Proud Boy ties record for the longest Jan. 6 sentence in seditious conspiracy case

WASHINGTON — A Proud Boy known within the far-right organization for his drinking and brawling skills has been sentenced to 18 years in federal prison for his role in the Capitol riot, tying with the head of the Oath Keepers for the longest sentence dished out to a Jan. 6 defendant so far.

Ethan Nordean was sentenced Friday by U.S. District Judge Timothy Kelly. Prosecutors had sought 27 years in prison for Nordean, who was convicted in May of seditious conspiracy and five other felony charges.

Prosecutors said the Proud Boy “led a force to the Capitol for the purpose of taking the fight to the people that he viewed as the ‘traitors’ who were stealing the election — the lawfully elected representatives of the people of the United States.” Nordean, prosecutors said, “held himself out as a man ready to dole out violence to anyone who opposes him” and “because known above all else” for violence.

Sept. 1, 202301:58

“As a leader on January 6, Nordean played a central role in unleashing the violence and destruction at the U.S. Capitol,” prosecutors said in a sentencing memo. “Nordean’s ability and willingness to lead others to engage in political violence, and his continued commitment to the same beliefs that animated that leadership and led to that violence on January 6, pose a continuing threat to our nation.”

Earlier Friday, Kelly sentenced one of Nordean’s co-defendants, Dominic Pezzola, who was acquitted of seditious conspiracy, to 10 years in federal prison. Joe Biggs was sentenced to 17 years in federal prison on Thursday, while Zach Rehl received 15 years in federal prison. Both were convicted of seditious conspiracy and other charges. On Tuesday, Kelly will sentence the final co-defendant, former Proud Boys chairman Enrique Tarrio, who was also convicted of seditious conspiracy. Prosecutors are seeking 33 years in federal prison for Tarrio, the same sentence they sought for Biggs.

Speaking to the court before being sentenced on Friday afternoon, Nordean apologized for not being a more responsible leader of the men he commanded on Jan. 6 and said “there is no excuse” for what he did.

“No matter how we all try to individually slice January 6 we must conclude it was a complete and utter tragedy,” Nordean said. “It is my humble opinion that there is no rally or political protest that should ever hold value over human life.” 

Nordean’s sister and wife also addressed the court, painting a picture of him as a loving family man. Nordean remained composed throughout but could be seen wiping away a tear after his wife finished speaking.

Pezzola, after receiving his 10-year sentence earlier on Friday, yelled out “Trump won!” as he was led out of court.

About 1,100 people have been arrested in connection with the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol, and more than 300 have received periods of incarceration.

Nordean and Oath Keepers founder Stewart Rhodes now jointly hold the record for the longest Jan. 6 sentence. As of Friday, federal Bureau of Prisons records indicate that Rhodes is set for release on June 12, 2037, factoring in the time he already served and credit for good time.


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