A former leader of the Proud Boys, a far-right paramilitary group in America, was sentenced to 17 years in prison on Thursday in connection with the attack on the US Congress building on January 6, 2021.
Joe Biggs, Florida leader of the group, is one of five Proud Boys members who were convicted earlier this year of conspiracy to assassinate ex-pres. Keeping Donald Trump in power by force. This includes the national chairman, Enrique Tarrio, who was found guilty on May 4 of leading the “military-style” attack on the Congress building.
Zachary Rehl, leader of the Philadelphia Proud Boys group, received 15 years in prison on the same charges.
Rehl, Biggs, Tarrio and Ethan Nordean were found guilty of conspiracy, while the fifth, Dominic Pezzola, was found not guilty of sedition.
All five were also found guilty of obstructing a Congressional procedure, obstructing law enforcement and destruction of state property.
Prosecutors described them as key figures in the onslaught by thousands who tried to violently overturn Joe Biden’s November 2020 election victory, after Trump repeatedly claimed without any basis that there was massive fraud in the vote.
The attack, which followed a rally at the White House during which Trump encouraged supporters to march to the Capitol to protest the certification of the election, “broke our tradition of the peaceful transfer of power, which is one of the most precious things are what we have as Americans”, said Judge Timothy Kelly on Thursday.
Kelly rejected prosecutors’ call for up to 33 years in prison, saying it would not justify the crime.
Nevertheless, Kelly said: “There is a need for measures to deter similar behaviour.”
Biggs (39) is a veteran of the US Army who worked closely with Tarrio to organize the group to storm the seat of Congress.
Two months before the attack, he said it was time for “war”, referring to Trump losing to Biden in the election.
After January 6, he declared on social media that the attack was a “warning” for the government.
Before the sentencing on Thursday, the prosecutor, Jason McCullough, said that what Biggs and his fellow protesters did to shut down Congress that day was “nothing short of the act of a spectacular bombing of a building”.
“They aimed to intimidate and frighten elected officials,” he said, equating the January 6 attack to terrorism.
However, a tearful Biggs expressed deep regret for what had happened.
“I am so sorry,” he told the federal court in Washington. “I know I rushed that day, but I’m not a terrorist.”
Trump is blamed
Norman Pattis, the lawyer for Biggs and Rehl, told the court that they followed the lead of Trump to undertake the attack, and questioned why Trump himself was not charged with incitement.
Earlier this month, a special prosecutor from the Department of Justice charged Trump with separate conspiracy crimes for his role in promoting the false claim that the election was stolen from him.
“They made the president of the United States listen to them,” Pattis told the court.
They are “guilty of believing the president, as well as what they were told”, he said.
Rehl (38), who was formerly part of the US Marine Corps, burst into tears when he asked the judge for a lighter sentence.
“I wasted all my time on people who are not even here today, who never offered any support and who carelessly watched me sink further to the bottom,” he said.
More than 1,100 people charged
Kelly’s rulings Thursday suggested that Proud Boys national chairman Enrique Tarrio, who organized the group to go to Washington but was not at the Capitol himself, could expect a similar sentence to Biggs when he is sentenced on Sept. 5. become
Prosecutors also recommended 33 years behind bars for him.
More than 1,100 people have been charged by the Justice Department in the Congressional Building attack.
About 630 of them pleaded guilty to various charges, and 110 were found guilty at trial.
The government continues to prosecute people who participated in the uprising, which resulted in five deaths. Many police officers were attacked and hospitalized during the uprising.
The Department of Justice announced Thursday that two men were arrested in Virginia on charges related to their participation in the uprising after they were identified in photos and videos at the scene.