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Proud Boys leader Enrique Tarrio jailed pending trial in Jan. 6 Capitol attack

Henry “Enrique” Tarrio, a leader of the Proud Boys second from left, and Stewart Rhodes, founder of the Oath Keepers, right, attend a meeting in a garage in Washington on Jan. 5, 2021. (Saboteur Media/Reuters)
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An earlier version of this story named the wrong judge who ordered Tarrio detained. This version has been corrected.

MIAMI — A federal judge Tuesday ordered Henry “Enrique” Tarrio, a longtime leader of the Proud Boys far-right group, to remain jailed pending trial on charges that he conspired with followers who planned in advance to threaten Congress and battle police at the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021.

U.S. Magistrate Judge Lauren F. Louis of Miami ordered Tarrio to be held after federal prosecutors argued that he and co-defendants “directed and encouraged” the actions of Proud Boys members who formed “the tip of the spear” in the breach of the U.S. Capitol. Tarrio poses a risk of flight and danger to the community, prosecutors said, citing his purported efforts to evade law enforcement and discourage witnesses from cooperating.

“There is overwhelming evidence that Tarrio organized a plot to corruptly obstruct, influence, and impede the certification of the electoral college vote, an offense that strikes at the heart of our democracy,” Assistant U.S. Attorney Jason McCullough argued in court filings. Even as Congress’s proceedings were still suspended Jan. 6, Tarrio posted to other members, “They’ll fear us doing it again,” prosecutors said. When a member asked, “So what do we do now?” he allegedly answered at 4:14 p.m., “Do it again.”

Tarrio is the second high-profile leader of a radical group to be jailed pending trial in the Jan. 6 attack, though neither entered the building. Oath Keepers founder Stewart Rhodes was arrested in January in Texas on charges of seditious conspiracy along with members who allegedly traveled to Washington and marched up the Capitol steps in body armor, helmets and radios after staging firearms at a nearby hotel with plans to prevent Joe Biden’s inauguration by force. Rhodes and his co-defendants have pleaded not guilty.

Longtime Proud Boys leader Enrique Tarrio indicted in Jan. 6 attack on Capitol

In seeking Tarrio’s detention, prosecutors added details to a 30-minute meeting between Tarrio, Rhodes and others in an underground parking garage in downtown Washington on Jan. 5, 2021, the day before prosecutors said their separate co-conspirators mobilized a “1776”-style revolt in encrypted message groups. Prosecutors asserted that during the encounter, which was partially recorded by a documentary film group traveling with Tarrio, the latter “told another individual that he had cleared all of the messages on his phone before he was arrested.”

“Tarrio further stated that no one would be able to get into his phone because there were ‘two steps’ to get into it,” McCullough wrote. That evening, Tarrio used associates’ phones to make calls and log back into his encrypted messaging accounts, and “assured his men that his phone had not been compromised,” prosecutors said.

Defense attorneys Nayib Hassan and Sabino Jauregui argued that Tarrio has lived peaceably and openly since the Capitol siege, never called for violence and was not in league with co-defendants. However, they faced an uphill fight because federal law makes pretrial detention the default for defendants charged with certain offenses, including felony destruction of federal property.

Hassan told reporters outside the courthouse that the evidence they have seen so far against Tarrio is weak and that they can renew his argument for bond before his trial judge in Washington next week.

“What we have up until this point in time shows that he left the area on Jan. 5, and all indications show that he left on Jan. 5 from D.C.,” Hassan said, as a group of at least nine Tarrio family members and friends left the court. “There’s nothing showing that he made any indication as far as anything in the Capitol itself.”

Tarrio, 38, was arrested in Miami on March 8 on charges of conspiring with key Proud Boys leaders to corruptly obstruct Congress’s certification of Biden as the winner of the 2020 election. An eight-count indictment also accuses him and five previously charged co-defendants of aiding and abetting the obstruction of law enforcement in a civil disorder, destruction of property and assaults on police.

U.S. authorities said Tarrio’s handpicked men, including Ethan Nordean and Joseph Randall Biggs, were at the front of the crowd that breached the Capitol grounds and overran police lines meant to protect the proceedings inside.

Co-defendant Dominic Pezzola was allegedly the first person to break into the Capitol using a stolen Capitol Police riot shield, allowing the initial members of the mob to breach the building through the Senate Wing Door and windows at 2:13 p.m., halting the certification of the electoral college vote. All three have pleaded not guilty, as have co-defendants Zach Rehl and Charles Donohoe.

“The evidence shows that dozens of men in his [Tarrio’s] charge functioned as the tip of the spear for the mob on January 6, including by conducting assaults on law enforcement, leading a charge up the stairs to the Upper West Terrace of the Capitol grounds, occupying the Capitol grounds and building, and causing lawmakers to be evacuated and the proceedings to be suspended,” McCullough wrote in court filings.

“It is difficult to imagine conduct that poses a graver risk to our society than leading a conspiracy targeted at corruptly undermining the laws and procedures at the heart of our democratic process,” the prosecutor wrote.

Tarrio has not yet entered a plea but has publicly denied wrongdoing and that his group planned to commit violence that day. At a brief appearance in federal court last week after his arrest, Tarrio said he had little money and had only recently gotten a job printing T-shirts.

Tarrio was not in Washington on Jan. 6, having been arrested on entering the city two days earlier and charged in a separate incident — the burning of a Black Lives Matter banner stolen from a D.C. church in December 2020 after a different rally in favor of President Donald Trump. Tarrio was ordered to stay out of the capital city, and eventually pleaded guilty and completed a four-month jail sentence before his release this year.

Proud Boys are known for brandishing batons at rallies and gatherings, and for being eager to engage in street fighting with their adversaries in the leftist antifa movement. During a presidential election debate in September 2020, Trump famously refused to denounce the Proud Boys, urging them to “stand back and stand by.”

The group took those words as a rallying cry, which appeared to energize members in the months leading up to Jan. 6. Tarrio’s indictment charges that he continued to communicate electronically in a message group with other Proud Boys leaders as they coordinated their actions Jan. 6.

Prosecutors say at 3 p.m. that day, as the angry crowd rampaged through the Capitol, Tarrio posted a social media message that said “1776” — a reference to the Dec. 30 plan to occupy government buildings.

Tarrio continued to direct and encourage the Proud Boys despite being ordered to leave the city, prosecutors said, and claimed credit for what had happened on social media and in an encrypted chatroom during and after the attack.

Hsu reported from Washington.