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Justice Department seeks 33 years in prison for ex-Proud Boys leader Enrique Tarrio in Jan. 6 case

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Justice Department seeks 33 years in prison for ex-Proud Boys leader Enrique Tarrio in Jan. 6 case
August 18, 2023
The Los Angeles Post - AP

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 Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the U.S. Capitol, according to court documents filed Thursday.

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 Republican Donald Trump in the White House after he lost the 2020 election.

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.

They are 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.

Tarrio, of Miami, and his co-defendants will be sentenced before U.S. District Judge Timothy Kelly in a string of hearings starting later this month in Washington’s federal court.

It's the same courthouse where Trump pleaded not guilty this month in the case brought by special counsel Jack Smith accusing the Republican of illegally scheming to subvert the will of voters and overturn his loss to Democrat Joe Biden. Trump has denied any wrongdoing.

Tarrio, who was not at the Jan. 6 riot itself, and his three lieutenants were also convicted of two of the same charges Trump faces: obstruction of Congress' certification of Biden's victory, and conspiracy to obstruct Congress.

The Proud Boys will be the second group of far-right extremists sentenced for seditious conspiracy convictions in the Jan. 6 attack. Oath Keepers founder Stewart Rhodes was sentenced in May to 18 years in prison, and other members of the antigovernment militia group also received lengthy prison terms.

Prosecutors, however, are appealing those sentences, which were lower what than the government had been seeking. Prosecutors had asked U.S. District Judge Amit Mehta to sentence Rhodes to 25 years behind bars.

Tarrio 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 Biden.

Tarrio wasn’t in Washington on Jan. 6, because he had 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 Proud Boys who stormed the Capitol that day.

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.

Defense attorneys argued there was no conspiracy and no plan to attack the Capitol, and sought 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 extorting a crowd outside the White House to “ fight like hell.”

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