Enrique Tario, the former leader of the neo-fascist Proud Boys gang who was convicted of treason after feeding a mob on January 6, was sentenced to 22 years in prison.
Tarrio was among four members of the group convicted of subversive conspiracy and other crimes earlier this year after a four-month trial. Tarrio, as leader of the group, organized and led a mob to the US Capitol, where the Proud Boys tore down barricades and smashed windows to breach the chambers of Congress, then boasted about their actions on social media and in messages group chat that were later shared with jurors.
He served as the group's “naturally charismatic leader, a shrewd propagandist, and the famous Chairman,” wielding his influence over his subordinates and allies to “organize and execute the conspiracy to violently stop the peaceful democratic transfer of power” as lawmakers convened to certify the results of the 2020 presidential election, federal prosecutors wrote in a sentencing memo.
Instead, Tarrio used his talents “to inflame and radicalize untold numbers of followers, promoting political violence in general and orchestrating charged conspiracies in particular,” they argued.
U.S. District Judge Timothy Kelly, describing Tarrio as the “ultimate leader” of that conspiracy at a lengthy hearing in Washington, DC on September 5, gave him the longest prison sentence to date among cases related to the Capitol attack.
Federal sentencing guidelines indicate Tarrio could face 27 to 33 years in prison. Prosecutors asked for a 33-year prison sentence.
As he has done with other Proud Boys cases, the judge applied what's called a “terrorist enhancement” to the sentencing guidelines, but refrained from imposing longer prison terms for crimes he has contrasted with mass-casualty events.
Four other members of the group were convicted last week for their role in the attack. Ethan Nordean was sentenced to 18 years in prison, tying Oath Keepers founder Stewart Rhodes for the second-longest sentence to date among the hundreds of people sentenced in connection with the January 6.
Joe Biggs was sentenced to 17 years, Zachary Rehl was sentenced to 15 years and Dominic Pezzola – the only co-defendant among them not convicted of rioting – was sentenced to 10 years.
Tarrio's verdict marked the first successful conspiracy conviction against a Jan. 6 defendant who was not physically at the Capitol that day — he was barred from entering Washington after he was arrested for burning a Black Lives Matter banner outside a church against during riot weeks earlier. . He watched the riot from a hotel room in Baltimore.
During the Proud Boys trial, prosecutors presented hundreds of internal messages that revealed the group's culture of violence and preparations for an attack in the weeks leading up to January 6.
Prosecutors argued that the Proud Boys were not just obedient followers of Donald Trump's orders, bolstering his false narrative of election fraud, but were preparing for “all-out war” to undermine millions of American votes and overturn a democratic election to preserve his presidency.
In the aftermath of the uprising, Tarrio wrote on the social media platform Parler that “when the government fears the people, there is freedom,” a post he accompanied with a photo of members of the House ducking for cover.
“When he wrote these words, Tarrio was not referring to politicians' fear of absentee voting,” prosecutors wrote. “He spoke specifically and approvingly of what the members of Congress and their staff were experiencing that afternoon: fear of injury and death at the hands of a vicious mob that included Tarrio's handpicked soldiers.”
At Tarrio's sentencing hearing, defense lawyer Sabino Jauregui called his client a “deluded patriot” who never intended to “overthrow” the government. Tarrio's lawyers tried to separate Tarrio from the destructive actions of other Proud Boys on the ground.
“I think the evidence of Mr. Tarrio's leadership was, frankly, evident during the trial.” Judge Kelly said. “I find that the evidence shows that Mr. Tarrio was at the top of the command structure in planning the attack.”
As he asked the judge for leniency, Tarrio apologized to law enforcement, lawmakers, juries and the people of Washington for the “national embarrassment” of Jan. 6.
“When I get home I don't want anything to do with politics, groups, activism or rallies…and when you walk out that door your honor, I'll say nothing more than that.” he added.
Days earlier, Tarrio's co-defendant Dominic Pezzola, moments after sobbing in front of the judge, raised a fist and shouted “Trump won” after receiving his prison sentence.
