Joseph Biggs walks to the Capitol in Washington in support of President Donald Trump on Jan. 6, 2021.
(CNN) -- One of the Proud Boys leaders who led the far-right organization's fatal march to the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021, was sentenced to 17 years in prison, one of the longest sentences ever handed down against a convicted troublemaker.
A Washington jury convicted Joe Biggs on several counts, including seditious conspiracy to attempt to forcibly prevent the peaceful transfer of power from then-President Donald Trump to Joe Biden after the 2020 election.
"Our Constitution and our laws give you many important rights that Americans have fought and died for and that even you put on a uniform to defend them," U.S. District Judge Timothy Kelly said in sentencing. "People all over the world would give anything for those rights."
But on Jan. 6, 2021, Kelly said, "our tradition of peaceful transfer of power" in the United States was broken.
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"The nature of the constitutional moment we were in that day is so sensitive that it deserves a meaningful ruling," he said.
Prosecutors initially asked Kelly to sentence Biggs to 33 years in prison, nearly double the longest sentence a defendant has received in connection with this attack, arguing that Biggs and his co-defendants "intentionally positioned themselves at the forefront of political violence in this country" for years and on Jan. 6, 2021, sought to "change the course of American history."
But Kelly fell far short of that request, saying he didn't want to "minimize the violence that occurred" during the attack on the Capitol, but that he had to be aware of the other people sentenced for their conduct on Jan. 6, 2021, so as not to create large or unwarranted disparities.
This hefty sentence is the second longest handed down for a defendant who was part of the attack on the Capitol. Oath Keepers leader and founder Stewart Rhodes received the longest sentence of 18 years in prison.
"My curiosity got the better of me"
In an impassioned appeal to the judge, Biggs, dressed in an orange prison jumpsuit, said, "I know I have to be punished and I understand that," but added, "Please give me the opportunity, I beg you, to take my daughter to school and pick her up."
"I know I made a mistake that day, but I'm not a terrorist," he said through tears. Biggs said he was "seduced" by the mob and "just moved on."
"I wanted to see what would happen," he said. "My curiosity got the better of me and I'll have to live with it for the rest of my life."
The storming of the Capitol on January 6, 2021.
During a month-long and sometimes tumultuous trial, prosecutors presented evidence that Biggs and three of his co-defendants, Ethan Nordean, Zachary Rehl and Enrique Tarrio, planned and widely encouraged violence in the run-up to the Capitol attack.
When the riot broke out, Biggs, Nordean and Rehl stepped aside while others, including the fifth defendant, Dominic Pezzola, attacked police on the front lines and entered the Capitol, prosecutors argued at trial.
Four of the defendants — Biggs, Tarrio, Nordean and Rehl — were convicted of seditious conspiracy, while Pezzola was acquitted of that charge.
The Proud Boys Five were found guilty of other charges related to Jan. 6, including: obstruction of an official proceeding, conspiracy to prevent an officer from performing his or her duties, obstruction of law enforcement during civil disorder, destruction of government property and aiding and abetting.
In a court filing ahead of Thursday's sentencing hearing, prosecutors wrote that "the conduct of these defendants is more egregious than that of the Oath Keepers defendants and warrants increased sentences."
Biggs, Kelly ruled earlier in Thursday's hearing, was subject to harsher sentencing penalties for domestic terrorism because he tore down a fence on the Capitol grounds during the riot that separated law enforcement officers from the mob, bringing the mob one step closer to storming the Capitol.
The Justice Department has previously sought the same in other cases related to Jan. 6, though judges have rarely applied it, particularly for members or associates of the far-right organization Oath Keepers.
The mob's eruption of the Capitol "put the legislative branch on track," said U.S. Attorney Jason McCullough in defending the increase, and "pushed us to the brink of a constitutional crisis."
"When a parent considers whether they can take a child to a polling place and thinks twice, when a couple decides whether to attend a swearing-in and thinks twice; that's what (the Proud Boys) intended to do: their goal was to intimidate and terrorize elected officials, law enforcement, and the rest of the country they disagreed with, and force them to accept their point of view," McCullough continued.
Storming the Capitol