The Proud Boys Sentences for Jan. 6th Were RIGGED





Liz and independent journalist Julie Kelly discuss the sentencing of Proud Boys members in Washington, D.C. The episode reveals the surprising sentencing of Enrique Tarrio, the former head of the Proud Boys, to 22 years in prison despite his absence at the Capitol on January 6th. Tarrio’s conviction rested on text messages and group chat discussions, primarily consisting of inflammatory rhetoric and expressions related to the election and Donald Trump.

Kelly explains that the charges of seditious conspiracy and obstruction of an official proceeding relied heavily on protected speech and lacked evidence of actual violent intent. She highlights the unjust sentencing of Proud Boys members who didn’t bring weapons, assault police officers, or pose direct threats to lawmakers.

Kelly discusses the terrorism enhancement applied to these cases, which raised concerns about its misuse. Judge Tim Kelly’s rationale for this enhancement, based on the shaking of a fence, was criticized as an overreach of the law.

Liz and Julie underscore the dangerous precedent set by these convictions, potentially affecting free speech rights. They discuss the unfair treatment of January 6th defendants compared to other riot cases, emphasizing the need for equal justice under the law.

The lack of support from political figures like Donald Trump and Ron DeSantis is noted, along with the potential consequences for future political rallies and protests. They anticipate lengthy appeals processes, with cases possibly reaching the Supreme Court.

Liz emphasizes the importance of defending free speech and ensuring equal treatment for all, regardless of political affiliations, as these cases raise significant concerns about the protection of constitutional rights.

Show Transcript

This transcript was generated automatically and may contain typos, mistakes, and/or incomplete information.

Liz Wheeler Show episode 420. We should have done this episode about marijuana. Why didn’t I think of that? Take one. 

Alright, with me now is Julie Kelly. She is an independent journalist. You know her, you love her. You can find her at Declassified with Julie Kelly on Substate. She’s also the author of the book January 6th, how Democrats used the Capitol protest to launch a war on Terror against the political right. The book is great, the title, I have no idea how your editor ever allowed you to have a title that long. Julie, we have a serious topic to discuss today though, because the Proud Boys were sentenced this week in Washington dc There wasn’t a lot of news coverage about this. In fact, I was a little surprised that even conservatives on X, formerly known as Twitter weren’t talking about these sentences a ton. But these sentences are quite something. The former head of the Proud Boys Organization, his name is Enrique Terio. He was sentenced to 22 years in prison even though he wasn’t at the Capitol on January 6th. Can you tell us, Julie, what he did actually, what was the content of the text messages that the prosecution was holding against him, what they charged him with and why he was convicted when it’s pretty obvious that it was an unjust conviction? Right. 

So Enrique Tario, as you said, is the head of the Proud boys, and he with others were charged with seditious conspiracy, basically to try to overthrow the government something comparable to treason. But to your point, most of the evidence, and I followed the trial and I was there for closing arguments. And of course the sentencing, most of the evidence related to protected speech in group chats where F B I informants were embedded nonetheless as well. So a lot of the evidence was just inflammatory rhetoric language that was used in some of these group chats, talking about Donald Trump talking about the election, talking about 1776 and how they weren’t going to put up with what happened in the election. And then of course, plans to not only travel to Washington DC but assemble groups of people at the Washington Monument that morning and then going to the capitol. 

To your point, Enrique Tario was told, was thrown out of the city. He was arrested the day before for burning A B L M or allegedly burning A B L M banner in December of 2020. And he was told to leave the city, which he did. So he wasn’t even there. And now here he is, the longest sentence imposed by any judge handling these January 6th cases. I think it’s three years more than Stuart Rhodes, the head of the Oath Keepers got. And so this is not just to send a message about what can happen to you if you protest a rigged election or support the wrong candidate, but also this is a very nice way for Judge Tim Kelly, a Trump appointee to get his name in the history books, which is exactly what he did. 

