Proud Boys Leader Sentenced to 22 Years for January 6 Terrorism

Enrique Tarrio wasn’t at the Capitol that day. A judge slapped him with a terrorism enhancement anyway.

Enrique Tarrio (center) and other Proud Boys in Washington on December 12, 2020.Carol Guzy/Zuma

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A federal judge sentenced Enrique Tarrio, the former leader of the far-right Proud Boys, to 22 years behind bars, after ruling Tuesday that Tarrio’s actions qualified as terrorism. 

Tarrio was the “the ultimate leader, the ultimate person who organized, who was motivated by revolutionary zeal,” US District Judge Timothy Kelly said, describing Tarrio’s role in the January 6 attack on Congress.

“I just don’t think this is actually a close call,” Kelly said while explaining his decision to apply a terrorism enhancement to Tarrio’s sentence following his May conviction for seditious conspiracy and other charges related to the January 6 attack on the US Capitol.

Prosecutors had sought a 33-year prison term for Tarrio. Still, his sentence is the longest given to a January 6 defendant, surpassing Stewart Rhodes, the founder of the militia-style Oath Keepers group, who was sentenced in May to 18 years in prison.

Tarrio was not in Washington on January 6, due to his arrest two days earlier in a separate case. Expelled from DC, he spent that day in a Baltimore hotel.

Tarrio was convicted in May of helping to lead a conspiracy aimed at using violence to stop Congress from certifying Joe Biden’s victory in the 2020 election. Tarrio is one of 14 men convicted so far of seditious conspiracy for actions related to January 6.

Seeking a shorter sentence on Tuesday, Tarrio’s lawyer, Nayib Hassan, argued, “My client is no terrorist. My client is a misguided patriot.”

But at Tuesday’s sentencing hearing, Kelly, who was appointed by Donald Trump, repeatedly cited Tarrio’s instructions to Proud Boys who had stormed the Capitol: “Don’t fucking leave,” Tarrio told them that day.

“Not all contact between co-conspirators needs to be concealed,” Kelly said in explaining his application of the terrorism enhancement. “Sometimes it can happen right out in the open.”

At trial, federal prosecutors argued that Tarrio other Proud Boy leaders brought hundreds of group members to DC on January 6 and used them and other Trump supporters who surrounded the Capitol that day as weapons.

“They hoped the ‘normies’—that is, the civilians—would burn the city to ash,” Assistant US Attorney Jason McCullough told jurors at the trial’s opening in January.

Kelly last week sentenced Proud Boys who were convicted of seditious conspiracy alongside Tarrio to shorter sentences than the government sought. But those prison terms will still be lengthy. Zachary Rehl was sentenced to 15 years; Biggs to 17 years; and Ethan Nordean to 18.

Dominic Pezzola, a Proud Boy who was acquitted of seditious conspiracy but convicted of other crimes, got 10 years. Pezzola, who used a stolen police riot shield to smash out windows on the western side of the Capitol, allowing the first breach of the Capitol Building, apologized during his sentencing hearing to the officer whose shield he took and said he planned to avoid politics in the future. After the judge sentenced him and left the courtroom, however, Pezzola raised a first and yelled to courtroom onlookers: “Trump won!”

Kelly accepted the prosecutors’ argument that a terrorism enhancement—intended for defendants who have tried to influence the government through threats and use of force—was applicable in each of these cases. But he said he was unsure if “terrorism” accurately described their actions, which he said were not equivalent to cases in which defendants planned to blow up buildings or fight American troops.

Addressing the court Tuesday, Tarrio said that “what happened on January 6 was a national embarrassment.” He apologized to law enforcement, lawmakers and their staff, and DC residents, declaring, “I am profusely sorry for what happened to you that day.” He appeared to wipe away tears as he concluded his remarks.

Kelly was not impressed. “I’m glad for Mr. Tarrio’s statement here today,” the judge said. “But … I don’t have any indication that he is remorseful for the actual things that he was convicted of, which is seditious conspiracy.”

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