US judge hands down longest Capitol riot sentence yet

Former Proud Boys leader Enrique Tarrio has been slapped with a 22-year prison term for seditious conspiracy

Enrique Tarrio, former leader of the Proud Boys right-wing activist group, has been sentenced to 22 years in federal prison for his role in organizing the January 2021 US Capitol riot to disrupt congressional certification of President Joe Biden’s election victory.

US District Court Judge Timothy Kelly handed down the sentence on Tuesday in Washington, marking the longest prison term yet among the more than 1,100 Capitol riot criminal cases. Tarrio’s long sentence for seditious conspiracy reflected the judge’s finding that he committed an act of terrorism, despite the fact that he was not in Washington on the day of the riot.

“I am not a political zealot,” Tarrio told Kelly at his sentencing hearing. “Inflicting harm or changing the results of the election was not my goal. Please show me mercy. I ask you that you not take my 40s from me.”

Tarrio was in a Baltimore hotel room, about 40 miles outside of Washington, during the Capitol breach. He was under a court order to stay out of the city in connection with an unrelated arrest two days prior to the riot.

Prosecutors, who requested a 33-year prison sentence, claimed that Tarrio was a ringleader of the plot to stop the transfer of power to Biden from then-President Donald Trump. He sent messages from his hotel room encouraging the Proud Boys members who participated in the riot.

Dozens of Proud Boys have been prosecuted for their alleged roles in the Capitol breach. Three other members of the group were convicted of seditious conspiracy and were sentenced to prison terms ranging from 15 to 18 years. Stewart Rhodes, chairman of another activist group, Oath Keepers, was also sentenced to 18 years, previously the longest prison term for a riot-related conviction.

Republican lawmakers have accused the Biden administration of creating a “two-tier” justice system, harshly punishing the Trump supporters accused of breaching the Capitol while releasing left-wing activists involved in the 2020 Black Lives Matter riots that torched cities and resulted in dozens of deaths. A poll last year showed that 79% of US voters believe the nation has “one set of laws for politicians and Washington, DC, insiders vs. one set of laws for everyday Americans.”

Trump was impeached by the Democrat-controlled House of Representatives on January 13, 2021, for his alleged role in orchestrating the riot. He denied any wrongdoing, insisting that the allegations were politically motivated. At the same time, Trump continues to claim that he had actually won the 2020 election, but the victory was “stolen” from him.

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