It seems to me that private group chats, I mean it’s an invasion of privacy, an F B I informant to be infiltrated into these group chats in the first place unless there was probable cause to believe that a crime was being committed. But saying these inflammatory things, I mean, I said on X, I posted this on X the other day. I think that the reason that the proud boys are being targeted, even though many of these members were sentenced to decades in prison for nonviolent offenses, which is almost unheard of, the reason the government is targeting them is because nobody really wants to defend them. Some of them are unsavory characters. They said moronic, idiotic things in their group chats. And we don’t want to be associated with what they said by defending them. And that is of course, the idea of free speech that you defend someone’s right to be an idiot with their words without endorsing the words that they say. But this seems to be, I mean, maybe this is obvious. This seems to be an assault on free speech. Are people not allowed to say kind of inflammatory stupid things without being thrown in prison for two decades? 

Not anymore. And of course, this is the argument, Liz, that the defense attorneys tried to make repeatedly that this was one, a protected speech and tried to point to the crime. Well, what the government D O J prosecutors came back with, and of course Judge Kelly is, well, yes, but you said all of these things in service in preparation for a crime. Okay, well, what’s the crime? The crime is seditious conspiracy. What’s that? To use force to prevent, hinder, or delay the execution of a federal law. I mean, that’s how vague bogus the language is. Okay, what’s the other crime obstruction of an official proceeding? Well, that’s a post Enron tampering with witness and evidence statutes. It’s never been used this way before. So it’s not like they were using this crime, this language to commit a serious crime. They’re saying that they use this language, one a protected in group chats in videos that they made to execute a bogus frivolous count like obstruction or seditious conspiracy. 

And then on top of that, Liz, the judge says, oh yes, you were convicted of this by DC jury, by the way, and yes, your involvement in shaking a temporary black metal fence on capitol grounds that rises to the level of a crime of terrorism because you helped destroy government property. That’s it in a nutshell. This is how absurd and crazy this entire case trial and conviction and now sentencing is, none of them brought a weapon to the capitol. None of them were charged with assaulting police officers. None of them directly threatened lawmakers or got close to any lawmakers. To your point, Enrique even there, Ethan Nordeen, who was sentenced to 18 years, he’s on video walking inside of the building, open doors with at least five capitol police officers standing right there. Joseph Biggs is a Purple Heart veteran from the Iraq War with no criminal record. 

And he walked in inside and outside the Capitol two times also with police right there. So they didn’t even realize, they didn’t realize they were committing a crime. So how can you prepare to commit a crime then go where police are, record it the whole time, plan a party for later that day thinking you’re going to overthrow the government takeover and what? Go have a bender. I mean, the whole case was ridiculous, but nonetheless, judge Tim Kelly acting as a rubber stamp, another member of the prosecution team actually allowed all of this to happen and now has imposed 82 years total prison time against these five individuals. 

It’s circular logic is what they’re using. They’re saying that the text messages were conspiracy to commit violence, but since no violence was committed, it’s the text messages, the inflammatory wording of the text messages that is the crime in of itself. Well, are the words the crime or were they substantiating a crime? You can’t have it be both ways. And in our country, the words themselves can’t be a crime. We have video of Joe Biggs who you mentioned. This is the shaking of the fence. I mean, if you listen to the government prosecutors describe this, it sounds like he’s burning down the entire capitol, but this is the reality of what actually happened. I’m not endorsing this behavior. I don’t think anybody is, but look at this, Julie. This is not burning down the capitol. 

It’s not. And I mean, compare those images, and I posted that on Twitter last week. These are government, they’re exhibits in the trial, I believe. Compare that to what happened six months earlier outside of the White House in Lafayette Square, and I posted that as well, and others did too, where you had B L M and Antifa rioters not only assaulting federal police officers, but they had the fence. They had bike racks that they were tearing away from police as they were trying to protect that perimeter outside of the White House. None of them. Not only were they not charged with seditious conspiracy or crime of terrorism, all charges were dropped against those Lafayette 20 rioters right outside of the White House. So how can you have such an egregious double standard of justice? And I think, Liz, to your point, people don’t want to, I mean, I don’t think the shaking of the fence was a big deal. 

