700 Years behind Bars: Price for US Capitol Attack

Seven hundred years: This is what the total punishment received by Donald Trump’s supporters who took part in the attack on the Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021, adds up to.

Those who believed in the theories that the 2020 election was stolen, and were encouraged by Trump’s words, marched on the Capitol. They were hoping to force Vice President Mike Pence and Congress to reject electoral votes supporting Joe Biden’s victory; they are now paying a heavy price.

While Trump is facing criminal charges in courts, his supporters are already being convicted. The longest sentence so far has been handed to Henry “Enrique” Tarrio, the former leader of the Proud Boys, a militant group which spearheaded the mass uprising at the Capitol. Tarrio encouraged 200 people to march on Capitol Hill, although he did not show up in Washington that day; he had been arrested two days earlier in another protest related to Trump’s election defeat. He was sentenced to 22 years in prison for “subversive conspiracy” and obstructing the procedures of Congress, which approved the transfer of power to the winner of the election on Jan. 6. His closest friends from the group will spend from 15 to 18 years behind bars.

Henry “Enrique” Tarrio, Scapegoat Member of the Proud Boys

Some group members still believe they were doing the right thing that day. “Trump won!” shouted Dominic Pezzola as he walked out of the final trial; he was sentenced to 10 years in prison. During the attack on the Capitol, he broke a window, opening the way to the government building.

These verdicts are a key milestone in what some prosecutors consider the largest investigation in U.S. history. Thousands of Trump supporters took part in the attack on the Capitol, and more than 1,100 were arrested. According to The Washington Post, more than 350 people have been sentenced to prison so far for their part in this unprecedented attack on democracy, in which five people were killed and many others were injured. The average sentence so far is almost two years. About 160 people are serving sentences of about a year, but 10 people, most of them members of the Proud Boys or the far-right militant group the Oath Keepers, have been sentenced to more than a decade. Altogether, those responsible for the attack on the U.S. Capitol will serve 700 years in prison. This number may eventually increase as the court hears more cases.

A dozen people, mostly members of extremist militias who led the attack on Jan. 6, like Tarrio, were convicted of subversive conspiracy — a crime that last led to convictions in the U.S. federal court in the 1990s.

Tarrio and dozens of people found guilty of the attack on the Capitol tried to shift the blame to Trump during the interrogations and trials. “I had some objections to the election results. But what I heard in the media, which I followed, confirmed my fears,”* he said in court, apologizing to law enforcement officers.

During the trial Tarrio’s lawyer said that his client had become a scapegoat for Trump and other members of the government. The lawyer representing Joseph Biggs, another Proud Boy member, argued that Trump had lied to them. “We hope that believing the president’s words and following his appeals should constitute mitigating circumstances,”* Zachary Rehl’s lawyer said.

Trump, who is facing a few trials in the next couple of months, has not been formally indicted for urging people to storm the Capitol. But there is a charge on the basis of which the House of Representatives — led by the Democratic Party at the time — decided to impeach him in 2021.

He is not charged with subversive conspiracy like Tarrio and others, but he is facing similar charges in Georgia — for attempted interference in the presidential election results in 2020. He has also faced charges that other participants of the Capitol attack are facing: He is suspected of obstructing the official proceedings of approval of electoral votes by the Congress, which took place on Jan. 6.

Will Trump Pardon Capitol Attack Participants?

Trump has repeatedly stated that if he is president again, he will pardon many of the participants who were imprisoned because of the attack on the Capitol. Some of them deeply believe that this will happen. “Oh, I know he’ll pardon. I believe that with all my heart,” said Biggs from prison. If the promise to the Proud Boys had really been made, it would be a historic move, given the severity of the charges.

It would not be surprising, though, when it comes to Trump. The former president has pardoned close associates, left and right. He pardoned, among others, Paul Manafort, who was facing 11 years in prison for financial crimes; Roger Stone; former Republican Congressman Chris Collins; Elliott Broidy; and Michael Flynn before they were convicted. Each time he claimed they were treated unfairly.

*Editor’s note: Although accurately translated, this quoted passage could not be independently verified.

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