Of the more than 1,000 people who have been charged in connection with the attack on the US Capitol on 6 January 2021, the case of Enrique Tarrio and his four co-accused is by far the most significant to date.

That is why the defendants received such heavy sentences. They were not random people in a mob that found themselves bursting into the US Congress.

The government asserts they were the leaders of a plot to set up and position a determined assault team in Washington that day as part of a plan to force a change in the outcome of the Presidential election. The jury believed the government.

Four of the Proud Boy members on trial were found guilty by a jury of Seditious Conspiracy - plotting to use force against the US government.

They were also convicted of obstructing an official proceeding of congress, namely the counting of the electoral college votes allocated by the November 2020 Presidential election.

The judge said Enrique Tarrio was the leader of conspirators to attack the Capitol building

It was only after those votes were counted and certified by a joint session of Congress, presided over by the vice president, Mike Pence, that the result of the 2020 election was finalised.

Up until that point Donald Trump and his supporters hoped, or believed, they could discover or bring about circumstances that could change the outcome in favour of Mr Trump.

"No organisation put more boots on the ground at the Capitol on 6 January 2021, than the Proud Boys, and they were at the forefront of every major breach of the Capitol’s defenses, leading the on-the-ground efforts to storm the seat of government," said US Attorney for the District of Columbia Matthew Graves.

"The leaders of the Proud Boys and the leaders of the Oath Keepers, who conspired before, during, and after the siege of the Capitol to use force against their own government to prevent the peaceful transfer of power, have now been held accountable," he said.

The attack on the Capitol building disrupted that process of transferring power for six hours. But it could have been much worse.

During his sentencing of Tarrio, Judge Timothy Kelly told him the same thing he has told all of the defendants who have appeared before him: the attack on the capitol on 6 January broke the hitherto unbroken tradition of the peaceful transfer of power. A tradition that dates back to George Washington, who refused a third term in office and resigned to ensure power was transferred to another President, and there would be no American monarchy.

Judge Kelly told Tarrio that he had "slandered the name of the founder of our nation" when he had said on social media that Dominic Pezzola, the Proud Boy who had used a stolen police shield to smash through a window into the Capitol, providing the first breach into the building for the protestors, was like George Washington.

Mr Pezzola was acquitted of the conspiracy charge, but the other four proud boys were found guilty and received lengthy jail terms.

Tarrio got the longest term of all, because the judge said he was the leader of conspirators, and the originator of a detailed plan to use a specially selected group of Proud Boys members to attack the building.

The prosecution case was that the attack was a carefully planned intervention by a determined group

According to the evidence presented by the prosecution, which relied heavily on electronic messages from social media channels, as well as phone calls and videos, Tarrio had concocted a plan in late December 2020 to select a group of 200 hard core members of the group to go to Washington, not to take part in the Trump rally on the Ellipse at the back of the White House, but to go directly to the Capitol and start trouble.

The team members were instructed to bring particular types of equipment, helmets and pepper spray, and not to wear Proud Boys colours.

In the end that trouble involved circling the building and then attacking police lines, breaking through a black security fence and then breaking into the building.

Judge Kelly said they were responsible for "breach after breach" of the Capitol, clearing the way for others to enter, and leading them in.

It was a pre-planned, co-ordinated intervention by a relatively small but determined group. The main body of protestors followed the path they blazed.

The prosecution case, accepted by the jury, was that this was not a spontaneous action by a mob, a protest march that turned bad.

Rather it was a carefully planned intervention by a determined group that had prepared to do what they did in an effort to force the legislative branch of the US government to do what they wanted it to do - refuse to certify Joe Biden as the winner of the 2020 election.

Tarrio was not in Washington DC that day, as his legal team never tired of reminding the court.

He had been arrested two days previously for possession of an unlicensed high-capacity rifle magazine and burning a black lives matters flag at a previous DC rally in December (he knew he would be arrested – he had a friendly Lieutenant in the DC Metro police service who tipped him off. That cop is now facing charges).

But the prosecution case alleged he was the controlling force in the conspiracy – using a web of electronic messages to detail his involvement.

What particularly caught the Judges eye were two. A public message to the entire special unit of Proud boys who had gone into the building that said "don't f****** leave". (The Judge read the words into the record several times). And another private message to a friend which said "make no mistake, we did this".

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Ex-Proud Boys leader given 22 years over Capitol attack
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In the moments before Judge Kelly pronounced his sentence, Tarrio stood before him in an orange prison jump suit and offered his own explanations for what had happened.

He said he should have acted to stop what was developing over a period of weeks after election on 3 November 2020, but instead used social media channels to express a different view.

He went to two rallies after the election. One in Georgia erupted in violence, a gun was pointed to his head and he realised that these situations can get badly out of hand.

That did not stop him attending a rally in Washington a few weeks later, at which he burned a black lives matters flag.

He said he privately became convinced that Joe Biden had indeed won the presidential election, but he did not want to speak out for fear of stirring up tensions in the Proud Boys.

He apologised to the Police injured in the attack, the politicians trapped in the buildings or driven out, and to the citizens of the District of Columbia for "turning their town upside down".

But the judge said his display of remorse came way too late: he has been in custody for the past two years.

His legal team said it was sincere. But it cut no ice with the Judge. Nor did tearful character statements from Tarrio's fiancé and relatives, including his mother who has attended every day of the trial.

The judge said Tarrio's display of remorse came too late, after he had
been in custody for the past two years

He sentenced Tarrio to 22 years in prison, followed by three years of supervised release.

He is banned from social media platforms, anonymous browsing tools and must have tracking software fitted to all his electronic devices – when he is eventually released.

The judge said it was appropriate to use sentences to dissuade Tarrio and others from committing similar offenses.

He agreed with the Prosecution that the offenses met the threshold of terrorism, but were not in the same category as blowing up a building.

He said Tarrio did not intend to kill anyone on the day. That is why the sentence was reduced by eleven years compared to what the government wanted. But it is still the longest sentence imposed on any of the more than 500 people who have been before the courts in connection with the 6 January attack..

After the trial, the Attorney General, Merrick Garland, who heads the Department of Justice, said: "On 6 January 2021, the United States Capitol was attacked, 140 law enforcement officers defending those inside were assaulted, and the peaceful transfer of power to a newly elected government – a cornerstone of our democracy – was interrupted.

"The Justice Department proved in court that the Proud Boys played a central role in setting the 6 January attack on our Capitol into motion.

"Today, the leader of the Proud Boys, Enrique Tarrio, learned that the consequence of conspiring to oppose by force the lawful transfer of presidential power is 22 years in federal prison."

The unanswered question from this – and the related Seditious Conspiracy trial of leaders of another right-wing paramilitary group, the Oath Keepers – is, was anyone in the White House aware of these plots and conspiracies?