Proud Boy Joe Biggs on Thursday was sentenced to 17 years in prison, the second-highest sentence handed down to anyone convicted in connection with the Capitol attack.
Biggs was convicted of sedition and other serious felonies earlier this year after being accused of leading members of the right-wing extremist group to the Capitol and talking with the first rioter to breach police barricades just minutes before he acted.
The Florida Army veteran appeared in court Thursday wearing an orange prison-issued jumpsuit with a white undershirt and black thick-frame glasses, his white hair styled into a mohawk and beard outgrown.
Addressing the court, Biggs said he is “sick and tired of left versus right,” and that the only group he wants to be a part of in the future is his daughter’s parent-teacher association.
“I know I messed up that day, but I’m not a terrorist,” he said through tears.
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U.S. District Judge Timothy Kelly ultimately applied a terrorism enhancement to Biggs’s sentencing guidelines, wherein a defendant must have committed an offense that “was calculated to influence or affect the conduct of government by intimidation or coercion, or to retaliate against government conduct.”
Kelly cited Biggs’s efforts to tear down a fence separating rioters from the Capitol and bringing them “one step closer” to their objective of halting the 2020 election certification as reason for applying the enhancement .
“I really don’t think this is a close call,” he said of the decision.
Still, the 204-month sentence was significantly short of what prosecutors requested — 33 years in prison, the highest sentencing request for any defendant tried in connection with the Capitol attack.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Jason McCullough argued Thursday that Biggs’s rhetoric leading up to and after the Capitol attack demonstrated the need for a significant sentence. While the 2020 election votes were still being tallied, Biggs began advocating for violence and espousing false claims of election fraud — claims that prosecutors said ultimately motivated him and other Proud Boys to try to stop the certification of the vote on Jan. 6, 2021.
“Joe Biggs will continue to carry out acts of political violence to meet his agendas,” McCullough said. “Until this country bends to his will — to his view of the world — these are not words; they’re convictions.”
A 33-year sentence is also recommended for Proud Boys leader Enrique Tarrio, whose highly anticipated sentencing was postponed at the last minute Wednesday.
Oath Keepers leader Stewart Rhodes was sentenced in May to 18 years in prison, the highest sentence tied to Jan. 6 to date.
Biggs requested a sentence between 27 months and 33 months in prison, or less than three years. His attorney, Norman Pattis, said Thursday that the nation’s political strife cannot be attributed to Biggs when the front-runner in the 2024 presidential race — former President Trump — has been criminally indicted four times.
“To suggest this is Biggs’s fault is silly,” Pattis said.
Biggs and defendant Zachary Rehl placed blame on Trump for the Capitol attack in their joint sentencing memo. They said that Trump’s role is not “justification for their actions” but suggested that having heeded the former president’s calls that day “should yield some measure of mitigation.”
Pattis represented Biggs throughout the five Proud Boys’ four-month trial, and after the trial ended, also began representing Rehl. He has also represented conspiracist Alex Jones, who runs the far-right website “InfoWars” for which Biggs was once a correspondent.
During their trial, the five Proud Boys defendants often suggested Trump was responsible for the riot at the Capitol that day — not them.
“It was Donald Trump’s words, it was his motivation, it was his anger that caused what occurred on Jan. 6,” Tarrio attorney Nayib Hassan said in closing remarks of the trial.
Trump now faces charges in two criminal cases tied to his actions after losing the 2020 presidential election. The federal case in Washington, D.C. — the trial for which is set to begin March 4 — charges Trump with conspiring to overturn the election, culminating in the Capitol attack.
Trump and the Proud Boys became linked after the former president urged them to “stand back and stand by” during his first debate against President Biden after being asked to denounce the group.
The other Proud Boys will be sentenced later this week. Rehl’s sentencing is scheduled for Thursday afternoon, while defendants Dominic Pezzola and Ethan Nordean are set to be sentenced Friday.
Tarrio — the group’s former national chairman who prosecutors say influenced others to “organize and execute the conspiracy to forcibly stop the peaceful democratic transfer of power” — is scheduled to be sentenced next week.
Their sentencings will close the book on the historic seditious conspiracy cases brought by the Justice Department after the Capitol was attacked. More than 1,100 rioters have been charged across the country for their roles in that day.