Joseph Randal Biggs was one, his lawyer says in a court filing. Mr. Biggs considers himself a political prisoner as he begins his fourth month in a Florida jail on U.S. Capitol rioting charges. The Biden Justice Department, keen on prosecuting as many Jan. 6 Trump supporters as possible, depicts him as an insurrection ringleader.
As one of hard-right Proud Boy’s most prominent leaders, Mr. Biggs is a big prize for Merrick Garland’s department. Mr. Biggs is a protest organizer, unabashed gun enthusiast, and counter-liberal on his online production, “American Patriot.”
“I’m going to inspire each and every one of you to get out of your parents’ basement, chop off your man-buns, throw away your skinny jeans, and toss your Starbucks coffee into a blazing fire,” he exhorts. “We’re going to show you the different ways that Americans choose to express their patriotism. Shooting, hunting, cooking, and surviving in some of modern society’s harshest conditions.”
Proud Boys leaders keep an eye on Antifa’s schedule for anti-police mayhem and all-around civil destruction. Antifa has held regular insurrections to destabilize police forces and assorted law enforcement centers. Proud Boys leaders then decide whether to travel, say, to Portland, Ore., Antifa’s home field, to confront the anarchists in what can erupt into fist-fighting and pepper spraying.
It makes clickable social media theater as Proud Boys defend the Western culture and Antifa shouts, “no more USA, at all.”
Mr. Biggs became so well known in Portland, Mayor Ted Wheeler pleaded with him in 2019 not to come back.
“When we have people like Joe Biggs from out of state say they’re going to come here every single month until we do whatever it is they think we should be doing…. We do not want him here in my city. Period,” Mr. Wheeler said.
Mr. Biggs is a 37-year-old medically retired Army staff sergeant (2004-13) who served in Iraq and Afghanistan, where he was awarded a Purple Heart.
Dan Rather produced a special report, “The Commander,” in 2009 from inside Afghanistan. Mr. Biggs was one of the soldiers interviewed as he manned an isolated base east of Kabul.
“I think the main reason it is quiet is because we are doing our job,” soldier Biggs says on camera.
Says Mr. Rather, “Sgt. Joe Biggs and the other soldiers stationed here are part of what’s called a maneuver team.”
Today ex-solder Biggs suffers from alcohol abuse and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD.) His post-Army life found him immersed in right-wing politics, podcasts, and as a reporter in Austin, Texas, for Infowars firebrand Alex Jones.
The liberal critic of conservative journalists, Media Matters, reported that Mr. Biggs broadcast several of Mr. Jones’ unfounded conspiracies dealing with supposed pedophilia and Democrats.
“Proud Boys is a nationalist organization with multiple U.S. chapters and potential activity in other Western countries. The group describes itself as a ‘pro-Western’ fraternal organization for men who refuse to apologize for creating the modern world; aka Western Chauvinists.’
Proud Boys members routinely attend rallies, protests, and other First Amendment-protected events, where certain members sometimes engage in acts of violence against individuals they perceive as threats to their values. The group has an initiation process for new members, which includes the taking of an ‘oath.’ Proud Boys members often wear the colors yellow and black, as well as other apparel adorned with Proud Boys-related logos and emblems.”
Proud Boys’ national chairman Enrique Tarrio viewed President Trump’s Jan. 6 “Stop the Steal” rally as a priority and rallied about 60 troops to attend. As outlined in numerous Parler messages, the general plan was to support Mr. Trump’s (and his still-unsubstantiated claims of wide voter fraud) and be ready for Antifa violence.
Whether the plan included storming the U.S. Capitol is now being debated in prosecution-defense court briefs in U.S. District Court in Washington. In videos, Mr. Biggs entered the restricted building, and by Jan 16, he was turning himself in to FBI agents in the Daytona Beach, Florida, area. He had no criminal record. A judge magistrate released him under strict GPS monitoring.
That freedom ended April 22 after Justice Department prosecutors told a judge they had read new encrypted messages from Mr. Biggs that they interpreted as an invasion plan.
President Biden and Mr. Garland have organized the Justice Department’s considerable power to make prosecuting hundreds of Trump-supporting breachers an unparalleled criminal justice event.
Republicans say it is part of a larger plan to paint Mr. Biden’s political opponents as extremists. He gave orders to scrutinize the Armed Forces to find them, such as those criticizing the Marxist-oriented group Black Lives Matter. The White House blames the COVID-19 “Delta” strain emergence on non-vaccinated conservatives, although Leftists also urge non-compliance.
Mr. Biggs is locked up in the Seminole County jail north of Orlando. In July, he released an open letter from jail. Calling himself a political prisoner, he said conditions are insufferable.
