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Prosecutors appeal length of prison sentences imposed on Proud Boys leaders convicted of Jan. 6 plot

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WASHINGTON — The Justice Department is appealing the length of prison sentences given to four Proud Boys leaders convicted of seditious conspiracy in the attack on the U.S. Capitol, challenging significantly shorter sentences than those recommended by prosecutors. according to court documents.

U.S. District Judge Timothy Kelly sentenced former Proud Boys national leader Enrique Tarrio and three lieutenants to prison terms ranging from 15 to 22 years after a jury convicted them in May of conspiring to prevent the peaceful transfer of presidential power from Donald Trump to Joe Biden after the 2020 presidential election.

Tarrio’s 22-year sentence is the longest to date among hundreds of criminal cases stemming from the Jan. 6, 2021, Capitol riot, but prosecutors had sought 33 years in prison for the Miami man.

Attorney Nayib Hassan said in an email that the defense team would review prosecutors’ reasoning for appealing the conviction, but that it was preparing its own appeal and believed it would “prevail on multiple grounds.”

Prosecutors, who filed their cases in court Monday, had also recommended 33-year sentences for former Proud Boys organizer Joseph Biggs, of Ormond Beach, Florida; 30 years for Zachary Rehl, head of the Philadelphia chapter of the Proud Boys; and 27 years in prison for chapter leader Ethan Nordean, of Auburn, Washington.

Kelly sentenced Nordean to 18 years, Biggs to 17 years and Rehl to 15 years.

Defense attorney Norm Pattis, who represents Biggs and Rehl, said in a text message that the government’s calls were “ridiculous.”

“Merrick Garland needs a new workhorse,” Pattis said of the attorney general, whose convictions the Justice Department obtained.

Nicholas Smith, Nordean’s attorney, said in an email that his client “is encouraged that the government acknowledges that errors led to the judgment and sentence in his case.”

Prosecutors are also appealing the 10-year sentence given to Dominic Pezzola, a member of the Proud Boys from Rochester, New York. Prosecutors requested 20 years in prison for Pezzola, who was tried alongside the group’s four leaders. Jurors acquitted Pezzola of seditious conspiracy, but convicted him of other serious charges.

The Justice Department has already appealed the 18-year prison sentence handed down to Oath Keepers founder Stewart Rhodes, who was convicted of seditious conspiracy in a separate case on January 6, as well as the convictions of other members of his anti-government militia.

Prosecutors had requested 25 years in prison for Rhodes. U.S. District Judge Amit Mehta sentenced him to 18 years in prison.

Also Monday, a member of the Proud Boys who joined other members of the far-right group in attacking the Capitol pleaded guilty to obstructing the Jan. 6 joint session of Congress for certifying Biden’s victory , a Democrat, over Trump, a Republican. William Chrestman, 49, of Olathe, Kansas, also pleaded guilty to threatening to assault a federal officer during the Capitol riot.

Kelly is scheduled to sentence Chrestman for his two felony convictions on Jan. 12. The estimated sentencing guidelines for his case recommended a prison term ranging from four years and three months to five years and three months.

Chrestman had an ax handle, gas mask, helmet and other tactical gear when he traveled to Washington, D.C., with other Proud Boys members from the Kansas City, Kansas, area. On January 6, he marched to the Capitol grounds with dozens of other Proud Boys leaders, members and associates.

Chrestman and other Proud Boys pushed past a toppled metal barricade and joined other rioters at another police barrier. He made threats toward officers and yelled at others in the crowd to prevent police from arresting another rioter, prosecutors said.

Facing the crowd, Chrestman shouted, “Whose house is this?”

“Our house!” » the crowd responded.

“Do you want your house back?” » asked Chrestman.

“Yes!” the crowd responded.

“Take it!” » shouted Chrestman.

Chrestman also pointed at a line of Capitol police officers, gestured at them with the handle of his ax and threatened to attack them if they fired “pepper ball” rounds at the crowd of rioters, according to a court file accompanying his guilty plea.

Chrestman, a U.S. Army veteran, has been imprisoned since his arrest in February 2021.

More than 1,100 people have been charged with federal crimes related to the Capitol riots. About 60 of them have been identified as leaders, members or associates of the Proud Boys.

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