Enrique “Henry” Tarrio, the Miami-born former chairman of the right-wing extremist Proud Boys, was sentenced to 155 days in prison for burning a Black Lives Matter flag and carrying empty high-capacity firearms magazines in Washington, DC – a sentence that surprised his friends, family and lawyer after the prosecutors had only recommended 90 days.
He has spent the last two months of the five-month prison term in a Washington, DC prison. And although Tarrio spent ten months in a federal prison camp in 2013 selling stolen and incorrectly labeled diabetic test kits, this time he claims to have a particularly difficult time behind bars, reporting in court testimony and a legal petition he has been standing. i. feces-filled water, inhaled toilet paper smoke and been beaten against concrete walls by guards.
“For the last four days I have had water and feces in my cell and the officers do not allow me to clean it. I have had to clean other people’s feces with my own toilet paper,” Tarrio told the judge. Jonathan H. Pittman Monday, November 15th. “I’ve got cold food thrown in the water and feces on my floor. I do not see it happening to other people.”
In an emergency of compassionate release filed the week before, Tarrio asked to be released from DC Jail to serve the remaining three months of his sentence at his Miami home. The movement occurred at a time when Kenosha, Wisconsin, was firing Kyle Rittenhouse, Trump strategist Steve Bannon, and insurgent Jacob “QAnon Shaman” Chansley is in the middle of a trial for various alleged crimes.
While public opinion on these cases has tended to stick along political lines, the former leader of a notorious hate group involved in the Jan. 6 uprising in the U.S. Capitol does not immediately gain much sympathy from Tarrio’s situation. But if his claims are true, his experience underscores the inhuman conditions of the U.S. prison system that prison attorneys have protested long before, mostly white, conservative defendants sounded the alarm.
“It’s been horrible at every step,” says Tarrio’s mother, Zuny Duarte New Times. “It’s been an emotional roller coaster ride with all the things he’s been through since he got there. This has been like a ride to hell.”
During Monday’s online trial, Tarrio looked like someone other than “Noble Lead,” who at one point not only controlled Miami’s far right, but was recognized by Donald Trump when he infamously said, “Proud boys, stand back and stand by,” under a nationally televised debate with Joe Biden.
Tarrio showed up in an orange jumpsuit and handcuffs. His once clean-shaven head is now surrounded by hair around a bald spot, and a thick beard stuck out from behind a blue face mask. His trademark black Ray-Bans were replaced by special glasses due to Tarrio’s photophobia, which causes him headaches and anxiety when exposed to artificial light.
During his distant testimony to Judge Pittman, Tarrio reported on the “horrific” conditions he claims exist in the DC Department of Corrections (DOC), which he compared to a Russian “gulag.” He testified that other inmates burned rolled up toilet paper using electrical outlets in their cells and kept it burning all night to light cigarettes. The smoke inhalation is particularly harmful to Tarrio, Durate explains, due to long-term lung problems from contracting COVID-19. (The DOC admitted that paper burning is an ongoing problem in prison.)
The most intrusive testimony from Tarrio, however, was his account of the literally shitty conditions in his cell, thanks to his cell-neighbor, a “habitual flood,” who regularly clogs his toilet in an act of protest.
Tarrio also testified about being put in solitary confinement in the first month of his imprisonment, spending 23 hours in his cell and only one hour outside – treatment, which the American Civil Liberties Union refers to as cruel, inhuman and degrading. The DOC denied that he was not put in solitary confinement but in protective custody, away from the general population for his safety.
A representative of the DC DOC said during Monday’s hearing that Tarrio was placed in protective custody upon his arrival in September during the regular 14-day COVID-19 intake process. Yet at the time of the hearing, Tarrio, still 70 days into his sentence, was still in a protective custody ward.
His mother says seclusion has been particularly difficult for Tarrio, who is known for his sociable nature, which helped fling him to the top of the Proud Boys and give the organization national influence within the American right wing while he enjoyed himself. to high-profile figures in Trump’s circle, including Bannon, Roger Stone and Sebastian Gorka.
“He likes being around people,” Duarte explains. “He’s a speaker. And in an hour you do not have time to take a shower, use the phone for fifteen minutes and wait fifteen minutes for another phone call. There is no time for anything.”
In a bizarre excerpt from Tarrio’s motion, his lawyer Lucas Dansie claims that his client was thrown against a wall for no reason by prison guards because of his conviction for burning a Black Lives Matter flag.
“A number of detectives have openly demonstrated their strong support for Black Lives Matter,” the proposal said.
The ordeal has been particularly difficult for Tarrio’s family, who run his Westchester-based shirt printing and merchandise business in his absence. Duarte says it hurts her to hear that her 37-year-old son has not been able to cut his hair, shave or even cut his nails, which she says is now longer than her own.
In a letter to the DC DOC on November 1, the U.S. Marshals Service, which handles the transportation of federal prisoners, criticized the agency for failing to maintain federal minimum standards for incarceration and announced plans to remove 400 inmates from prison. A U.S. district judge also held the DC DOC in contempt last month for refusing a defendant’s medical care on Jan. 6, and called for a civil rights survey of the department.
Although he appeared to question Tarrio’s request for release – on the grounds that other inmates face exactly the same conditions as him – Judge Pittman said he would not judge from the bench on Monday and would instead decide before the end of this week, whether Tarrio will serve the remainder of his sentence at home or reduce it to the 90 days recommended by prosecutors.
Duarte says she hopes the judge will allow Tarrio to come home because she fears for his safety. (According to Tarrio’s testimony, she says, Tarrio was moved to another unit in the jail where he can take advantage of teaching hours – something Duarte says she had called the DOC and asked for every day for over a month, with no luck.)
“I understand it’s a prison, not a golf club,” she says. “But these people are people, and from day one there has been fear of retaliation for complaining.”
During and after the hearing, Tarrio’s opponents mocked him for complaining about the conditions in the prison, arguing essentially that if you commit the crime, then you make the time.
Soft boy https://t.co/wbkeVtAPMw
– Alfred Spellman (@AlfredSpellman) November 15, 2021
The proud boy Enrique Tarrio’s request for early release is rejected as he experiences “hard time is … hard!” #FAFO
Womp, womp. 💩🧀🐀 https://t.co/QKlGC0HIz0
– Miami Against Fascism 🌴☕️ (@MIAagainstFash) November 16, 2021