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Proud Boys leaders sentenced for seditious conspiracy for 2021 U.S. Capitol breach

Crystal Graham
jan. 6 capitol insurrection
(© Gallagher Photography – Shutterstock)

Two former leaders of the Proud Boys organization were sentenced Thursday for seditious conspiracy and other charges related to the breach of the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021.

Joseph R. Biggs, 39, of Ormond Beach, Fla., was sentenced to 17 years in prison and 36 months of supervised release.

Zachary Rehl, 38, of Philadelphia, Penn., was sentenced to 15 years in prison and 36 months of supervised release.

Their actions disrupted a joint session of the U.S. Congress that was in the process of ascertaining and counting the electoral votes necessary to certify the 2020 presidential election.

A jury convicted Biggs and Rehl and three other co-defendants of multiple felonies, including seditious conspiracy and conspiracy to obstruct an official proceeding on May 4, 2023, for their actions before and during the breach of the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021.

According to court documents and evidence presented during the trial, the Proud Boys organization played a significant and often violent role in Washington, D.C., rallies in November and December 2020.

In the aftermath of that violent conduct, Biggs and Rehl served as members of a special chapter of the Proud Boys known as the Ministry of Self Defense.

Beginning after Dec. 19, 2020, Biggs and Rehl, all of whom were leaders or members of the Ministry of Self Defense, conspired to prevent, hinder and delay the certification of the Electoral College vote and to oppose by force the authority of the government.

In the days leading to Jan. 6, Biggs, Rehl, and co-defendants Henry “Enrique Tarrio” and Ethan Nordean hand-selected co-defendant Dominic Pezzola and others known as rally boys to participate in the attack on the Capitol that day.

This group established a chain of command, chose a time and place for their attack and recruited others who would follow their leadership and who were prepared to engage in physical violence if necessary.

Court records: Jan. 6 timeline

On Jan. 6, the group and the men they recruited and led participated in every consequential breach at the Capitol on Jan. 6.

  • The group began their assault that day at 10 a.m. when Biggs, Rehl and others marched an assembled group of nearly 200 individuals away from speeches and directly toward the Capitol.
  • They arrived at the First Street gate at 12:50 p.m., and Biggs led the crowd in chants. Within minutes, Biggs, Rehl and others led their recruits up the First Street walkway, breaching multiple barricades and tearing down fencing.
  • At about 1:30 p.m., when law enforcement appeared to have successfully controlled the crowd by pushing them back, the men again pushed forward with Biggs and other co-defendants leading the charge.
  • Biggs and other co-defendants then gathered at the base of the concrete stairs that led to the doors and windows of the Capitol. The group again surged toward the Capitol and overwhelmed officers who had been battling the crowd for nearly an hour. Rehl sprayed an officer in the face.
  • One co-defendant, Dominic Pezzola, smashed open a window, allowing the first rioters to enter the Capitol at 2:11 p.m., and Biggs entered close behind him with some of his men.
  • During the attack, Biggs posed with other Proud Boys on the West Lawn of the Capitol for a celebratory video in which Biggs stated that “January 6 will be a day in infamy.” Rehl made social media posts calling Jan. 6 a historical day and told his mother that he was proud of the Proud Boys’ “raid of the Capitol.”

On Jan. 7, Rehl told members of the Ministry of Self Defense that he was proud of what was accomplished. Likewise, Biggs recorded a podcast-style interview in which he called Jan. 6 a “warning shot” to the government that showed them “how weak they truly are.”

During the hearing, U.S. District Judge Timothy J. Kelly applied the enhancement for a federal crime of terrorism to the defendant’s final sentence.

This case was prosecuted by the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Columbia, the National Security Division’s Counterterrorism Section and the Criminal Division’s Organized Crime and Gang Section.

In the 31 months since Jan. 6, 2021, more than 1,106 individuals have been arrested in nearly all 50 states for crimes related to the breach of the U.S. Capitol including more than 350 individuals charged with assaulting or impeding law enforcement.

View additional people wanted for assault of media or of a federal police officer.

Anyone with tips may call (800) 225-5324) or visit tips.fbi.gov.

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Crystal Graham

Crystal Graham

Crystal Abbe Graham is the regional editor of Augusta Free Press. A 1999 graduate of Virginia Tech, she has worked for nearly 25 years as a reporter and editor for several Virginia publications, written a book, and garnered more than a dozen Virginia Press Association awards for writing and graphic design. She was the co-host of "Viewpoints," a weekly TV news show, and co-host of Virginia Tonight, a nightly TV news show. Her work on "Virginia Tonight" earned her a national Telly award for excellence in television.