Enrique Tarrio, Proud Boys leader on Jan. 6, sentenced to 22 years for seditious conspiracy

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Enrique Tarrio, the national leader of the Proud Boys on Jan. 6, 2021, was sentenced Tuesday to 22 years in prison for masterminding a seditious conspiracy aimed at derailing the transfer of power from Donald Trump to Joe Biden.

The sentence, the lengthiest among hundreds arising from the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol, is a reflection of prosecutors’ evidence that the Proud Boys, helmed by Tarrio, played the most pivotal role in stoking the violent breach of police lines and the Capitol itself.

“Mr. Tarrio was the ultimate leader of that conspiracy. Mr. Tarrio was the ultimate leader, the ultimate person who organized, who was motivated by revolutionary zeal,” U.S. District Court Judge Timothy Kelly said as he handed down Tarrio’s sentence. “That conspiracy ended up with about 200 men amped up for battle encircling the Capitol.”

Hundreds of Proud Boys from across the country, vetted and assembled by Tarrio and a group of top lieutenants, became a vanguard of sorts as a mob of Trump supporters descended on the Capitol, and members of the group were involved in nearly every breach of police lines that day. Dominic Pezzola, a New York Proud Boy who triggered the breach of the Capitol itself by smashing a Senate window with a stolen police shield, was sentenced Friday to 10 years in prison.

Tarrio, unlike most of his co-conspirators, was not at the Capitol on Jan. 6. Upon his arrival in Washington on Jan. 4, 2021, he was arrested for his role in the theft and burning of a Black Lives Matter flag from a church after an earlier pro-Trump march. Tarrio was released the next day and ordered to leave Washington D.C., so he headed with a group of allies to a hotel in Baltimore.

Prosecutors say despite his absence, he remained in touch with his men and monitored their actions on Jan. 6. And after the attack, he repeatedly celebrated the attack, defended his allies and regretted that it didn’t fully derail the transfer of power. He was convicted in May of seditious conspiracy, conspiring to obstruct Congress’ proceedings and destroying government property, among other charges.

Tarrio’s sentence closes a significant chapter in the investigation of the Jan. 6 attack. His 22-year sentence is likely to remain the lengthiest for anyone charged in connection with the attack itself — a mark that exceeds the 18-year sentences handed down to Oath Keepers founder Stewart Rhodes and Tarrio’s ally Ethan Nordean.

Prosecutors portrayed Tarrio as a uniquely influential figure who singularly organized a group of hardened Proud Boys members and aimed them at the Capitol on Jan. 6. They said his sentence had to serve as a deterrent to anyone who might target America’s system of government in the future.

“He was on a tier of his own,” said Assistant U.S. Attorney Conor Mulroe. “This was a calculated act of terrorism.”

Just before his sentence, Tarrio addressed Kelly, repeatedly apologizing for his conduct in the weeks leading up to Jan. 6. He said he regretted comparing Pezzola, in a message to a coconspirator on Jan. 6, to America’s founders.

"There’s no comparing anybody that was there — including myself — with George Washington or any of the Founding Fathers,” Tarrio said. “We invoked 1776 and the Constitution of the United States and that was wrong to do. That was a perversion."

Tarrio also apologized to police officers, lawmakers and D.C. residents for the carnage of Jan. 6.

“I had the choice multiple times to calm things out and I didn’t. I persisted when I should have calmed,” he said.

Tarrio said he would disavow politics and “groups” after leaving jail and wanted only to return to his family, get married and lead a productive life.

Kelly, a Trump appointee, appeared largely unmoved by Tarrio’s words of contrition. He emphasized that as the attack unfolded, he used his platform to tell his allies “Don’t fucking leave.” And that night, Tarrio privately told a confidant, “Make no mistake. We did this.” Despite Tarrio’s contrition, Kelly again slammed him for comparing Pezzola to George Washington.

“It slanders the father of our country to speak that way,” Kelly said.

The judge added that he doesn’t see evidence, despite Tarrio’s apologies, that he feels remorse for the seditious conspiracy for which he was convicted.

The Proud Boys traced their rise in large part to Trump himself, gaining national notoriety for street brawls against left-wing protesters who they accused of aligning with antifa. The group saw a recruitment surge in September 2020 when Trump told them to “stand back and stand by” on a debate stage — a comment that became a rallying cry for Tarrio and other Proud Boys leaders.

Prosecutors say members of the group saw Trump’s fate in the 2020 election as a harbinger of their own, fearing that his defeat would marginalize them. They quickly embraced Trump’s false claims of fraud and joined pro-Trump marches in Washington, D.C., in November and December 2020, both of which were marred by street violence. Prosecutors say the December event, in particular, also fueled the Proud Boys’ leaders disdain for Washington, D.C. police, who made no arrests after a man stabbed four Proud Boys outside a bar they frequented.

After Trump urged supporters to descend on Washington on Jan. 6 for a last-ditch effort to cling to power, the Proud Boys began mobilizing — and in prosecutors’ view, conspiring to help Trump derail the transfer of power at any cost. Stung by the violence they witnessed in December, the group also said they wanted to ensure they only brought disciplined men who would follow orders, and they established a new chapter — “The Ministry of Self-Defense” — aimed at organizing their Jan. 6 efforts.

Prosecutors also homed in on Tarrio’s receipt of a document from a girlfriend — Eryka Flores — titled “1776 returns,” a blueprint for occupying federal buildings in order to block Congress’ Jan. 6 proceedings. The document described the Capitol as “The Winter Palace,” a reference to the Russian Revolution of 1917. Tarrio, when texting with an exhilarated ally on the evening on Jan. 6, responded simply, “Winter Palace.”