By Kanishka Singh
WASHINGTON (Reuters) -A former leader of the right-wing Proud Boys group, Enrique Tarrio, was sentenced to 22 years in prison on Tuesday for his role in the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the U.S. Capitol, the longest sentence so far in the case.
U.S. District Judge Timothy Kelly imposed the sentence on Tarrio, 39, of Miami, for his role in the riot by then-President Donald Trump's supporters. His lawyers said he would appeal.
Tarrio had been convicted of seditious conspiracy for his role in planning the Capitol riot that sought to stop Congress from certifying President Joe Biden's defeat of Trump in an election Trump falsely claimed was tainted by widespread fraud.
Tarrio's lawyers said his absence from Washington on Jan. 6, the result of another judge's earlier order, meant that he had no "direct influence" on the riot.
But in imposing the sentence, the judge said: "Mr. Tarrio was the ultimate leader of that conspiracy. Mr. Tarrio was the ultimate leader, the ultimate person who organized, who was motivated by revolutionary zeal."
Prosecutors said Tarrio had remained in touch with the Proud Boys group and monitored their actions.
"He was on a tier of his own," Assistant U.S. Attorney Conor Mulroe said, adding Tarrio was a uniquely influential figure among the Proud Boys.
Prosecutors had asked Kelly to sentence Tarrio to 33 years behind bars, saying he helped direct the attack from Baltimore. His attorneys had asked for no more than 15 years.
Kelly last week sentenced another far-right Proud Boys leader, Ethan Nordean, to 18 years. Oath Keepers militia founder Stewart Rhodes in May was also sentenced to 18 years.
In court on Tuesday, Tarrio said he was sorry for his actions. "I am extremely ashamed and disappointed," he said about violence against law enforcement on that day, adding: "What happened on Jan. 6 was a national embarrassment."
More than 1,100 people have been arrested on charges related to the Capitol assault. At least 630 have pleaded guilty and at least 110 have been convicted at trial.
Five people, including a police officer, died during or shortly after the riot, and more than 140 police officers were injured. Damage to the Capitol was in the millions of dollars.
Special Counsel Jack Smith, who was tapped to investigate broader efforts to overturn the 2020 election, has charged Trump, the front-runner for the 2024 Republican presidential nomination, for trying to keep himself in power.
(Reporting by Kanishka Singh; additional reporting by Dan Whitcomb; Editing by Scott Malone, Jonathan Oatis and Howard Goller)