Enrique Tarrio’s mother says her son was a ‘political pawn’ – WUSF Public Media

Days after her son was sentenced to more than two decades in prison for his role in the January 6, 2021 insurrection at the U.S. Capitol, Enrique Tarrio’s mother said she is “proud” of him, and that his sentence was “excessive.”

Speaking to reporters at the Miami Lakes law firm of Tarrio’s attorney, Nayib Hassan, Zuny Duarte Tarrio asked her son’s supporters to send financial assistance to the Tarrio family and called on political leaders to come to her son’s aid. Tarrio’s attorneys said they plan to appeal as early as next week.

“Twenty-two years of sentencing seems extremely excessive,” Duarte said. “It’s really hurting the family.”

Tarrio was sentenced in federal court in Washington, D.C., on Tuesday to 22 years in prison for orchestrating the failed plot to keep Donald Trump in power after the Republican incumbent lost the 2020 election — capping the case with the stiffest punishment handed down yet for the U.S. Capitol attack.

Earlier this year, Tarrio and three lieutenants were convicted of seditious conspiracy and other crimes after a months-long trial that served as a vivid reminder of the violent chaos fueled by Trump’s lies about the election that helped inspire right-wing extremists like the Proud Boys and the Oath Keepers.

Four people died during the events of the riot, one Capitol Police officer died the following day after he was attacked by rioters, and about 150 officers were injured.

At his sentencing hearing Tuesday, Tarrio called Jan. 6 a “national embarrassment,” and apologized to the police officers who defended the Capitol and the lawmakers who fled in fear. His voice cracked as he said he let down his family and vowed that he is done with politics.

At the time of the insurrection, Tarrio was the chairman of the Proud Boys — a pro-Trump militant men’s club labeled a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center. As chairman, Tarrio served as a spokesman and one of the main faces of leadership in the organization with chapters around the U.S.

Federal prosecutors noted the outsized role the Proud Boys played in the attack on the Capitol.

Enrique Tarrio’s mother, Zuny Duarte, speaks to reporters at a press conference on Sept. 7. She is flanked by Tarrio’s attorneys, Sabino Jauregui (left) and Nayib Hassan (right).

“No organization put more boots on the ground at the Capitol on January 6, 2021, than the Proud Boys, and they were at the forefront of every major breach of the Capitol’s defenses, leading the on-the-ground efforts to storm the seat of government,” said U.S. Attorney for the District of Columbia Matthew M. Graves.

Duarte said Tarrio is no longer affiliated with the Proud Boys.

Prosecutors had sought 33 years behind bars for Tarrio, describing him as the ringleader of a plot to use violence to shatter the cornerstone of American democracy and overturn the election victory by Joe Biden, a Democrat, over Trump, the Republican incumbent.

Tarrio’s was the longest sentence imposed so far — the previous highest being the 18-year sentences given to one-time Proud Boys leader Ethan Nordean and Stewart Rhodes, founder of the far-right militant group The Oath Keepers.

READ MORE: South Florida’s Jan. 6 defendants: Where are they now?

Tarrio was not present during the events of January 6, unlike Rhodes and his other co-defendants. Days before the insurrection, Tarrio was arrested for burning a Black Lives Matter Flag belonging to a church and carrying two high-capacity firearm magazines — a violation of Washington, D.C., law. He pled guilty and agreed not to return to D.C., and stayed in nearby Baltimore during the events of the riot.

Prosecutors nonetheless argued that Tarrio worked to orchestrate the events of that day from afar in coordination with The Oath Keepers, in order to block the transfer of power President-elect Biden, because they claimed that the election was stolen from Donald Trump. The government presented text messages in various Proud Boys group chats and online channels where Tarrio egged on the rioters as they entered the Capitol.

“Proud of my boys and my country,” Tarrio wrote in one social media post, as well as: “Don’t f*** leave.”

After the events of January 6, Tarrio reportedly wrote a message to Proud Boy leadership saying: “Make no mistake… We did this,” according to the U.S. Department of Justice. The court gave his sentence a so-called “terrorism enhancement,” which drove the sentence higher than the normal range for the charges laid against him.

Tarrio’s mother claimed it made no sense for her son to get the highest sentence if he was not there during the riot.

“How could you give 22 years to someone who wasn’t even there?” Duarte said in Spanish. “Because he’s being used as a political pawn.”

Tarrio, a Miami native, grew up in the Flagami neighborhood in a conservative, Cuban household. He helped found the Miami chapter of the Proud Boys, and helped to insert the group into the forefront of the political scene leading up to the 2020 election.

Duarte and her son’s lawyers remarked that Tarrio liked to talk and be in front of cameras, so they claim that he was used as a target because he was a public figure.

They also asserted that Tarrio had no part in planning January 6, and that there was no plan.

Duarte compared the riot and her son’s texts to people getting “enthusiastic” at a sports event and getting carried away.

“I think it was just a group of guys just talking and trying to play it out. But there wasn’t a plan to that. There was a plan to go to D.C., And do what they usually do,” she said.

Hassan, Tarrio’s attorney, said they will file an appeal as early as Monday, Sept. 11, and plan to argue that the venue for the trial should not have been in Washington, where the jurors could have been affected by the Capitol riot.

The Associated Press contributed to this story.

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