Far-Right Proud Boys figureheads jailed over deadly US Capitol riot

Zachary Rehl and Joseph Biggs   (ES Composite)
Zachary Rehl and Joseph Biggs (ES Composite)

Two figureheads of the far-Right Proud Boys movement have been handed lengthy jail terms for their roles in the deadly January 2021 riot in Congress by extremist supporters of Donald Trump.

The 17-year prison term for Joseph Biggs and 15 years for Zachary Rehl were the second and third longest sentences handed down yet over the attack on Capitol Hill, which sought to keep the Republican president in power despite his electoral defeat by Joe Biden.

Mr Trump’s false claims that the 2020 election was stolen from him have embroiled him in multiple legal showdowns. He pleaded not guilty yesterday of illegally trying to overturn the election results in Georgia — a week after becoming the first former president to have his mugshot taken by police.

But Mr Trump waived his right to appear in person at an arraignment next week, ensuring no repeat of the dramatic moments when he has pleaded not guilty in three other criminal cases before crowds of spectators this year.

Mr Trump is among 19 people charged with a conspiracy to overturn Georgia’s 2020 results. But his lawyers filed for his case to be separated from co-defendants who want an expedited trial, possibly starting on October 23.

Prosecutors want them all tried together and are pushing back at Mr Trump’s efforts to drag out the proceedings beyond the 2024 elections, when he hopes to be the sitting president again.

Verdicts are already in against some of his violent followers. In Washington, US Army veteran Biggs was convicted as an “instigator” of the storming of Congress as senators convened to certify Mr Biden’s victory.

Rehl, a former US marine who also faced charges of seditious conspiracy, was seen on video spraying a chemical irritant at police officers outside the Capitol during the riot, which led to the deaths of at least five people.

“Rehl led an army to attempt to stop the certification proceeding, was proud that they got as close as they did, and his only regret in the immediate aftermath was that they did not go further,” prosecutors wrote in a court filing.

Later that day, Rehl expressed pride for his role in the attack. He wrote in a message to his mother: “Seems like our raid of the capital set off a chain reaction of events throughout the country.”

But Rehl sobbed as he expressed his regrets to the judge.

“I’m done with all of it, done peddling lies for other people who don’t care about me,” Rehl said. “Politicians started spreading lies about the election, and I fell for it hook, line and sinker.”

Biggs acknowledged that he “messed up” on January 6, 2021, but blamed being “seduced by the crowd” of Trump supporters.

More than 1,100 people have been charged with Capitol riot-related federal crimes, with more than 600 convicted and sentenced.