Enrique Tarrio, former national chairman of the right-wing Proud Boys, was sentenced Tuesday to 22 years in prison after being convicted of spearheading a plot to stop the certification of the 2020 election results, culminating in the Jan. 6 Capitol attack.
His sentence is the highest handed down to anyone in connection with the riot by four years. Before handing down Tarrio’s sentence, U.S. District Judge Timothy Kelly said he would not grant the full 33-year sentence sought by federal prosecutors but would grant a higher sentence than other extremist members in the hopes it would act as a deterrent.
Oath Keepers leader Stewart Rhodes was sentenced in May to 18 years in prison, and Proud Boy Ethan Nordean — one of Tarrio’s lieutenants — received the same sentence last week.
“That day broke our previously unbroken tradition of peacefully transferring power, which is truly among the most precious things that we had as Americans,” Kelly said Tuesday when handing down the sentence. “That previously unbroken tradition is broken now. It’s going to take time and effort to fix it.”
Tarrio, the onetime leader of the Proud Boys, was convicted of seditious conspiracy and other serious felonies in May. It is “not super debatable” that Tarrio was the “ultimate leader of that conspiracy,” Kelly said.
Tarrio entered the courtroom Thursday with his head held high, wearing a prison-issued orange jumpsuit and glasses. Throughout the proceeding, he actively engaged with his attorneys, sometimes stopping their arguments to make private comments.
In addressing the court toward the end of the sentencing hearing, Tarrio apologized to law enforcement, the residents of D.C., congressional lawmakers and their staffers who were present on Jan. 6. He called that day a “national embarrassment,” but stopped short of admitting to engaging in the plot of which a jury convicted him.
“Changing the results of an election was not my goal,” Tarrio said.
When handing down Tarrio’s sentence, Kelly said he’s glad Tarrio is sorry for how law enforcement was treated, but that the Proud Boys leader’s apology fell short.
“I don’t have any indication he is remorseful for the actual things he was convicted of,” Kelly said.
Tarrio’s sister, fiancée and mother also made statements before the court, pleading for leniency and addressing him by his real name, Henry.
“This mother stands before you today begging you for leniency for Henry,” his mother said, her remarks appearing to make Tarrio emotional for the first time during the proceeding. “We need him home as soon as we can. The Henry that came into the system is not the Henry that’s here today.”
Tarrio’s fiancée said the couple wants to start a family together and asked the judge to consider the “direct effect” a long sentence could have on those ambitions.
“Henry is a flawed man, as are we all, but he is not blind to it.”
Nayib Hassan, an attorney for Tarrio, told reporters after the sentencing that they respect Kelly’s sentence but also “respectfully disagree.” He added that Tarrio expects to file an appeal “soon.”
Hassan declined to comment on whether Tarrio should have been sentenced to less time than Rhodes, the Oath Keepers founder.
Prosecutors requested 33 years in prison for Tarrio, who they painted as the driving force of a plot to stop the peaceful transfer of power from former President Trump to then-President-elect Biden.
The Proud Boys leader “demonized his perceived adversaries, glorified the use of force against them and distributed violent propaganda to his thousands and thousands of followers,” Assistant U.S. Attorney Conor Mulroe said Tuesday.
“He is unique among his co-defendants in the extent of his toxic influence over others,” Mulroe said.
A long sentence for Tarrio could also act as a deterrent to others seeking to impose their political views by force, Mulroe argued.
“We need to be sure that the consequences are abundantly clear to anyone who might be unhappy with the 2024, 2028, 2032 or any future election for as long as this case is remembered,” he said.
Tarrio was not at the Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021. The Miami Proud Boy was arrested on unrelated charges just days prior to the attack, which barred him from entering Washington, D.C. He instead watched the riot unfold from a hotel room in Baltimore.
But throughout Tarrio’s four-month trial, prosecutors said his arrest and the earlier stabbing of several Proud Boys at a December 2020 rally were watershed moments for the group, turning members against D.C. police and motivating them to try to stop the election certification.
Tarrio’s attorneys Tuesday recommended a sentence of no more than 15 years in prison and argued against the use of a terrorism enhancement in deciding his punishment. Sabino Jauregui, another of his attorneys, that Tarrio’s absence on Jan. 6 should set him apart from his co-defendants who helped lead the charge on the Capitol.
“My client is no terrorist,” Jauregui said. “My client is a misguided patriot.”
Kelly, the judge, ultimately did apply a terrorism adjustment to Tarrio’s sentencing guidelines, wherein a defendant must have committed an offense that “was calculated to influence or affect the conduct of government by intimidation or coercion, or to retaliate against government conduct.”
Throughout the trial, Tarrio’s counsel also argued that the Proud Boys leader is the government’s “scapegoat” for the Capitol attack, suggesting instead that Trump was the true culprit of Jan. 6.
Tarrio’s sentencing is the last in a series of historic seditious conspiracy cases brought by the Justice Department after the Capitol was attacked.
On Thursday, Proud Boys Joe Biggs and Zachary Rehl were sentenced to 17 years and 15 years respectively — then the second- and third-highest sentences handed down. Dominic Pezzola, the only Proud Boy not convicted of sedition, received a sentence of 10 years in prison Friday for other serious felony convictions.
“The Justice Department proved in court that the Proud Boys played a central role in setting the January 6th attack on our Capitol into motion,” U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland said in a statement.
“Today, the leader of the Proud Boys, Enrique Tarrio, learned that the consequence of conspiring to oppose by force the lawful transfer of presidential power is 22 years in federal prison,” Garland added.
Six Oath Keepers, including Rhodes, were also convicted of sedition at trial, and multiple members of both groups pleaded guilty without going to trial.
In all, more than 1,100 rioters have been charged across the country for their roles in that day.
Updated 6:53 p.m.