During a televised presidential debate on September 29, 2020, moderator Chris Wallace repeatedly asked then-President Trump if he would denounce white supremacy. Mr. Trump asked for a name for reference. Joe Biden, standing across the stage, suggested the Proud Boys.
“Proud boys, stand back and stand by,” Trump said. “But I will tell you what one should do about antifa and the left because this is not a problem of the right. This is a left-wing problem.”
Almost immediately, members of the Proud Boys and their allies celebrated what they heard as a call to action. In the Parler, Tarrio wrote: “Stand, Sir.”
On December 12, 2020, Tarrio and members of the Proud Boys and other far-right groups sparked riots in Washington, D.C., after Mr. Trump lost the 2020 election. Tarrio admitted in comments to Parler and a Proud-related podcast Boys that he was responsible for burning a church sign.
“I was the one who set it on fire,” he said. “I was the man who stepped forward and put the lighter on him and set him on fire and I'm proud to have done it.”
Tarrio was arrested moments after arriving in Washington DC from Miami on January 4, 2021. Upon his arrest, police found Tarrio carrying two high-capacity magazines compatible with high-powered rifles. Both were empty.
He faced a misdemeanor count of destruction of property for burning the church sign and two subsequent felony counts of possession of a large capacity feeding device. In July, members of the group were ordered to pay $1 million for what a Washington Supreme Court judge called a “highly orchestrated” and “hateful and overtly racist” attack on the church.
But in the weeks before his arrival in the nation's capital, Tarrio had assembled a “Self-Defense Ministry” with his co-defendants, the “primary vehicle” through which members of the group prepared for Jan. 6, according to prosecutors . .
Group members were instructed to conceal and destroy evidence of their conversations and to refuse to cooperate with law enforcement, with warnings of ostracism and punishment if members were exposed.
Days before the attack, Tarrio exchanged messages about a document titled “1776 Returns” that included plans to occupy “critical buildings” with “as many people as possible,” including the House and Senate. A message told him that “it's a revolution [sic] important than anything else,” to which Tarrio replied, “That consists of every waking moment… I don't play games.”
On January 6, Tarrio told fans on social media that day to “do what needs to be done” and, in a group chat with other members of the Proud Boys, “do it again.”
“Don't leave,” he told them.
“Make no mistake,” he wrote in another message. “We did that.”
Prosecutors argued that his group messages and public stance before his arrest in Washington suggested that Tarrio “strategically calculated his arrest as a means to inspire a backlash from his followers” (Proud Boys members appear to march on Capitol Hill in January with T-shirts that read “ENRIQUE TARRIO DID NOTHING WRONG”).
His physical absence from the Capitol that day did nothing “to lessen the seriousness of his conduct,” prosecutors argued in a sentencing memo. Tarrio operated as “a general rather than a soldier,” they wrote. By igniting a “desire for political violence” and “inflaming” group members with fury erupting on Capitol Hill, Tarrio “did far more harm than he could have done as a lone agitator,” they wrote.
A day after the attack, Tarrio warned lawmakers who “created the problem” to “listen up … because things could get bad,” what prosecutors called a veiled threat of violence that amounted to a “politician version of extortion: Fine democracy.” . i got there it's a shame if something happens to him.”
“All of this rhetoric from Tarrio, as the ringleader of the conspiracy, underscores the common-sense conclusion that the crimes he and his co-defendants committed on January 6 were calculated to influence or affect the conduct of the government through intimidation or coercion.” to the prosecutors.
Tarrio's influence among the Proud Boys and far-right extremism extends far beyond the scope of January 6.
Following the federal case against him in the wake of the January 6 attack, as the US Department of Justice investigated far-right groups such as the Proud Boys and the Oath Keepers, Tarrio announced he was stepping down from his leadership role. He urged other members to “start getting more involved in local politics” and said the group would “run our kids for office from local seats, whether it's just a GOP seat or a city council seat.” The team members would go on to do just that.
Members have also harassed storytelling events with drag queens in libraries and reinforced “groomer” smears aimed at LGBT+ people. The Proud Boys have been central to a wave of attacks and threats against drag performers and the people and venues that host them, targeting at least 60 such events in the past year, with more than half resulting in physical and verbal confrontations.