The decade's most triggering comedy
Former Proud Boys chairman Enrique Tarrio was sentenced this week to more than two decades behind bars in connection to the breach of the U.S. Capitol on January 6, 2021, marking the harshest sentence to date in the Biden DOJ’s handling of January 6.
Along with Tarrio — who was not even in D.C. on the day of the breach — his co-defendants, fellow Proud Boys, racked up huge sentences, too.
Before Tarrio, Ethan Nordean was tied for having the longest sentence at 18 years. Joe Biggs, a purple heart recipient, was handed down a 17-year sentence, and Zachary Rehl, a U.S. Marine veteran, was hit with a 15-year sentence.
All four of the men — not a single one even accused of assault — were convicted of seditious conspiracy. Judge Timothy Kelly, a Trump appointee who sentenced each young man, agreed with the government that all four of them be hit with a “terrorism sentencing enhancement.” Meaning each sentence will be over ten years at a minimum.
First, let’s look at what they were convicted of (among other lesser charges): seditious conspiracy. This is significant. The seditious conspiracy law was enacted after the Civil War to arrest Southerners who might try to keep fighting the U.S. government. It’s extremely rare in its application, and hard to prove – but it’s been used by the Biden DOJ about a dozen times now in connection to the Capitol breach, and so far, rather successfully.
Save Tarrio, who was not at the Capitol, the other three young men were accused of trespassing and damage to government property. In Biggs’ case, for example, he helped remove a fence outside the Capitol.
These are minor infractions, so the DOJ took on that rare seditious conspiracy charge, which they had to try to prove with speech, and mostly private speech. The government sifted through tens of thousands of private and some public messages from the men to build their flimsy, yet successful, cases.
In one message used by the prosecution, Tarrio said after the breach, “Make no mistake … we did this.” The government also highlighted a document outlining a Capital takeover that was sent to Tarrio on social media platform Telegram called “1776 Returns.” Tarrio did not directly respond to the sent document and claims he never even saw it, let alone open it.
The government told the court Tarrio, who is the son of Cuban immigrants, was “intelligent, charming, creative, and articulate” and argued that he used those talents to “inflame and radicalize an untold number of followers.”
Defense lawyers maintained throughout the trail that there was not a single shred of written evidence to show that the men conspired to stop the certification of the 2020 election, though they might have boasted and talked “s***” to each other, privately.
Tarrio himself actually spoke about this glaring speech issue during the trial, from inside a jail cell. He suggested the trial concerned free speech, and said that the government is trying to “manipulate” how people speak to each other privately. Here’s what Tarrio said in a Twitter Spaces event, which was hosted on April 25th:
“What they’re trying to do, what people are trying to do – and this is in general, I’m speaking in general – is manipulate how we talk to each other in the locker room,” Tarrio said. “And it’s not fair … It’s just not right. It’s not the Justice system that you grew up in civics class learning about.”
Notably, the DOJ has had near-perfect success in prosecuting J6 defendants before D.C. juries – this is a very liberal city, where, in 2020, Biden secured a stunning 93% of the vote. That likely emboldened the government to go forward with these extreme charges, knowing they could win.
It also seems Donald Trump is a key factor in the DOJ going so hard after the Proud Boys: it could help their pursuit of the former president. Trump notably said on television in September of 2020, “Proud Boys, stand back and stand by.” This was breathlessly reported by those in legacy media, the clip was shown by prosecution in this Proud Boys trial, and you can bet it will be a focus at Trump’s coming J6 trial.
Reporter Julie Kelly, who’s been covering these J6 cases from the very beginning, believes just that.
“There is no case for seditious conspiracy – certainly they could be charged with trespassing, or, ya know, vandalizing property – no one is accused of assaulting a police officer,” Kelly said months ago on Real America’s Voice. “The reason why the outcome of this trial matters, is because the government is going to use this – any convictions – special counsel Jack Smith – to indict Donald Trump on the very same offenses.”
Trump has since been charged with conspiracy to violate civil rights, conspiracy to defraud the government, the corrupt obstruction of an official proceeding, and conspiracy to carry out such obstruction.
While the DOJ has continued this harsh pursuit, the American people have taken notice. Polling by Rasmussen from about 10 months after January 6 showed that nearly half of all Americans thought J6 defendants were “political prisoners.” And polling from this year by Quinnipiac showed that about half the country is ready to move on from J6, finding it less significant an event than it’s being portrayed.
Some GOP lawmakers have weighed in on this, too, saying these defendants are being treated poorly and far more harshly than any BLM protester or rioter has been treated. Missouri Sen. Josh Hawley (R), for example, has called out the DOJ for this disparity.
In a letter to Attorney General Merrick Garland last year, Hawley wrote:
“While you treat persons charged with petty offenses from the January 6 riot as hardened criminals, now even the most heinous offenses can be treated leniently, as long as the perpetrator is of the correct race and the crime can be connected to some progressive cause.”
One case highlighted was over a BLM protester named Montez Terriel Lee, Jr. who was convicted of arson to a pawn shop that resulted in the death of a 30-year-old man. The DOJ, citing Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. to defend Lee, argued for a lighter sentence for the man. Lee was sentenced to ten years – that’s less than half of Tarrio’s sentence – and, again, Tarrio wasn’t present at the riot.
Lawmakers have also raised objections about how long some of these defendants have been held in jail without bond awaiting their trials, arguing that their due process rights have been violated. Tarrio, for example, was locked up since March 2022 – long before his trial even started.
To date, more than 1,100 Americans have been charged in connection to the Capitol breach, and more than 300 people have already been sentenced to prison time. And it doesn’t appear the DOJ is slowing down.