One of the leaders of the far-right group Proud Boys who was convicted earlier this year of seditious conspiracy was handed a 17-year prison sentence, just one year shy of the record-setting sentence given to Oath Keepers founder Stewart Rhodes, NBC reports. Joe Biggs, who the government says "served as an instigator and leader" during the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol, got much less than the government's recommended 33-year term for him. Prosecutors argued that he was a “vocal leader and influential proponent of the group’s shift toward political violence” and that he used his “outsized public profile” and his military experience as he “led a revolt against the government in an effort to stop the peaceful transfer of power.” U.S. District Judge Timothy Kelly, who handed down Biggs' sentence, ruled earlier in the hearing that Biggs’ tearing down of a fence between police and rioters qualified him for a terrorism sentencing enhancement sought by prosecutors. Destroying the fence was a “deliberate, meaningful step” that contributed to the disruption of the electoral vote count occurring in the Capitol, Kelly said.
Kelly handed down another below-recommendation sentence on Thursday to Biggs' fellow Proud Boy Zachary Rehl. Prosecutors sought a 30-year sentence for him, but Kelly gave 15 years to Rehl, the son and grandson of police officers in Philadelphia who ran that city's Proud Boys chapter, the New York Times reports. Biggs and Rehl now rank among the defendants hit with the five longest sentences related to the Jan. 6 riot, the Hill reports. Besides Rhodes, that list includes Peter Schwartz, who got 14 years for attacking police officers with pepper spray and a chair at the Capitol, and Kelly Meggs, the Oath Keepers Florida chapter leader sentenced to 12 years. The Justice Department announced in July that it would be challenging the length of both Rhodes’ and Meggs’ sentences, a rare move from the prosecutors. Other Proud Boys convicted at trial are to be sentenced Friday and next Tuesday.