Joseph Biggs, a former leader of the far-right extremist group Proud Boys, was sentenced on Thursday to 17 years in prison for his role in the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol, which aimed to stop the certification of President Joe Biden’s election victory.
Biggs, a U.S. Army veteran and a Florida resident, was one of four Proud Boys leaders who were convicted of seditious conspiracy in May, the most serious charge brought against any of the hundreds of participants in the Capitol riot. He was also found guilty of obstruction of an official proceeding, destruction of government property, and entering and remaining in a restricted building.
U.S. District Judge Timothy Kelly said Biggs was a “vocal leader and influential proponent” of the group’s shift toward political violence, and that he appreciated the “tactical advantage” that his force had that day against his own government. Kelly also applied an enhancement that labeled Biggs’ crimes as acts of terrorism, saying that he intended to influence the actions of the government through threats and use of force.
Biggs’ sentence is the second longest for any defendant charged in connection with the Capitol attack, after Oath Keepers leader Stewart Rhodes, who was sentenced to 18 years in prison earlier this year. Another former Proud Boys leader, Enrique Tarrio, is set to be sentenced next Tuesday.
Prosecutors had sought 33 years in prison for Biggs, their longest recommended prison sentence yet for any participant in the Jan. 6 assault. They said Biggs and his co-conspirators were the “tip of the spear” for the mob that day, facilitating breaches at multiple police lines and helping the crowd advance into the building itself.
Biggs’ defense lawyers had asked for leniency, arguing that he was a decorated war veteran who suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder and that he had no prior criminal record. They also said he was not violent or armed on Jan. 6, and that he expressed remorse for his actions.
Biggs apologized to the court and to the American people before his sentencing, saying that he was “deeply ashamed” of what he did and that he regretted following former President Donald Trump’s “lies”. He also said he was ready to accept the consequences of his actions and hoped to be a better person in the future.
The Proud Boys are a self-described “Western chauvinist” group that has been involved in several violent clashes with left-wing activists and anti-fascists across the country. The group was designated as a terrorist entity by Canada earlier this year.
The Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol resulted in five deaths, including a police officer, and injured more than 140 others. It also disrupted the congressional certification of Biden’s electoral victory for several hours, as lawmakers and staff were evacuated or sheltered in place.
More than 600 people have been arrested and charged in connection with the Capitol riot, which has been described by federal prosecutors as an “unprecedented” attack on American democracy. The investigation is ongoing and more arrests are expected.