There’s not even a lot of evidence that either one of them really shook the fence. There were people all around them. But even so, even if you think that okay, they should be charged with some sort of government vandalism, they certainly shouldn’t be denied release and then considered a terrorist because of that when six months earlier in the same vicinity, you had rioters attacking police officers and prompting the lockdown of the White House as you recall, a move that the media and lawmakers mocked Donald Trump for. So the disparities, I think, Liz, to your point, is what really outrages our side. Not that we don’t want violent conduct punished, but we certainly want it punished equally, and that is far from the case. 

Well, we do. And what comes to mind when I see this vandalism, because like I said, no one’s endorsing this. No one thinks this is a good idea, no one’s defending this behavior, but we are defending these individuals from unjust prosecution by a partisan government under Joe Biden here. But I think a lot of people are thinking of the comparison. There were two Antifa, black Lives Matter lawyers in New York that threw a Molotov cocktail and burned up a police car and they’re serving like 13 months in prison for it. That’s all. You could easily argue that that was an act of domestic terrorism to throw a Molotov cocktail, a literal fire bomb onto a police car. They’re lucky. No police officers were in that car. They would’ve been murderers on top of just destroying this property. But 13 months in prison for that, and yet this is what we see for the proud boys. 

So I want to talk about the terrorism enhancement because I think a lot of people are wondering, well, how is this sentence even allowed if they didn’t have firearms, if they didn’t assault police officers, if they weren’t violent, yes, they trespassed on the capitol. They weren’t supposed to. You could make the argument that you’re making that they weren’t aware that they weren’t allowed in there because police officers weren’t trying to get them out. But how are these two decade, almost two decade sentences justified and is the answer to that, the terrorism enhancement, and can you explain that to us? 

Right. So the convictions themselves, seditious conspiracy and obstruction of an official proceeding are punishable by up to 20 years in prison. So that’s sort of where the guidance began. The terror enhancement, however, is based on US sentencing guidance that is usually followed or given, and there is a specific provision to add sentencing, to add prison time based on an act of terrorism. The language unfortunately, is vague now as you look at it because the people who probably drafted it thought that prosecutors and a judge would never consider shaking a metal fence, equate that to blowing up a government building or attacking a military installation or using weapons of mass destruction or plotting a mass casualty event. I’m sure that the people who drafted that never thought that it would be manipulated and exploited the way that Judge Kelly and the government here, the Biden regime has done. 

So, he pulled out this provision that says destruction of government property can be considered a crime of terrorism. He claimed that the shaking of the fence destroyed government property even though they didn’t destroy it. It’s a metal fence that you shook it, and that is where the enhancement came from. It was just stunning to sit there in court last week, Liz, and hear Judge Kelly before the sentencing in a three hour oral ruling he gave. Of course, he’s an Irish guy, so he likes to listen to himself talk. I can say that as an Irish person and one married to one, but this was not funny at all. He went droned on and on for three hours, basically regurgitating every facet of the government’s case and then warned that he would be imposing this terrorism enhancement based on the shaking of the fence. Liz, he added the terror enhancement to Enrique Tario for shaking a fence when he was in another state. 

I mean, I wish I could try to explain that, but I can’t. Now, of course, this will all be subject of appeal that will take years. However, these men’s lives and the lives of many others have been ruined. But what’s really dangerous here is the precedent that these judges and D O J are setting, not just in the short term but the long term. If Donald Trump is convicted of obstruction of an official proceeding, Jack Smith could seek a terror enhancement because Judge Amit Meda has already declared obstruction of an official proceeding, a federal crime of terrorism. So we are going to see short-term as well as long-term consequences for what’s happening in this DC courthouse. 

