Prosecutors want 30 years for Philly Proud Boys president Zach Rehl for his role in Jan. 6 attack
Rehl and other leaders of the neofacist organization helped organize the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the U.S. Capitol. His sentencing hearing is later this month.
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Prosecutors recommended 30 years for Zach Rehl, head of the Philadelphia chapter of the Proud Boys, for the role he and and three other leaders of the neofacist organization played in organizing the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the U.S. Capitol that “threatened the bedrock principles of our country” government lawyers argued in a court filing Thursday.
Rehl’s sentencing hearing is set for later this month.
“These defendants and the men in their command saw themselves as the foot soldiers of the right — they were prepared to use, and they did use, force to stop the ‘traitors’ from stealing the election,” Assistant U.S. Attorneys Jason B.A. McCullough and Conor Mulroe wrote of Rehl and his codefendants. “They failed. They are not heroes; they are criminals.”
The recommendation of 30 years is almost twice that of the most serious prison sentence imposed so far against a participant in the Capitol riots, which was a 18-year sentence given in May to Oath Keepers founder Stewart Rhodes.
Rehl, of Port Richmond, and three co defendants — Enrique Tarrio, the Proud Boys national chairman; and regional leaders Ethan Nordean and Joseph Biggs — were all convicted by a federal jury on seditious conspiracy charges.
They are the most serious count levied against any of the more than 1,000 charged participants in the Jan. 6 riot and carries a prison sentence of up to 20 years.
Prosecutors urged U.S. District Judge Timothy J. Kelly to stack that maximum sentence on top of punishment for the other counts on which the Proud Boys leaders were convicted and impose an enhanced terrorism penalty.
The Philly native and his codefendants, they said, stood at the vanguard.
“F— ‘em. Storm the Capitol!” he shouted in a cell phone video.
According to the footage presented by prosecutors during his trial, Rehl — a former Marine and the son and grandson of Philadelphia police cops — was deploying pepper spray against all officers.
“They viewed themselves as revolutionaries,” McCullough and Mulroe said, “and they believed fully in their cause.”
Rehl’s attorney, Norman Pattis, has maintained that even if incorrect, Rehl’s belief that the 2020 presidential election had been stolen and that he was protecting democracy should prompt the district judge to have mercy.
During his own sentencing recommendation, Pattis urged the judge to release his client after the two and a half years he’s spent in prison since his 2021 arrest.
“These defendants are not terrorists,” wrote Pattis, whose previous clients have included right-wing provocateur Alex Jones. “Whatever excess of zeal they demonstrated on Jan. 6, 2021, and no matter how grave the potential interference with the orderly transfer of power due to the events of that day, a decade or more behind bars is excessive punishment.”
Rehl has maintained he did not anticipate the chaos that ensued shortly after.
“If I believe that I did anything wrong,” he told jurors while testifying in his own defense, “I really do truly apologize.”
He testified that, as head of the Proud Boys’ Philadelphia chapter, he’d led a better disciplined and politically focused group compared to other chapters, which had gained notoriety for street brawls with counter protesters in incidents leading up to Jan. 6.
However, text messages introduced by prosecutors showed Rehl liked those who could “throw down” and fast-tracked the membership of one man whom he described as “ready to crack skulls.”
Rehl was one of a number of other leaders of the organization handpicked by Tarrio to organize the Proud Boys actions. He’d endorsed on social media “firing squads for the traitors that are trying to steal the election.”
He even expressed regret that the mob he led failed to take the Capitol.
“Looking back, it sucked,” he texted other members of the Philly chapter on Jan. 7. “We shoulda held the Capitol. … Everyone shoulda showed up armed and took the country back the right way.”
Rehl has spent the last two and a half years awaiting trial in solitary confinement. During that time, he missed the birth of his second child and the high school graduation of his first. And because of his conviction, the disability checks from his military service, which had supported his family, have been withdrawn.
“We are a nation born in dissent; our politics has often been raw and raucous,” Pattis wrote. “The challenge in divided times is not to divide and conquer, but to build bridges between people who love this country, sometimes in shockingly different ways.”