairman Enrique Tarrio will be sentenced on September 5.

To date, former Oath Keepers founder Stewart Rhodes holds the record with an 18-year sentence, after he was convicted of seditious conspiracy this year.

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.

Updated: August 31, 2023, 10:50 PM