WASHINGTON — Enrique Tarrio, the former chairman of the far-right Proud Boys, was sentenced to 22 years in federal prison Tuesday afternoon following his conviction on a seditious conspiracy charge in connection with the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol.
His sentence is the longest so far in a Jan. 6 case so far, surpassing the 18 years given to Oath Keepers founder Stewart Rhodes, who was also convicted of seditious conspiracy.
Tarrio was one of four Proud Boys found guilty of seditious conspiracy in May. Federal prosecutors sought a sentence of 33 years in federal prison, although U.S. District Judge Timothy Kelly sentenced Tarrio’s co-defendants to much lower terms than those sought by prosecutors.
Last week, Joe Biggs was sentenced to 17 years; Zachary Rehl to 15 years; and Ethan Nordean to 18 years. Proud Boy Dominic Pezzola, the fifth defendant in the seditious conspiracy trial, was found not guilty of the top charge of seditious conspiracy but found guilty on other charges; he was sentenced to 10 years.
Federal prosecutors called Tarrio a “naturally charismatic leader, a savvy propagandist, and the celebrity Chairman of the national Proud Boys organization.” Tarrio, they said, had “influence over countless subordinate members” that he used “to organize and execute the conspiracy to forcibly stop the peaceful democratic transfer of power.”
Tarrio was not present at the Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021; he was arrested about 48 hours ahead of the attack due to his actions at a prior pro-Donald Trump event in Washington, D.C. Tarrio knew there was a warrant out for his arrest thanks to a Washington, D.C., police lieutenant who has since been charged and pleaded not guilty. Prosecutors said the evidence suggests Tarrio “strategically calculated his arrest as a means to inspire a reaction by his followers.”
That Tarrio spent most of Jan. 6 at a hotel in Baltimore, prosecutors said, “does nothing to detract from the severity of his conduct” because he “was a general rather than a soldier.”
Tarrio, prosecutors said, is “intelligent, charming, creative, and articulate — a gifted communicator who excels at attracting followers” who “used those talents to inflame and radicalize untold numbers of followers, promoting political violence in general and orchestrating the charged conspiracies in particular.”
“To Tarrio, January 6 was an act of revolution,” prosecutors wrote.
They argued for a terrorism sentencing enhancement in his case, saying his actions were clearly intended to influence the government. The judge agreed, applying the terrorism enhancement in Tarrio’s case, as he did for Tarrio’s four co-defendants.
“My client is no terrorist. My client is a misguided patriot,” Tarrio’s lawyer Sabino Jauregui said, arguing that his client went to Washington to “protest.”
“My client comes from a country where there are no rights, there’s nothing. He was trying to protect this country, as misguided as he was,” he said, referring to Tarrio’s Cuban heritage.
Tarrio’s defense team argued for a downward departure from the sentencing guidelines, seeking an unspecified lower sentence for their client and submitted letters of support to the court, including one from Tarrio’s cousin, who has worked for Miami police for 16 years.
The defense had asked Kelly to see “another side” of Tarrio that is “benevolent, cooperative with law enforcement, useful in the community, hardworking and with a tight-knight family unit and community support.”
Assistant U.S. Attorney Conor Mulroe, arguing for the prosecution, called Tarrio’s behavior a “calculated act of terrorism,” saying that the consequences of such need to be abundantly clear to anyone who might be unhappy with the results of the 2024 election and any elections in the future.
“There was a very real possibility that we were going to wake up on January 7 in a full-blown constitutional crisis with the federal government in complete chaos,” Mulroe said. “That is what revolution means and that is what he openly perused and that is what he very nearly achieved. And it didn’t take rifles and explosives.”
Mulroe also pushed back on Tarrio’s lawyers’ attributing his actions to “misguided patriotism,” saying that Tarrio’s plan was for street violence on a national scale brought to bear against the seat of government.
The Proud Boys’ actions “were absolutely pivotal to what happened on January 6,” he said. “They were a tidal wave of force that had such a dramatic effect on the day’s events,” he said.
Before his sentencing, Tarrio delivered a contrite statement, apologizing to members of law enforcement, the citizens of Washington, D.C., lawmakers and his family. “To the men and women of law enforcement who answered the call that day, I’m sorry,” Tarrio said.
“I have always tried to hold myself to a higher standard and I failed,” he said. “I failed miserably. I thought of myself morally above others and this trial has humbled me.”
Tarrio also walked back statements he had made comparing Pezzola to George Washington, a statement that appeared to irk Kelly when it came up earlier in the proceeding.
Tarrio also sought to downplay his political involvement, saying that he did not intend to change the results of the election on Jan. 6 but only planned on going to speak at an event, to support Donald Trump and to support his friends.
“I am not a political zealot,” he said. “When I get back home I want nothing to do with politics, groups, activism or rallies.”
Tarrio added that he won’t say anything different after Kelly leaves the room, an apparent reference to his co-defendant Pezzola, who shouted “Trump won” after receiving his 10-year sentence last week.
About 1,100 people have been charged in connection with the Jan. 6 Capitol attack, and more than 300 have been sentenced to periods of incarceration. New arrests continue to happen each week, including the recent arrests of the first person who is seen on video breaching the lower west tunnel at the Capitol and another defendant who the FBI said stormed the Capitol and filmed a TikTok in which he bragged rioters “took the White House.”
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