Tarrio, other J6 defendants get long sentences but BLM rioters received much lighter treatment

Equal Justice for All? A woman who threw a burning Molotov cocktail into an NYPD vehicle with four officers inside during BLM riots received a six-year sentence. A man who was not even in D.C. during the January 6 riot was sentenced to 22 years in prison for "seditious conspiracy."

Published: September 6, 2023 11:00pm

Updated: September 7, 2023 1:03pm

Former Proud Boys leader Enrique Tarrio was sentenced this week to 22 years in prison for leading the Jan. 6 Capitol riot, despite not even being in Washington, D.C., at the time. The long sentences that he and other Jan. 6 defendants have received raises questions when compared to the relatively light sentences given to Black Lives Matter rioters.

Tarrio was sentenced on Tuesday after being convicted of seditious conspiracy in May. The Department of Justice had sought a 33-year prison sentence.

He had been arrested in Washington, D.C., just two days before Jan. 6 for burning a church’s Black Lives Matter banner and bringing high-capacity rifle magazines into the city the prior month. A judge subsequently ordered that he leave the city, which was why he was not in the capital on Jan. 6.

Despite Tarrio’s absence from the Capitol on Jan. 6, prosecutors argued that he supported the rioters online and kept in touch with his co-defendants who were at the Capitol.

U.S. District Judge Timothy Kelly, a Trump appointee, issued Tarrio’s sentence.

"The jury didn’t convict anyone for engaging in politics, they convicted Mr. Tarrio and others of engaging in seditious conspiracy. I don’t have any indication that he is remorseful for the actual things he is convicted of, which is seditious conspiracy and conspiracy to obstruct the counting of electoral votes," Kelly said.

Three other Proud Boys members — Joseph Biggs, Ethan Nordean and Zachary Rehul — were convicted of seditious conspiracy with Tarrio in May. Nordean received an 18-year prison sentence, Biggs received 17 years, and Rehul received 15 years. Oath Keepers founder Stewart Rhodes was also previously sentenced to 18 years for seditious conspiracy.

However, comparisons were quickly drawn on X, formerly Twitter, between the sentence that Tarrio and other J6 rioters received and sentences given to Black Lives Matter rioters.

Libs of TikTok’s account posted on Tuesday, “BLM burned down our country for 6 months and most of the protesters had their charges dropped. Enrique Tarrio was just sentenced to 22 years for Jan 6th and he wasn’t even at the Capitol. Two tiered justice system.”

The posting included a screenshot of a 2021 article from The Guardian titled “Most charges against George Floyd protesters dropped, analysis shows.”

According to the Guardian article, “In most of a dozen jurisdictions examined, at least 90% of cases were dropped or dismissed. In some cities, like Dallas and Philadelphia, as many as 95% of citations were dropped or not prosecuted.”

Philadelphia “police sent over 1,700 charges to the city and the office of the district attorney,” but the mayor and DA either dropped or were “poised to drop about 95% of the charges, including all ordinance violations,” The Guardian also reported.

According to a review of more than 300 federal cases regarding the George Floyd protests, 120 defendants were either convicted or pleaded guilty to federal crimes such as conspiracy, arson, and rioting, The Associated Press reported in 2021. Of those, more than 70 received prison sentences averaging about 27 months -- a little more than 2 years --  with at least 10 getting prison terms of five years or more.

In contrast, according to The Associated Press, 1,133 people have been charged with regard to the Jan. 6 riot, 790 of which have been convicted, and 630 of those have been sentenced. 

As of March 6, 2023 -- two years after the riot --  The New Republic reported that "382 are still waiting for trial. Most of the people waiting are out on bail." Many people, including some not sympathetic to the J6 protestors, have decried the deprivation of a speedy trial, and the conditions in which the defendants were being held. Senators Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) and Bob Casey (D-Pa.) joined the ACLU in denouncing extended solitary confinement for J6 detainees as “torture.”

The New Republic noted that "The D.C. prison holds approximately 40 such prisoners. There may be more elsewhere; the government offers no clear answers."

During the 2020 Black Lives Matter riots in New York City, two lawyers were involved in throwing a Molotov cocktail into a unoccupied New York Police Department car that already had a broken window. Colinford Mattis received a plea deal that resulted in him being ordered to pay just over $30,000 to NYPD for the vehicle damage and getting a prison sentence of a year and a day. His accomplice, Urooj Rahman, received a plea deal with a 15-month prison sentence. Federal prosecutors had agreed to a prison sentence recommendation of 18 to 24 months for both lawyers. Both lawyers were disbarred.

Also during the Black Lives Matter riots in New York, a Molotov cocktail was thrown into an NYPD vehicle with four police officers inside. Two windows of the vehicle were shattered but the officers managed to escape. The woman who was charged for the crime under federal laws, Samantha Shader, was found guilty and sentenced to six years in prison.

Comparison was also made between the riots on Donald Trump’s inauguration day and Jan. 6.

On Wednesday, former FBI agent and self-proclaimed whistleblower Kyle Seraphin posted on his X account, “I was in the crow[d] in DC on J20, 2017. I made a felony arrest of a likely Antifa activist who was attacking the @USParkPolice helicopter ‘Eagle 1’ with a large laser pointer throughout the day."

“This individual was released without charges,” Seraphin continued. “His ilk burned private and government property and set out to ‘Disrupt J20’ as part of a concerted effort to prevent Trump's Inauguration. A series of US Secret Service vehicles were burned on the north side of the parade route. There was no area-wide or nation-wide manhunt to find out who engaged in this activity.”

Seraphin’s post included a reposting of a video that contrasted Jan. 6 with the riots on Jan. 20, 2017, which showed fires in the streets and the destruction of property.

The U.S. Attorney's Office said in a statement at the time of the anti-Trump inaugural protest: “The group formed a ‘black bloc’ in which individual defendants wore black or dark colored clothing, gloves, scarves, sunglasses, ski masks, gas masks, goggles, helmets, hoodies, and other face-concealing and face-protecting items to conceal their identities in an effort to prevent law enforcement from being able to identify the individual perpetrators of violence or property damage. Some of the members of the black bloc were armed with hammers, crowbars, wooden sticks, and other weapons.”

A total of 234 people were arrested and charged in relation to the inauguration day riots, according to WTOP News. 21 rioters pleaded guilty but none of the others were found guilty by D.C. juries. Of the 21 who pled guilty, only one, Dane Powell, served jail time, with a four-month sentence for throwing bricks and rocks at police officers.


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