Enrique Tarrio, leader of the Proud Boys, stands outside of the Hyatt
Regency where the Conservative Political Action Conference was being
held in Orlando, Fla., on Feb. 27, 2021. (Joe Raedle/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON—Henry “Enrique” Tarrio Jr., the Florida-based former chairman of the Proud Boys accused of being the mastermind of a seditious conspiracy to attack the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021, was sentenced to 22 years in federal prison on Sept. 5 by U.S. District Judge Timothy Kelly.
Prosecution of Mr. Tarrio and his Proud Boys lieutenants included the most extended Jan. 6 criminal trial—more than four months—held in the E. Barrett Prettyman United States Courthouse in Washington, D.C.
During a nearly four-hour sentencing hearing, defense attorneys said 15 years would be a sufficient prison term.
Mr. Tarrio expressed remorse for Jan. 6, for letting down his grandfather and his family, and for not respecting law enforcement.
He asked the judge for leniency so he could return to society and turn away from "my selfish endeavors." Mr. Tarrio said the trial has humbled him and he no longer wants anything to do with rallies or politics.
"I am not a political zealot," he said.
Although Mr. Tarrio was not physically present in Washington on Jan. 6, Judge Kelly applied a sentence enhancement for terrorism based on the attack on Capitol fencing by Mr. Biggs and Mr. Nordean. Judge Kelly said the seditious conspiracy made Mr. Tarrio complicit in the fence destruction and deserving of the terrorism enhancement.
On May 4, Mr. Tarrio was found guilty by a jury of seditious conspiracy, conspiracy to obstruct an official proceeding, obstruction of an official proceeding, conspiracy to use force, intimidation, or threat to prevent officers of the United States from discharging their duties, interference with law enforcement during civil disorder, and destruction of government property.
Mr. Tarrio was found not guilty of assaulting, resisting, or impeding certain officers. The jury could not reach a verdict on two other counts.
Much like the Oath Keepers put on trial in 2022 and 2023, Mr. Tarrio was accused of plotting to thwart the “peaceful transfer of power” from President Donald J. Trump to Joseph Biden Jr.
Defense attorney Sabino Jauregui rejected the idea his client is a terrorist.
"My client is no terrorist," Mr. Jauregui said, instead describing Mr. Tarrio as a "misguided patriot."
Assistant U.S. Attorney Conor Mulroe disagreed, describing Jan. 6 as a "calculated act of terrorism."
Although Mr. Tarrio was not in the District of Columbia on Jan. 6, prosecutors alleged he communicated with the Proud Boys using social media, encouraging them with references to “1776” and warning that elected officials better listen “because things can get ugly.”
Prosecutors said Mr. Tarrio had been “consumed with revolution” in the weeks leading up to Jan. 6. They said he received a document titled “1776 Returns” from a girlfriend. However, defense attorneys insisted there was no evidence Mr. Tarrio ever read the document.
He is deserving of a terrorism sentence enhancement, prosecutors argued, due in part to organizing the “Ministry of Self Defense” (MOSD)—which was “the primary instrument through which the defendants planned and prepared for January 6.”
They said Mr. Tarrio was an hour away in Baltimore during the Jan. 6 events and did not direct, order, or plan Proud Boys actions that day. Mr. Tarrio had been ordered to leave the District of Columbia after his arrest for setting fire to a Black Lives Matter banner on Dec. 12, 2020.
They cited a February 2021 interview with CNN in which Mr. Tarrio said the Proud Boys “should not have breached the Capitol with violence.” Mr. Tarrio was particularly critical of his co-defendant, Mr. Pezzola, whom he condemned for smashing a Capitol window with a police riot shield.
Didn’t Lead on Jan. 6“All these comments made shortly after the event show he not only did not plan the invasion of the Capitol but are also indicative of someone who did not lead, organize, or manage the actions on January 6, despite having a leadership role within the Proud Boys organization,” the sentencing memo read.
Prosecutors cited other statements Mr. Tarrio made to counter that assertion, including, “Don’t [expletive] tread on us,” “Never apologize. You are the resistance. Never stop fighting,” “[Expletive] the system,” and “I’m not denouncing [expletive].”
“Amplifying his portrayal of the federal government as the enemy of the people, Tarrio scorned the legitimacy of its efforts to investigate what was self-evidently a serious crime, calling law enforcement authorities 'Gestapo forces,’ and describing suspects as being ‘hunted by the tyrannical government,’” prosecutors wrote.
“All this rhetoric from Tarrio, as leader of the conspiracy, underscores the common-sense conclusion that the crimes committed by him and his co-defendants on January 6 were calculated to influence or affect the conduct of government by intimidation or coercion,” prosecutors said.
Prosecutors argued that Mr. Tarrio’s physical absence from Washington on Jan. 6 did not substantially mitigate his culpability in the crimes committed that day.
Mr. Tarrio’s “physical absence does nothing to detract from the severity of his conduct because … he was a general rather than a soldier,” prosecutors wrote.
“By provoking a desire for political violence among his followers, creating MOSD, filling it with men he could trust to ‘fit in or [expletive] off,’ inflaming the group with rage against law enforcement and then turning it loose on the Capitol, Tarrio did far more harm than he could have as an individual rioter. His sentence should reflect that.”
Mr. Tarrio's mother, Zuny Hernandez Tarrio, broke down when asking Judge Kelly for leniency. She asked the judge to see "beyond the politics, beyond the media" in crafting a sentence. She said the Henry Tarrio who came into the system in 2022 is not the same man sitting in the courtroom.