Well, listen, I want to give you credit here. You were the one that pointed out, I think before anyone else that the January 6th prosecutions, the purpose of them wasn’t just to scare the American public. The purpose of them was to lay the groundwork to convict President Trump. And all of these unfair and unjust convictions and accusations and enhancements were done intentionally not to be vindictive against these individual January 6th defendants. But so the Department of Justice could charge President Trump with the same thing when he was obviously not part of any of the violence, didn’t encourage it, certainly didn’t orchestrate it, didn’t know anything about it and condemned it when it was happening. So you saw that first. So I want to show this video. This is Ethan Nordine. He was sentenced to 18 years, and this is the video you referenced before. This is Ethan and others walking past Capitol Police in the Capitol. 

As you can see, these Capitol police are not trying to stop. I mean, it almost looks like they’re showing these protesters in through the door. I mean, they don’t even look like they’re on very high alert. They look like they’re very low energy. The circle was Ethan Nordine, as you can plainly see. But this Julie is what Ethan’s attorney said about the terrorism enhancement. He said, that’s never how the terrorism enhancement has been applied. What you see are threatened use of nuclear weapons, biological weapons, destruction at airports, the kind of events, spectacular events of violence that mark acts of terrorism, particularly international acts of terrorism. And here, what the government is asking the court to do is so radical. They’re taking of an instance of petite property destruction, and they’re saying that this can be a federal crime of terrorism. If that’s true, then any act of protest in the country, if we can fit it within the corners of either relevant conduct or the federal crimes of terrorism statute, that becomes a crime of terrorism. The implications of the government’s arguments are vast. Is he correct, Julie? 

He absolutely is. And that was Nicholas Smith, the defense attorney for Ethan Nordeen, who he has argued vigorously, not just against these charges, things that have been happening in the trial and the case altogether, but arguing very forcefully last week against Judge Kelly’s plans to add this terror enhancement. And as I said, his argument fell on deaf ears. What was really stunning, Liz was not just that Judge Kelly went along with this terror enhancement. What was to hear Assistant US attorney Jason McCullough, who handled Joseph Biggs’s argument in the sentencing hearing to hear him strain, to compare a mass casualty event like nine 11 to what the proud boys did on January 6th, and he basically said, yeah, loss of life, we understand that, but this is just as bad because it created this fraught constitutional crisis, and they attempted to interfere in the peaceful transfer of power, which of course is the biggest lie of January 6th. 

There was going to be no transfer of power that happens on January 20th, not January 6th. Nonetheless, no matter how many falsehoods, misdirections, misleading statements that D O J and the judge made, it didn’t matter. So it was really stunning not just to hear what Nick said, which of course he is correct. That’s the original intent of terror laws and sentencing guidance. But then to hear prosecutors attempt to fill that vacuum and compare what people like Enrique Tario, who wasn’t there, Ethan Nordine or Joseph begs basically to the nine 11 hijackers. That was another stunning moment in the DC courthouse last week, 

And correct me if I’m wrong here, but didn’t the court admit that the proud boys had no plans to storm the Capitol, which seems to me to be a very crucial differentiation between even if you were trespassing, even if you weren’t supposed to be there, even if you committed petty acts of vandalism or property destruction, if the court admitted that there were no plans for the proud boys to storm the capitol, I guess it’s almost hard for me to believe sitting here, I’m framing this question and I’m trying to frame the question in the sense that, oh, is the government being logical and it’s hard for me to believe that they’re just being so tyrannical and so unjust that they could admit that there’s no plans to storm the capitol and still sentence these individuals as if they had done that, 

Right? So it was really an F B I informant, I think it was two of them who told the jury and said in court that no, there was no pre-planning to attack the capitol. But then how D O J and Judge Kelly jumped that hurdle was to say, and I was there. This was another job breaking moment that there wasn’t no pre-planning was necessary, that the agreement to become involved in this seditious conspiracy could happen at the very moment that they shook the fence. And furthermore, Liz, there didn’t have to be a verbal agreement. There didn’t have to be text messages proving that they were engaging in this conspiracy. What one prosecutor said was it could be a wink and a nod. It could just be an implied understanding between two individuals. I mean a wink and a nod that creates a seditious conspiracy. But this is what the prosecutor said. 

