The leader of the far-right group the Proud Boys, Henry “Enrique” Tarrio, was sentenced to 155 days in jail after admitting that he burned a Black Lives Matter banner.
In July, Tarrio pleaded guilty to two charges of destruction of property and possession of high-capacity ammunition magazines and was sentenced on Monday afternoon at the District of Columbia Superior Court.
The banner to which he set fire was taken from a historic black church during a violent pro-Trump demonstration in December.
Enrique Tarrio told the court he was “profusely” sorry for his actions, calling them a “grave mistake.”
“What I did was wrong,” Tarrio said during the hearing held via videoconference, and what was right was “to plead guilty in this case”.
Federal prosecutors had recommended the Tarrio should spend three months in prison.
Judge Harold Cushenberry ordered Tarrio to report to begin his sentence on 6 September and to pay fines totaling hundreds of dollars.
Unconvinced of please for leniency in the sentencing by Tarrio’s lawyer, Judge Cushenberry said Tarrio had clearly, intentionally, and proudly “crossed the line” into “dangerous conduct.”
He also called Tarrio’s claim that he was unaware of the laws on possessing high-capacity magazines “wholly not credible”.
The city’s Metropolitan Police Department issued an arrest warrant for Tarrio after he admitted to burning the flag outside Asbury United Methodist Church.
He was arrested upon entering Washington from Miami on 4 January, just two days before the insurrection at the US Capitol.
The Proud Boys leader was carrying two magazines, compatible with AR-16 and M4 rifles, in his bookbag. Both were empty and carried the gold insignia of the group.
Tarrio was subsequently charged with two felony counts of possession of a large-capacity ammunition feeding device.
Prosecutors told a judge on 20 August that Tarrio should also be ordered to stay away from the nation’s capital during his probation, which could extend through 2023.
At least four churches were vandalised during riots on 12 December, 2020. Rioters destroyed two Black Lives Matter banners at Metropolitan AME and Asbury United Methodist Church, both historic African American churches.
Tarrio admitted in comments on Parler and on a Proud Boys-affiliated podcast that he was responsible for burning a church’s sign.
“In the burning of the BLM sign, I was the one that lit it on fire,” he said on the War Boys podcast that month. “I was the person that went ahead and put the lighter to it and engulfed it in flames, and I am damn proud that I did.”
Over the last several years, the Proud Boys have staged scenes of political violence, galvanised by the former president after he invoked their name from the 2020 debate stage.
Dozens of people with alleged ties to the group are among the hundreds of people who were arrested or under investigation in the wake of the Capitol insurrection, with several men charged with conspiring to attack the halls of Congress, fuelled by Mr Trump’s “stolen election” narrative to forcibly overturn the results of the 2020 election.
The Proud Boys is labelled a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center.