Joseph Biggs, a former prominent figure within the far-right Proud Boys organization, has been handed a 17-year prison sentence for his role in the storming of the United States Capitol on January 6, 2021. This event was an unsuccessful bid to overturn President Joe Biden’s victory in the 2020 election.
The sentencing of the 33-year-old marks one of the lengthiest prison terms given to any participant in the Capitol riot, with only one other receiving a longer sentence.
Biggs, along with three other members of the Proud Boys, was convicted of charges including seditious conspiracy and other felonies in May. He expressed remorse for his actions during the proceedings and pleaded for leniency, citing the wellbeing of his daughter, who he revealed to be a victim of sexual assault. He maintained that he had been caught up in the fervor of the crowd and that his intentions were not malicious.
More than 1,100 individuals have faced charges related to the Capitol riot, an event that saw supporters of then-President Donald Trump forcefully enter the US Capitol in an effort to halt the peaceful transition of power. Of those, nearly 600 have been found guilty and sentenced.
Stewart Rhodes, founder of another far-right group known as the Oath Keepers, was previously sentenced to 18 years in prison for a separate seditious conspiracy case.
While Biggs’s 17-year sentence is substantial for a January 6 case, Judge Timothy Kelly decided on a prison term below the standard sentencing guidelines. This term was significantly shorter than the 33 years sought by federal prosecutors. The judge emphasized the need for deterrence and underscored the gravity of the events that disrupted the traditional transfer of power in the United States.
Prosecutors argued their case based on a trove of messages exchanged by Proud Boys leaders and members, both privately in encrypted chats and publicly on social media, prior to, during, and after the Capitol riot.
They contended that the group’s leaders were prepared for an aggressive confrontation and viewed themselves as a force loyal to then-President Trump, determined to maintain his authority regardless of legal or judicial outcomes.
Defense lawyers challenged the prosecution’s evidence, asserting that the seditious conspiracy charge was not adequately supported. They maintained that their clients were being unfairly held responsible for the violent actions of others during the January 6 event.
This sentencing follows closely after former President Donald Trump’s indictment for his actions surrounding the 2020 presidential election and its aftermath. Federal prosecutors have accused Trump of attempting to defraud the nation and conspiring to obstruct official proceedings, as well as violating citizens’ rights to a fair vote count.
Apart from these charges, Trump is facing additional legal proceedings in Georgia, New York, and Florida, which he contends are politically motivated attempts to hinder his potential 2024 presidential aspirations.