(NewsNation) — Republican presidential candidate Ron DeSantis is floating the possibility, if elected president, of pardons or commutations for members of the Proud Boys who took part in the Jan. 6, 2021, Capitol riot.
The Florida governor condemned what he called “excessive sentences” against several members of the right-wing group during a Newsmax interview Wednesday.
“There’s some examples of people that should not have been prosecuted. They just walked into the Capitol. If they were BLM, they would not have been prosecuted,” he said. “Then there’s other examples of people that probably did commit misconduct; they may have been violent, but to say it’s an act of terrorism when it was basically a protest that devolved into a riot, to do excessive sentences — you can look at, OK, maybe they were guilty, but 22 years if other people that did other things got six months?”
DeSantis was referring to former Proud Boys leader Enrique Tarrio, who was sentenced this week to 22 years in prison. While he was not at the Capitol that day, prosecutors said he spearheaded the plot to stop the certification of the 2020 election results, culminating in the Capitol attack.
Tarrio, the onetime leader of the Proud Boys, was convicted of seditious conspiracy and other serious felonies in May. It is “not super debatable” that Tarrio was the “ultimate leader of that conspiracy,” U.S. District Judge Timothy Kelly said at his sentencing.
Tarrio’s sentence is the highest handed down to anyone in connection with the riot by four years.
“I think we need a single standard of justice, and so we’ll use pardons and commutations as appropriate to ensure that everyone’s treated equally, and as we know, a lot of people with the BLM riots, they didn’t get prosecuted at all,” DeSantis told Newsmax.
The Florida governor is campaigning to earn the Republican presidential nomination in a crowded field that features former President Donald Trump, who is currently leading in national polling averages. DeSantis is in a far second, some 30-plus points behind.
“He is pandering to Trump voters, desperately trying to stay in this race,” SiriusXM radio host John Fugelsang said Friday on “Dan Abrams Live” of DeSantis’ comments. “Ron DeSantis doesn’t care about these people anymore than Donald Trump cares about these people.”
The Hill contributed to this report.