“I’ve gotten maybe 10hrs outside altogether since being here. I get to go outside maybe 3 times a month. the food here is all soy-based. So it’s [sic] weakening our bodies. Hardly any protein. Mostly processed foods and some kind of gelatin dog food-looking stuff…. Every cell has a small window that has been sandblasted so you can never see outside. Breaking any rules can result in losing the ability to talk to family or a trip [to] the hole for a few weeks where you are stripped naked [and] left in a bright, freezing room. I have anxiety bad now …. the black guys in here say if I’m any kind of representative for the PB’s, then they like us and wanna be in our group.”
“In the end, I just pray people to see the truth. I had nothing to do with that day. I never planned what happened. I was in the wrong place at the wrong time.”
I asked the Justice Department how many Jan. 6 defendants are, like Mr. Biggs, held without bail. I received a “no comment.” Outside experts believe the number is relatively small compared with the more than 500 arrests.
On his LinkedIn page, Mr. Biggs creates the profile of a warrior-journalist:
“I spent many years in the Army where I learned a lot about finding out who you are as an individual, finding one’s limits, and pushing them to the breaking point. Discovering the real meaning behind leadership and how to stay calm in chaotic situations. Pointing out problems and coming up with solutions on the fly while under extreme pressure.
“I have been in many leadership roles in the military and out……I’m very comfortable going live in and out of a studio. I have filmed many on the street interviews, both pre-recorded and live. I have covered terrorism and riots all over the planet.”
John Daniel Hull, Mr. Biggs’ D.C.-based attorney, filed a motion opposing incarceration, but a judge said no. Mr. Hull talked of Mr. Biggs’ patriotic life, his war service, his 4-year-old daughter, and his mom, whose cancer is in remission.
After moving to Florida in 2018, Mr. Hull said, “Biggs became active as an organizer, event planner and thought leader in the Proud Boys. He used his platform as a radio and social media personality to promote Proud Boy events and ideas.”
Then came the day in July 2020 he became an informant on Antifa.
“In late July 2020, an FBI Special Agent out of the Daytona Beach area telephoned Biggs and asked Biggs to meet with him and another FBI agent at a local restaurant,” Mr. Hull said. “Biggs agreed. Biggs learned after he traveled to the restaurant that the purpose of the meeting was to determine if Biggs could share information about Antifa networks operating in Florida and elsewhere. They wanted to know what Biggs was “seeing on the ground.” Biggs did have information about Antifa in Florida and Antifa networks in other parts of the United States. He agreed to share the information.”
Mr. Hull added, “They spoke often.”
Fox News reported he posted on Facebook: “Death to amerikka of course, f—k the president, current and elect.”
Mr. Hull’s legal filing says Mr. Biggs would keep in touch with other law enforcement to get the lay of the land in Antifa-ville.
“As part of the planning, Biggs would regularly speak with by phone and in-person to both local and federal law enforcement personnel stationed in Portland, including the FBI’s Portland Field Office,” Mr. Hull said. “These talks were intended both to inform law enforcement about Proud Boy activities in Portland on a courtesy basis but also to ask for advice on planned marches or demonstrations, i.e., what march routes to take on Portland streets, where to go, where not to go.”
The lawyer’s main argument is that Mr. Biggs organized a prepare-for-Antifa gathering, not an insurrection.
“On January 6, this defendant did not ‘storm’ anything …. He did not steal or damage anything,” Mr. Hull said. “He did not threaten anyone. He did not resist arrest. He did not scream or yell at anyone. He did not urge anyone else to do any of these things. Except for ‘this is awesome,’ there is no record he said anything once inside that building.”
The Washington Times has reviewed hundreds of Jan. 6 arrest affidavits filed by the FBI, D.C. police, and other officials. Several defendants now out of jail without bail took aggressive actions that day, such as pushing over officers and stealing their defensive equipment.
Weeks after the riot, CNN interviewed Mr. Tarrio. One is never lucky to be arrested, but perhaps Mr. Tarrio was. A judge banned him from the city just before Jan. 6 for destroying a BLM banner. (The Proud Boys say BLM supporters stabbed members during a December protest. There were no BLM bans.)
By spring, the Justice Department had charged at least eight Proud Boys for the breach. One, Dominic Pezzola, is on video using a stolen police officer’s shield to bash in a Capitol building window. He remains held without bail.
“I condemn the actions,” Mr. Tarrio said. “I don’t think that he should have done that. I think it was completely wrong. But the other seven individuals were trespassing. I think that they got caught up with the entire crowd, and they made a poor decision to go in there.”
He said there was no plan to breach the building.
“No, I don’t,” he said. “I don’t believe that the election was stolen.”
• Rowan Scarborough is a columnist for the Washington Times.
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