Proud Boy Zachary Rehl was sentenced Thursday to 15 years in prison after being convicted of leading an inflamed mob toward the Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021, in an attempt to stop the certification of the 2020 election results.
Addressing the court Thursday, the former Philadelphia Proud Boys chapter president said he let politics consume his life, causing him to “lose track of who and what mattered most.”
Jan 6., he said, was a “despicable day.”
“I’m done with politics, done with peddling lies for other people who don’t care about me,” Rehl said, taking breaks from speaking to wipe his tears and catch his breath.
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Rehl’s sentence is just half of the 33-year sentence prosecutors requested, a decision U.S. District Judge Timothy Kelly attributed to ensuring Jan. 6 sentences do not have too great a disparity between them.
“This was 15 years below guidelines and 15 years below what the government requested,” Kelly said, expressing disbelief. “I wonder if I will ever sentence someone to 15 years below the guidelines [again] in my career.”
A former U.S. Marine, Rehl testified at trial that no one told him to attack the Capitol or hurt anyone, and he did not do those things, according to The Associated Press. But on cross-examination, prosecutors presented evidence that showed him spattering law enforcement with a chemical spray — after he said he could not recall doing so.
Kelly said he would consider that fact in deciding Rehl’s sentence after determining via a preponderance of evidence that Rehl did spray an officer, despite not being charged for that action. He determined Rehl perjured himself during his testimony by the same standard.
The judge also applied a terrorism enhancement to Rehl’s sentencing guidelines, wherein a defendant must have committed an offense that “was calculated to influence or affect the conduct of government by intimidation or coercion, or to retaliate against government conduct.” The enhancement’s weight was weakened because significant loss of life was not incurred, Kelly said.
Rehl’s is the third-longest sentence handed out over the Capitol attack.
Oath Keepers leader Stewart Rhodes was given 18 years in prison for his role in the Capitol attack — the highest sentence handed down in a Jan. 6 case. Proud Boy Joe Biggs was sentenced to 17 years in prison earlier Thursday, the second-highest sentence.
Ahead of the Capitol attack, Rehl advocated for “firing squads” to be used against “the traitors that are trying to steal the election,” according to trial evidence. After it, he said the attack was a “good start” but that the rioters should have shown up armed and “[taken] the country back the right way.” On Thursday, Kelly called those statements “chilling.”
“Every time someone dreads what might transpire on Jan. 6, 2025 … does so in no small part because of what Zachary Rehl and his co-conspirators strove for and did accomplish,” Assistant U.S. Attorney Erik Kenerson said Thursday, advocating for a lengthy sentence.
The Pennsylvania Proud Boy in turn asked for a sentence of three years or less. Norman Pattis, Rehl’s attorney, said the government’s proposed sentence was “disproportionate, uncalled for and will not create a respect for the law.” He called it an equivalent to “burning Waco down,” referencing a deadly FBI siege in Waco, Texas, after a 1993 standoff between a religious group and federal agents.
Pattis also claimed that Rehl and other rioters were acting on former President Trump’s false claims of election fraud and questioned why the former president does not face charges of seditious conspiracy, as well.
“What they’re guilty of is believing a president who said the election had been stolen from them,” Pattis said of Rehl and other rioters.
In the months since the Proud Boys’ sedition convictions, Trump has been charged in two criminal cases tied to his actions after losing the 2020 election. A federal case in Washington, D.C., charges the former president with conspiring to overturn the election, culminating in the Capitol attack. It’s set to begin on March 4.
Trump urged the Proud Boys to “stand back and stand by” during his first debate against President Biden after being asked to denounce the right-wing extremists — a comment that galvanized members of the group, according to evidence shown at trial.
Three other Proud Boys tried for their roles in the Capitol attack — Ethan Nordean, Dominic Pezzola and leader Enrique Tarrio — will be sentenced in coming days.