DOJ Seeks Longest Sentence Yet for Capitol Riot

Enrique Tarrio faces 33 years in longest sentence sought yet by Justice Department for Capitol riot
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Aug 18, 2023 10:34 AM CDT
DOJ Seeks Longest Sentence Yet for Capitol Riot
Proud Boys leader Henry "Enrique" Tarrio wears a hat that says "The War Boys" during a rally in Portland, Oregon, on Sept. 26, 2020.   (AP Photo/Allison Dinner, File)

The Justice Department is seeking 33 years in prison for Enrique Tarrio, the former Proud Boys leader convicted of seditious conspiracy in one of the most serious cases to emerge from the attack on the US Capitol, according to court documents. The sentence, if imposed, would be by far the longest punishment that has been handed down in the massive prosecution of the riot on Jan. 6, 2021, per the AP. Oath Keepers founder Stewart Rhodes, who was convicted of seditious conspiracy in a separate case, has received the longest sentence to date—18 years. Tarrio, who once served as national chairman of the far-right extremist group, and three lieutenants were convicted by a Washington jury in May of conspiring to block the transfer of presidential power in the hopes of keeping then-President Trump in the White House after the Republican lost the 2020 election.

Tarrio, who wasn't at the Capitol riot itself on Jan. 6, was a top target of what has become the largest Justice Department investigation in American history. He led the neo-fascist group—known for street fights with left-wing activists—when Trump infamously told the Proud Boys to "stand back and stand by" during his first debate with Democrat Joe Biden. During the monthslong trial, prosecutors argued that the Proud Boys viewed themselves as foot soldiers fighting for Trump as the Republican spread lies that Democrats stole the election from him, and were prepared to go to war to keep their preferred leader in power. "They unleashed a force on the Capitol that was calculated to exert their political will on elected officials by force and to undo the results of a democratic election," prosecutors wrote in their filing Thursday.

The prosecutors added: "The foot soldiers of the right aimed to keep their leader in power. They failed. They are not heroes; they are criminals." Prosecutors are also asking for a 33-year-sentence for one of Tarrio's co-defendants, Joseph Biggs of Ormond Beach, Florida, a self-described Proud Boys organizer. In addition, they're asking the judge to impose a 30-year prison term for Zachary Rehl, who was president of the Proud Boys chapter in Philadelphia; 27 years in prison for Ethan Nordean of Auburn, Washington, who was a Proud Boys chapter president; and 20 years for Dominic Pezzola, a Proud Boys member from Rochester, New York. Pezzola was acquitted of seditious conspiracy but convicted of other serious charges.

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Tarrio wasn't in Washington on Jan. 6 because he'd been arrested two days earlier in a separate case and ordered out of the capital city. But prosecutors alleged he organized and directed the attack by the Proud Boys who stormed the Capitol that day. Defense attorneys argued there was no conspiracy and no plan to attack the Capitol, instead seeking to portray the Proud Boys as an unorganized drinking club whose members' participation in the riot was a spontaneous act fueled by Trump's election rage. Tarrio's lawyers tried to argue that Trump was the one to blame for exhorting a crowd outside the White House to "fight like hell." Tarrio, of Miami, and his co-defendants will be sentenced before US District Judge Timothy Kelly in a string of hearings starting later this month in Washington's federal court.

(Read more Enrique Tarrio stories.)

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