The Proud Boys is a male chauvinist group with ties to white nationalism. Last year, President Donald Trump famously told the group to “stand back and stand by” when asked during a debate to condemn white supremacists and the Proud Boys in particular. The moment emboldened the group and others like it that viewed Trump’s comment as indicating that they had presidential support.
The Proud Boys have led numerous pro-Trump demonstrations, but since Jan. 6, Tarrio has called for a halt on participating in marches. Even before the riot, he was the subject of a law enforcement investigation and was arrested in early January for allegedly burning a Black Lives Matter banner torn down from a historic church during a previous rally in Washington. Tarrio has pleaded not guilty.
Tarrio, who has denied that the Proud Boys organized any violence at the Capitol, did not respond to a text message and phone call seeking comment about his past cooperation with law enforcement, which was first reported Wednesday by Reuters. He told the news service that he had no recollection of assisting law enforcement despite being identified in the court documents.
In a screed posted online later in the day, Tarrio criticized the government and the media for disclosing his past activities and argued that his cooperation was done with the full knowledge and participation of his co-defendants. Tarrio said in the post that by reporting the contents of a public court hearing, “they have proven that if you cooperate with the US government they will hang you out to dry... So my question is... is it worth it? That I leave up to y’all to decide.”
It is unclear how his record as a cooperator will be received by the members of his group, which proclaims to be pro-law enforcement, although its members have clashed openly with police officers in recent rallies, including at the Capitol.
At a 2014 hearing in his case, then-prosecutor Vanessa Johannes described Tarrio as “probably the most cooperative from day one. From day one, he was the one who wanted to talk to law enforcement, wanted to clear his name, wanted to straighten this out so that he could move on with his life.”
The prosecutor told the court that Tarrio’s cooperation helped federal agents prosecute 13 others and aided local police with a number of undercover drug investigations.
Jeffrey Feiler, Tarrio’s defense attorney at the time, said Tarrio’s broad cooperation allowed law enforcement to successfully raid multiple marijuana grow houses and seize 100 pounds of the drug. He said Tarrio also “worked in an undercover capacity in a case involving information pertaining to an illegal immigrant smuggling ring and, again at his own risk, in an undercover role met and negotiated to pay $11,000 to members of that ring to bring in fictitious family members of his from another country.”
The prosecutor, though, said nothing came of that case.
Feiler said that in addition to the cooperation Tarrio provided that produced indictments or other tangible results, Tarrio also made 10 attempts that did not ultimately work, sometimes because the local police department involved just did not have the manpower. Those cases involved steroids, cocaine, ecstasy and credit card theft, Feiler said.
At the 2014 hearing, Feiler argued that Tarrio’s cooperation had earned him a reduction of his prison sentence by 18 months, while the prosecutor argued for a 10-month cut. The judge ultimately reduced his sentence nearly in half, from 30 months to 16 months.
Feiler said in an interview with The Washington Post on Wednesday that he had limited memory of the case and was unsure whether Tarrio’s work with law enforcement extended further in any sort of paid or other capacity.
“Typically what will happen is a defendant or cooperator will run the gamut of everything they hope to accomplish, and then there will come a point where they’ve done all they can do,” Feiler said.