Henry “Enrique” Tarrio, the former chairman of the violent neo-fascist gang the Proud Boys, was sentenced to 22 years in prison for his role in the Jan. 6, 2021, U.S. Capitol attack.
U.S. District Judge Timothy J. Kelly handed down the sentence in a District of Columbia courtroom Tuesday, the longest sentence yet for a Capitol attacker. His sentence also included 36 months of supervised release. The Justice Department had sought 33 years for 39-year-old Tarrio for the pivotal role he played in orchestrating the violence on Jan. 6 that left more than 100 police officers injured.
Given the opportunity to speak before his sentencing, Tarrio’s voice cracked and he wiped away tears as he told the court he had “failed” his family, according to reporters in the courtroom.
“Standing before you today, I feel I failed as a brother, fiancé, nephew, as a son,” Tarrio said. “I will always regret making decisions that did not put them first. I’ve taken care of my grandfather for most of my life, and now I’ve failed him.”
Though Tarrio was not at the Capitol on Jan. 6, prosecutors argued that he was instrumental in mobilizing the gang to Washington and overseeing their assault on the Capitol in what was ultimately a failed effort to keep former President Donald Trump in power.
Tarrio oversaw the attack from a hotel in Baltimore. He was barred from entering Washington after being arrested two days prior on charges that he defaced a Black Lives Matter banner during a pro-Trump rally in December 2020. Tarrio and four other Proud Boys were convicted in May as part of the Justice Department’s seditious conspiracy case against the gang’s leadership.
The Proud Boys were “lined up behind Donald Trump and willing to commit violence on his behalf,” prosecutor Conor Mulroe told jurors during Tarrio’s trial in April. “These defendants saw themselves as Donald Trump’s army, fighting to keep their preferred leader in power no matter what the law or the courts had to say about it.”
On the day of the attack, Proud Boys members Joe Biggs and Zachary Rehl carried walkie-talkies as they moved through the crowd, yelling marching orders to other members to breach the building. Proud Boys member Dominic Pezzola was the first to smash a Capitol window and lead rioters inside after he stole an officer’s riot shield.
Judge Kelly said Tarrio’s absence from the Capitol served “strategic purposes.”
“It did allow his lieutenants to rile up the crowd, and it did, from his perspective, insulate him in just the way he’s arguing now, distanced himself from what in fact unfolded that day,” Kelly said. “That’s useful to someone as smart as Mr. Tarrio. And then, before the day was out, publicly putting on social media: ‘I’m proud of my boys and my country’ and ‘Don’t fucking leave.’”
Last week, Kelly sentenced Biggs to 17 years in prison and Rehl to 15 years. Pezzola was sentenced to 10 years. Proud Boys member Ethan Nordean, known for numerous violent assaults, was sentenced to 18 years for his role in the Capitol attack. Prosecutors said Nordean acted like “the general of an army” the day of the riot, leading “his men” across fallen police barricades.
Over the course of the five Proud Boys sentencing hearings, Kelly repeatedly pointed out that the gang’s violent efforts on Jan. 6 would have cascading effects on elections going forward.
“What happened that day ... it broke our tradition of the peaceful transfer of power, which is the most precious thing we had as Americans,” Kelly said during Biggs’ sentencing last week. “Notice I say had — we don’t have it anymore.”
Nordean and Elmer Stewart Rhodes, the founder of the far-right Oath Keepers group, previously held the record for the longest sentence handed down to a Capitol rioter before Tarrio’s sentencing. Rhodes was sentenced to 18 years after being found guilty of seditious conspiracy and other charges last year.
In asking for a lighter sentence, Tarrio’s lawyers pointed out that he has a history of working with law enforcement. Court records show the Proud Boys chairman previously worked undercover for investigators during a 2012 fraud case he was involved in.