|Prosecutors had sought a 33-year sentence for Tarrio. U.S. District Judge Timothy J. Kelly declined to go that far. But he did slap Tarrio with a sentencing enhancement for committing an act of terrorism.
His 22-year sentence is the longest any January 6 defendant has received to date. Fellow Proud Boy Ethan Nordean and Oath Keepers leader Stewart Rhodes have each previously been sentenced to 18 years in prison on seditious conspiracy charges as well.
Most other defendants, including many who directly participated in the riot, have received much more modest sentences of a few months to a few years.
“[Prosecutors] got a really long sentence by asking for something really absurd,” said C.J. Ciaramella on yesterday’s Reason Roundtable. “In cases where January 6 defendants did plead guilty, expressed remorse, the judges were much more likely to go easy on them.”
Those like Tarrio who chose to take it to trial instead of pleading guilty are receiving sentences one might get for murder.
This is an example of what’s called the “trial penalty” whereby prosecutors, who would otherwise accept a much lighter sentence as part of a plea bargain, seek much harsher sentences for defendants who insist on a jury trial.
This practice has been harshly criticized by liberal and libertarian groups for effectively punishing people just for exercising their constitutional right to a trial by jury.
The American Bar Association found that average sentences for federal felony convictions are seven years longer for defendants who went to trial. Prosecutors’ preference for plea bargains also sees them layer on as many charges or stretch the applicability of vague statutes to coerce defendants into forfeiting their right to a trial.
The end result is that those convicted at trial go to prison for longer than even prosecutors think is necessary.
“Today’s sentencing demonstrates that those who attempted to undermine the workings of American democracy will be held criminally accountable,” said FBI Director Christopher Wray yesterday. And U.S. Attorney Matthew M. Graves said that those who used “force against their own government to prevent the peaceful transfer of power have now been held accountable.”
In other words, both Wray and Graves are satisfied that Tarrio had been held adequately accountable despite the fact that he ended up with a sentence that was a decade less than what the DOJ had advocated for. Their goal was securing a maximum sentence for Tarrio and others, not a sentence just long enough to hold them accountable for his crimes.
Tarrio and others receiving sentences of over a decade for their role in January 6 are hardly sympathetic figures. Yet the amount of time they’ll spend in prison is nevertheless a product of a trial penalty that is widely considered to be unjust. If one opposes these enhanced penalties in the routine administration of criminal justice, we should oppose them in the case of the January 6 defendants as well.