This was part of the jury instruction. It came right from the statute that, again, another statute that’s intentionally exploited and twisted to fit this terror narrative about January 6th. So you can agree at the very second. You don’t even have to know, by the way, you don’t even have to know your co-conspirators. Another thing Judge Kelly said was he went along with what was called this tools theory that people who were not identified, who they didn’t know, who nonetheless were involved at certain points throughout the day with the proud boys, they were tools of their conspiracy. They didn’t even have to know about the conspiracy. This is how insane and outlandish it is. So there’s basically no burden of proof, and D O J knew that, and of course, even if there was, it would be an easy hurdle before a DC jury made up of 95% Democrats. 

So these are bogus charges, but nonetheless, they are now considered crimes of terrorism crimes that can be subjected to excessive prison time and now dangerous precedent being set for any political protest, shutting down a government proceeding. I mean, look at the Kavanaugh protests, look at the 2017 inaugural rights. If ever there was an attempt to violent violently prevent the transfer of power. It was what was happening in DC on January 20th, 2017 when Trump was being inaugurated. Certainly the 2020 riots terrorized the country more than anything that happened for four hours on January 6th. So yeah, it’s pretty amazing, infuriating and heartbreaking to sit in the courtroom and hear what these judges and prosecutors are doing to our country and especially to these individuals and their families. 

Do you know what? It reminds me of this idea that you don’t have to actually know the people that you are engaging in seditious conspiracy with. You don’t have to pre-plan this. You don’t have to have an agreement, just a wink and a nod. It reminds me of what the left tells us about implicit bias, that you can be a racist if you’re white without even knowing that you’re a racist. Even if you don’t think of any other race with any kind of demeaning thoughts, just it might be in your subconscious somewhere. This is the same kind of argument, and I mean, it’s equally as evil. So you mentioned the Trump inauguration in 2017, and I want to bring this up because of something that Judge Tim Kelly said. He was asked about the comparison between the Black Lives Matter riots or the violence that happened outside of Trump’s inauguration. A lot of people, Julie, forget that there was violence by the left in on Inauguration Day. In fact, you can see this picture. I mean, they lit up on fire. They lit up cars here, but the government dropped the charges against all of these leftists who were agitating and committing violence during the Trump inauguration. But when Judge Tim Kelly was asked about the comparisons between Black Lives Matter riots and January 6th, he said the comparison was inept because of a constitutional element. Can you expand on that for us? 

I can’t. I mean, it’s just Judge Tim Kelly trying to excuse away the double standard by the D C U S attorney’s office and Department of Justice between a far more violent, destructive riots that happened in 2026 months before January 6th, and the criticism that obviously he’s aware of in the media about this double standard. So he just voluntarily suggested that last week during, I think it was the sentencing of Dominic Pola. No, I mean he just offered it up because he knows that it’s a legitimate criticism, so he’s trying to defend it. You’ve had other judges do the same. Tanya Chut Ken, who is now handling the Trump indictment for January 6th, she went on a lengthy rampage last year saying that this is not comparable to the 2020 rights because that was in pursuit of social justice, and this was something that attempted to thwart created a constitutional crisis. 

So you could see them all singing out of the same hymn book. Of course, they’re working in the same building together. It doesn’t matter who appointed them. They’re all part of the swamp. They’re all playing for the same team. So they’re aware of the criticism, they’re trying to downplay it, but it’s simply falling flat for at least half the country when they see these huge disparities. And Liz, not just that there are lower charges or lower sentences for 2020 rioters in dc, all the charges have been dropped. Every single one. Matthew Graves, the DC US attorney, confirmed that earlier this year in a hearing before Congress, and they don’t care. They’re actually bragging about it because they know that they’re getting away with it, and they know there’s absolutely no stomach in the Republican party or congressional leadership to do a single thing about it. 

