The US 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 attack on the US Capitol, according to court documents.
The harsh sentence request came as it emerged that Christopher Worrell, another member of the extremist group, has disappeared, days before he was due to be sentenced on Friday
The sentence for Tarrio, if imposed, would be by far the longest punishment that has been handed down in the massive prosecution of the riot on 6 January 2021. The Oath Keepers founder Stewart Rhodes, who was convicted of seditious conspiracy in a separate case, has received the longest sentence to date – 18 years.
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 Donald Trump in the White House after the Republican president lost the 2020 election.
Tarrio, who was not at the Capitol riot itself, 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 leftwing activists – when Trump infamously told the Proud Boys to “stand back and stand by” during his first election debate with Democrat Joe Biden.
During the months-long 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.
“They unleashed a force on the Capitol that was calculated to exert their political will on elected officials by force and to undo the results of a democratic election,” prosecutors wrote in their filing on Thursday. “The foot soldiers of the right aimed to keep their leader in power. They failed. They are not heroes; they are criminals.”
Meanwhile on Friday it emerged that the authorities are looking for Worrell, of Naples, Florida, who was “unaccounted for” ahead of his sentencing. He was convicted of using pepper-spray gel on police officers as part of the mob storming the Capitol in 2021.
Worrell had been under house arrest in Florida since his release from jail in Washington in November 2021, less than a month after a judge substantiated his civil-rights complaints about his treatment in the jail.
Prosecutors had asked a judge to sentence Worrell to 14 years. Court records show the sentencing was canceled on Tuesday and a warrant issued for his arrest, initially under seal.
More than three dozen people charged in the Capitol siege have been identified by federal authorities as leaders, members or associates of the Proud Boys, whose members describe it as a politically incorrect men’s club for “western chauvinists”.
As well as the long sentence for Tarrio, 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.
A total of about 1,000 people have been charged with federal crimes related to the January 6 riot. More than 600 of them have pleaded guilty or been convicted after trials decided by a jury or judge.
Defense attorneys argued there was no conspiracy and no plan to attack the Capitol.
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