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Proud Boys leader Enrique Tarrio sentenced to 22 years in prison in Jan. 6 seditious conspiracy case

Enrique Tarrio sentenced in Jan. 6 case
Proud Boys' Enrique Tarrio sentenced to 22 years in Jan. 6 case 02:57

Washington — The one-time chairman of the Proud Boys, Enrique Tarrio, was sentenced to 22 years in prison on Tuesday, the longest prison sentence imposed in the Justice Department's sprawling investigation into the Jan. 6 Capitol breach. 

Prosecutors had recommended a sentence of 33 years in prison.

Henry "Enrique" Tarrio has been in jail since his 2022 arrest and was convicted earlier this year by a Washington, D.C. jury on multiple charges including seditious conspiracy. Like his co-defendants in the case, the jurors did not convict Tarrio on every count he faced at the time. 

His co-defendant Ethan Nordean was sentenced last week to 18 years, while others received terms of between 10 and 17 years. Tarrio's sentencing was supposed to be earlier but was delayed due to U.S. District Court Judge Timothy Kelly's illness. 

Court sketch of former Proud Boys leader Enrique Tarrio at his sentencing
Court sketch shows the former chairman of the far-right Proud Boys, Enrique Tarrio, at his sentencing for seditious conspiracy and other charges related to Jan. 6, 2021 Capitol riots, on Sept. 5, 2023. Sketch by William J. Hennessy, Jr.

Tarrio wasn't present at the Capitol on Jan. 6, but prosecutors in their sentencing papers described him as the "primary organizer" of the conspiracy for which he and his co-defendants were convicted. He used his outsized influence "to condone and promote violence" in others, prosecutors wrote, adding, "He was a general rather than a soldier." 

After the 2020 presidential election, according to evidence presented at trial, Tarrio began posting on social media and in message groups about a "civil war," later threatening, "No Trump…No peace. No Quarter." And as Jan. 6 approached, he posted about "revolt." 

His co-defendants — Nordean, Joseph Biggs, Zachary Rehl and Dominic Pezzola — gathered with other Proud Boys members on the day of the riot and marched toward the Capitol, interfering with police and ultimately forcing entry into the building where Congress was attempting to certify President Biden's victory. Pezzola was the only co-defendant to not be convicted of the most severe charge of seditious conspiracy at trial, but he was found guilty of using a stolen police riot shield to break a Capitol window.

"Make no mistake, we did this," Tarrio wrote on social media during the riot, according to trial evidence.

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"Enrique Tarrio was the leader of this conspiracy. He was on a tier of his own," prosecutor Conor Mulroe said in court Tuesday. "The defendant and his co-conspirators targeted our entire system of government." 

The Proud Boys defendants and the group they led to the Capitol that day, Mulroe said, were a "tidal wave of force" at the start of the attack and played a "pivotal" role in the violence on Jan. 6. 

"They came so close to succeeding," the prosecutor warned. "There was a very real possibility that we were going to wake up on Jan. 7 in a full-blown constitutional crisis with the federal government in complete chaos." 

Tarrio himself spoke and asked for leniency during Tuesday's hearing. He said that he was sorry for the events of Jan. 6 and apologized to law enforcement and Washington, D.C., residents. 

"The citizens of D.C. deserve better," Tarrio said. "What happened on Jan. 6 was a national embarrassment." 

He told the judge he had been angry because his candidate — Donald Trump — lost the 2020 election, and he continued to hear claims of a stolen election

"To the men and women of law enforcement who answered the call that day, I am sorry," Tarrio said.

"I am not a political zealot. Inflicting harm or changing the results of the election was not my goal," he explained, "Please show me mercy." 

Tarrio's fiancée, sister, and mother all asked the judge for leniency, urging the court to see past Tarrio's actions and rhetoric.

Throughout the monthslong trial, defense attorneys worked to separate the defendants' rhetoric from the events of Jan. 6 and, in some cases, tried to at least in part blame then-President Donald Trump for the violence that unfolded. 

"Did he say some things that he shouldn't have? Did he celebrate? … Sure," Tarrio's defense attorney Sabino Jauregui said in court on Tuesday, reiterating much of the Proud Boys' case at trial. "But he did not have any direct influence, any direct orders." 

The defense attorney said Tarrio had "no way to know" what would happen at the Capitol on Jan. 6. The judge, however, appeared unconvinced and told Tarrio's team that the jury had already convicted him of the conspiracy that tied him to the events at the Capitol. 

"An entire branch of government was brought to heel," the judge said Tuesday. "That was all brought about in part by the actions of the defendant and his co-conspirators." 

Based on evidence presented during the hearing, Judge Kelly concluded that Tarrio  began planning for the Jan. 6 attack as early as Dec. 19, 2020, and instituted a rigid command structure for preparation and recruitment. 

Proud Boys leader Enrique Tarrio at a pro-Trump protest in December 2020
Proud Boys leader Enrique Tarrio (L) and Joe Biggs (R) during a protest on Dec. 12, 2020 in Washington, D.C., ahead of the Electoral College vote to make Trump's loss official. / Getty Images

Tuesday's sentencing hearing was the last of Kelly's five proceedings in the last week related to the Proud Boys case, during which time he imposed sentences that varied, including one that was half what the government had requested,  a decade in prison for Dominic Pezzola. 

Judge Kelly said in sentencing Tarrio that the evidence showed that "Mr. Tarrio was the ultimate leader, the ultimate person who organized, who was motivated by revolutionary zeal." 

"His not being present did serve some strategic purposes," the judge said, "It did allow his lieutenants to rile up the crowd that day, and it did, from his perspective, insulate him…and distance himself from what in fact unfolded that day, and that is useful to someone as smart as Mr. Tarrio." 

"I don't have any indication that he is remorseful for the actual things that he was convicted of," Judge Kelly said.

Prosecutors successfully petitioned the judge to apply a terrorism-related enhancement to the sentences, alleging the defendants retaliated against their government. Ultimately, however, Kelly did not allow such considerations to heavily affect the length of the sentences he imposed. 

"My client is no terrorist. My client is a misguided patriot," Jauregui claimed in court Tuesday, unsuccessfully arguing that the judge should reject the terrorism-related enhancement. 

Citing Tarrio's Cuban American heritage, another defense attorney, Nayib Hassan, told Kelly,  "We talk s**t and that is exactly what [Tarrio] was doing" in his rhetoric after the attack. 

"He should keep George Washington out of it," the judge shot back, denouncing Tarrio's past comparisons of his co-defendants' actions during the Capitol attack to the founders. On Tuesday, Tarrio referred to those allusions he had made as "a perversion." 

"It is kind of hard to put into words how important that peaceful transfer of power is. Our country was founded as an experiment in self-government by the people but it cannot long endure if the way we elect our leaders is threatened with force and violence," Judge Kelly said Tuesday. "What happened that day didn't honor our founders. It was the kind of thing they wrote the Constitution to prevent." 

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