So speaking of Republican leadership, you probably noticed this. I noticed this. It wasn’t mentioned much on X, formerly known as Twitter. There were no headlines about it. Where’s Donald Trump? He posted about thing he posted on social media yesterday and the day before during these sentencing, but it wasn’t about this. Where is he? 

I don’t know. Where is he? I mean, I’m sure his lawyers are telling him to distance himself from the Proud Boys, which actually probably isn’t bad advice because Donald Trump is a key figure in the Department of Justice’s case against the Proud Boys. I mean, when they said that their seditious conspiracy began the day that Donald Trump tweeted, come to DC on January 6th will be wild, they said that was the launch of their seditious conspiracy. They’ve tied Donald Trump to the Proud boys saying that his comments, proud boys, stand back and stand by in the September, 2020 presidential debate was a call to arms. So that sort of could be why he’s avoiding it. It makes a little bit of sense because he’s still at risk of being charged, facing additional. I would go a step further and say, where is Florida Governor Ron DeSantis? He’s running for president. 

Part of his platform is taking on the weaponization of D O J and the F B I. Joseph Biggs is a Florida resident. Enrique Tario is a Florida resident. They’re constituents, active constituents of Ron DeSantis. He refuses to say a word in defense of January six defendants, even though Florida has the highest number of January six defendants and is ongoing. So again, whether it’s Donald Trump’s silence, Ron DeSantis, most of the Republican Congress completely turning a blind eye to what’s happening to these proud boys. And I think you’re right, it’s because they find them distasteful figures. They don’t want to look like they’re defending people like Enrique Tario or Ethan Nordeen or Joseph Biggs. So that’s why they’re distancing themselves from them. But what they are creating, they eventually will have to deal with because these tools, these war on terror tools are going to be aimed at them, I think pretty quickly 

Aimed at them and then aimed at us. I mean, it even makes me as an individual worry that going to a political protest, a political rally I’ve been to hundreds of them, makes me worry that it wouldn’t be a safe thing. So quickly before we wrap here, the appeals process, I assume that all of these proud boy members who’ve been convicted are going to appeal. Do you expect any of these appeals to be effective? Do you think it’ll reach the Supreme Court? 

I think eventually it will, and yes, you can’t file an appeal until your client is sentenced. So I think these appeals will be filed pretty quickly. We’ll go to the DC circuit will be interesting to see. It’s kind of been a mixed bag there for January 6th. I mean, they had a splintered ruling on the obstruction of an official proceeding count, which was inconclusive. One judge said it absolutely does not apply in these cases. So that is headed towards the Supreme Court. Two defense attorneys have already filed a cert to have the Supreme Court consider their appeals of the use of that obstruction statute. So I think that the terrorism enhancement, seditious conspiracy count will be headed to the Supreme Court. By the way, the DC circuit, the appellate court also condemned, really overturn one judge’s decision to use what’s called a dual sentence for J six cases, imposing prison time and probation for those pleading guilty or convicted of this low level parading offense, and slapped down the DC District Court for handing out those sentences. Of course, the judges didn’t, knowing they were wrong. So it’s still muddy legal territory for this, but this is going to take years before these things shake out at the Circuit and Supreme Court. In the meantime, these men are going to continue to languish in prison just like they have for more than two and a half years. 

It’s really incumbent on us as conservatives not to allow the government’s tactics, which is to focus on these proud boys because some of them say distasteful things and do distasteful things not to allow that tactic to prevent us from defending them because this is just the beginning. If they can get the proud boys, they can get Donald Trump and they can get all of us for our political speech. Julie Kelly, everyone, you got to follow her work. She covers this in detail on her CK Declassified with Julie Kelly. It’s a must subscribe. Julie, thank you for your hard work. Thanks for being here today. 

Liz, thanks so much for covering all this from the beginning. Really appreciate it. 


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