A handful of defendants have been sentenced to more than a decade of incarceration over their actions during the Capitol riots on Jan. 6, 2021.
The Justice Department (DOJ) announced earlier this month that approximately 597 federal defendants have had their cases adjudicated and received sentences for their activity Jan. 6. About 366 individuals have been sentenced to periods of incarceration.
Many of those with the longest sentences include members of the Proud Boys and the Oath Keepers — two far-right extremist groups whose members took to the Capitol to attempt to stop the votes of the 2020 election from being counted.
Two members of the Proud Boys — Joe Biggs and Zachary Rehl — were sentenced Thursday for actions they took on Jan. 6. Two more Proud Boys, Dominic Pezzola and Ethan Nordean, are scheduled to be sentenced Friday while Proud Boys leader Enrique Tarrio will be sentenced next week.
Here are five of the longest Jan. 6 sentencings so far:
Stewart Rhodes, founder of the Oath Keepers, center, speaks during a rally outside the White House in Washington, June 25, 2017 (AP Photo/Susan Walsh, File)
Oath Keepers founder Stewart Rhodes was sentenced to 18 years in prison in May, after being found guilty on conspiracy charges for his role in the Capitol attack.
Rhodes currently has the longest sentence of any Jan. 6 defendant. Judge Amit Mehta laid down the sentence at the time, telling the leader that he is “not a political prisoner” and that he is an “ongoing threat and a peril to this country.”
Rhodes’s sentence was also notable because he did not actually enter the Capitol on Jan. 6, but instead he directed his team via a walkie-talkie app as they entered the building in a “stack” formation.
The sentence was shorter than the DOJ’s ask for 25 years of imprisonment.
Proud Boys organizer Joseph Biggs walks from the George C. Young Federal Annex Courthouse in Orlando, Fla., Jan. 20, 2021, after a court hearing regarding his involvement in the riot at the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021. (Sam Thomas/Orlando Sentinel via AP)
Proud Boy Joe Biggs was sentenced to 17 years in prison Thursday, making it the second-longest sentence for those convicted on charges related to the Capitol riot.
Biggs was found guilty of sedition and other felonies this year after prosecutors accused him of leading Proud Boys members to the Capitol. U.S. District Judge Timothy Kelly applied a terrorism enhancement to Biggs’s sentencing guidelines, which means that the defendant committed an offense that “was calculated to influence or affect the conduct of government by intimidation or coercion, or to retaliate against government conduct.”
“I know I messed up that day, but I am not a terrorist,” he said at the hearing Thursday.
However, Biggs’s 17-year sentence still falls short of what the government requested — 33 years in prison. This was the highest sentencing request for any defendant tried in connection with the Capitol attack.
Proud Boys member Zachary Rehl walks toward the U.S. Capitol in Washington in support of then-President Trump on Jan. 6, 2021. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster, File)
Proud Boy Zachary Rehl, a former U.S. Marine, was handed a 15-year prison sentence Thursday afternoon after being convicted of leading a mob toward the Capitol on Jan. 6.
His sentence is now the third-longest sentence handed down to any Jan. 6 defendant. When he addressed the court Thursday, the former Philadelphia Proud Boys chapter president expressed regret that he let politics consume his life, which caused him to “lose track of who and what mattered most.”
“I’m done with politics, done with peddling lies for other people who don’t care about me,” Rehl said.
Like for Rhodes and Biggs, the sentence is also lower than what the government had requested, which was a 33-year sentence for Rehl. Kelly also applied a terrorism enhancement to Rehl’s sentencing guidelines, but the judge said the enhancement’s weight was weakened because there was no significant loss of life.
In this image from a Washington Metropolitan Police Department officer’s body-worn video camera, released and annotated by the Justice Department in the Government’s Sentencing Memorandum, Peter Schwartz, circled in red, is shown using a canister of pepper spray against officers on Jan. 6, 2021, in Washington. (Justice Department via AP, File)
Peter Schwartz — a Kentucky man with an existing criminal record — received a 14-year sentence for attacking police officers with pepper spray and a chair while he breached the Capitol that day.
His sentence was handed down in May, which at the time was the longest among the hundreds of riot cases from Jan. 6. During the riot, he had armed himself with a wooden tire knocker and a police-issued “super soaker” canister of pepper spray. He had also thrown a lawn chair at officers, which prosecutors argued helped other rioters breach the Capitol.
Mehta sentenced Schwartz at the time, saying that he was a “soldier against democracy.”
“You are not a political prisoner,” the judge told him. “You’re not somebody who is standing up against injustice or fighting against an autocratic regime.”
Schwartz’s sentence was shorter than what prosecutors had recommended, which was 24 years and six months.
This artist sketch depicts the trial of Oath Keepers leader Stewart Rhodes and four others charged with seditious conspiracy in the Jan. 6, 2021, Capitol attack, in Washington, Oct. 6, 2022. Shown above are defendant Thomas Caldwell, seated front row left, Oath Keepers leader Stewart Rhodes, seated second left with an eye patch, defendant Jessica Watkins, seated third from right, Kelly Meggs, seated second from right, and defendant Kenneth Harrelson, seated at right. (Dana Verkouteren via AP)
He was sentenced alongside Rhodes, and he was convicted of conspiracy to obstruct an official proceeding, obstruction of an official proceeding, conspiracy to prevent an officer from discharging duties and tampering with documents or proceedings.
The Justice Department announced in July that it would be challenging the length of both Rhodes’s and Meggs’s sentences, a rare move from the prosecutors.
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