Enrique Tarrio, former leader of the Proud Boys right-wing activist group, has been handed a 22-year prison sentence for his involvement in organizing the January 2021 US Capitol riot. The riot aimed to disrupt the congressional certification of President Joe Biden’s election victory. This sentence marks the longest prison term among the over 1,100 Capitol riot criminal cases.
On Tuesday, US District Court Judge Timothy Kelly delivered the sentence in Washington, stating that Tarrio’s seditious conspiracy conviction amounted to an act of terrorism. Despite not being present in Washington on the day of the riot, the judge deemed Tarrio’s role significant enough to warrant a lengthy prison term.
During his sentencing hearing, Tarrio pleaded with the judge, stating that he was not a political extremist and that his intention was not to cause harm or alter the election results. He requested mercy, asking that his 40s not be taken away from him.
Tarrio was located in a Baltimore hotel room, approximately 40 miles away from Washington, at the time of the Capitol breach. He had been under a court order to stay out of the city due to an unrelated arrest two days prior to the riot.
Prosecutors sought a 33-year prison sentence for Tarrio, asserting that he was a key figure in the plot to hinder the transfer of power from then-President Donald Trump to President Biden. They presented evidence of messages sent by Tarrio from his hotel room, in which he encouraged Proud Boys members to participate in the riot.
Numerous members of the Proud Boys have faced prosecution for their alleged involvement in the Capitol breach. Three other group members have been convicted of seditious conspiracy and received prison sentences ranging from 15 to 18 years. Stewart Rhodes, chairman of the activist group Oath Keepers, also received an 18-year prison term, previously the longest sentence handed down for a riot-related conviction.
Critics, particularly Republican lawmakers, have accused the Biden administration of operating a “two-tier” justice system. They argue that while Trump supporters involved in the Capitol breach are being harshly punished, left-wing activists involved in the 2020 Black Lives Matter riots, which resulted in extensive damage and loss of life, have been treated more leniently. A poll conducted last year revealed that 79% of US voters believe there is a disparity in how politicians and Washington insiders are treated compared to everyday Americans.
Former President Trump, who was impeached by the Democrat-controlled House of Representatives on January 13, 2021, for his alleged role in orchestrating the riot, continues to deny any wrongdoing. He claims that the allegations against him were politically motivated and maintains that he won the 2020 election, but it was stolen from him.