ANALYSIS – Two Proud Boys leaders have been sentenced to more than a decade each in jail after being convicted of the rarely used ‘seditious conspiracy’ charge for storming the Capitol.
They tried to overturn President Donald Trump’s 2020 election loss, which they considered fraudulent.
A federal judge sentenced former far-right Proud Boys leader Joseph Biggs to 17 years in prison and his co-defendant Zachary Rehl to 15 years. (RELATED: Proud Boys Member Who Led Capitol Break-In Sentenced To 10 Years)
These sentences are much less than the three decades of jail time proposed by prosecutors but still very long prison terms for a few hours of rioting.
And yes, I understand that the rioting was at the U.S. Capitol and that the certification of the Electoral College vote was in process. I also understand these two guys and the two others convicted on this same charge were intimately involved in organizing what became violent chaos that day.
I was there, at the Capitol, as an observer with a TV camera crew. And I denounced the violence the next day. It was outrageous.
I believe any violent rioter who attacked police or media, or anyone else, on Jan. 6 should be put in jail – as should all the BLM rioters who earlier caused $2 billion in damages throughout the country and injured 2,000 cops months earlier.
But a decade or two behind bars for ‘conspiracy’?
Biggs and Rehl are the first Proud Boys convicted of the Civil War-era seditious conspiracy charge to be sentenced for their roles in the Jan. 6, 2021, attack.
The sentences kicked off a series of hearings scheduled for this week and next, where punishment will be meted out against the former chairman of the Proud Boys, Enrique Tarrio (who was not in D.C. on Jan. 6 but was unbelievably arrested earlier for burning a BLM banner!), and two other members of the group.
All were convicted of seditious conspiracy and other crimes at a landmark conspiracy trial this spring. But was what they did really as bad as the Biden Justice Department tries to portray?
As The Guardian noted:
Seditious conspiracy is a broad statute that concerns attempts to overthrow the government, levy war against it or prevent, hinder or delay the execution of any law. It also can be applied in cases where suspects seize any government property and carries up to 20 years in prison if convicted.
Partly because seditious conspiracy allegations carry so much political weight, prosecutors have generally been hesitant to bring such charges in the past. “Seditious conspiracy charges are rarely used in American jurisprudence,” said Jeffrey Ian Ross, a criminologist and expert on political crime at the University of Baltimore. Prosecutors can be wary of issuing such charges, even in cases that may fall under its broad statute, he added.
In the only similar case in the 20th century, federal prosecutors secured a seditious conspiracy conviction against Puerto Rican nationalists who stormed the Capitol building in 1954.
These four armed Puerto Rican independence militants entered the House floor and fired dozens of bullets around the chamber, wounding five legislators.
The four shooters and co-conspirators were convicted of seditious conspiracy and spent over two decades in jail until Jimmy Carter commuted their sentence in 1979.
In that case, however, the perpetrators had firearms and used them to try to kill Congressmen. That’s a pretty big difference.
The last successfully prosecuted seditious conspiracy was in the mid-1990s, when authorities charged Sheikh Omar Abdel-Rahman and nine Islamist co-conspirators for plotting to bomb the United Nations, the FBI building, and several other landmarks around New York City.
Again, this was very serious and involved planning mass murder and terrorism.
There is little or no evidence that any Jan. 6 rioters planned any offensive violence.
To date, of those charged in relation to Jan. 6, former Oath Keepers founder Stewart Rhodes holds the record with an 18-year sentence, after he was convicted of seditious conspiracy earlier this year.
The Guardian reported in 2022 that:
Even Rhodes, who is not believed to have actually stormed the building, is alleged to have plotted to bring weapons to the area and coordinate militia movements.
In the weeks before the insurrection, Rhodes allegedly purchased tens of thousands of dollars worth of weapons and began communicating to other Oath Keepers in an encrypted group chat. “We aren’t getting through this without a civil war,” he messaged days after the presidential election. One Oath Keeper admitted as part of a plea deal last year that he brought an M4 rifle to a Comfort Inn hotel near the Capitol, while Rhodes and others allegedly discussed “quick reaction force” teams that could move into Washington DC with firearms. Once inside the Capitol, prosecutors state in their indictment that one group of Oath Keepers moved in a military “stack” formation and went in search of the speaker of the House, Nancy Pelosi.
And at first glance, this does seem serious.
But Rhodes claims that despite earlier texts about possible ‘civil war,’ Oath Keepers who entered the Capitol went “totally off mission” and that he was only there to prevent his militia members from getting into trouble.
He has also stated that the armed ‘reaction force’ in Virginia was there to respond if armed leftist antifa thugs attacked pro-Trump protestors.
In the largest manhunt in FBI history, more than 1,100 people have been arrested on charges related to the Capitol assault. Of those, 597 defendants have had their cases adjudicated and received sentences. About 366 of them have been given jail time.
The vast majority of these Jan. 6 defendants, though, accepted plea deals for minor, nonviolent offenses such as trespassing or obstructing an official function. Many of them still got jail sentences totally out of proportion to their alleged crimes.
And these four got the worst of it.
The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the positions of Great America News Desk. It was first published in American Liberty News.