Washington — Enrique Tarrio, the leader of the far-right group the Proud Boys, pleaded not guilty to multiple federal felony counts on Tuesday, including conspiracy to obstruct Congress’ certification of the 2020 electoral votes stemming from his alleged participation in the Capitol attack of Jan. 6, 2021.
Tarrio was arrested in Miami last month after a grand jury in Washington, D.C., indicted him and five other Proud Boys members who had already been charged with other crimes connected to Jan. 6. A Florida judge ordered Tarrio.
He appeared virtually at an arraignment in U.S. District Court in Washington to enter his not guilty plea on Tuesday.
The Justice Department said Tarrio was not at the Capitol on Jan. 6, but prosecutors allege he led the advance planning of a portion of the attack and remained in contact with some of the Proud Boys while they were taking part in the assault.
The Proud Boys leader was arrested two days before the attack on unrelated charges. He was released the next day and ordered to stay out of Washington. The new indictment alleged that he defied the order and remained in the District for some time, directing the Proud Boys’ actions during the Capitol rioting and bragging about it later on social media and in encrypted messages.
Co-defendants and fellow Proud Boys Joseph Biggs, Charles Donohoe, Ethan Nordean, Zachary Rehl, and Dominic Pezzola pleaded not guilty last month to similar charges. Pezzola has also been charged with stealing an officer’s riot shield before allegedly using it to break a window during the early stages of the Capitol breach.
Prosecutors said Tarrio and other Proud Boys allegedly established what they called a “Ministry of Self Defense,” with Tarrio at the top of the power structure.
“This group was to form the nucleus of leadership in a new chapter of the Proud Boys organization, which Tarrio described as a ‘national rally planning’ chapter. The first event targeted by the group was the rally in D.C. on January 6,” prosecutors wrote in the indictment.
Using encrypted messaging programs, the group is accused of discussing their plans for the rally and beyond. “One of Tarrio’s hand-selected MOSD members posted a message that read, ‘time to stack those bodies in front of Capitol Hill,'” the government alleged.
According to the indictment, in December 2020, Tarrio and Proud Boys members conspired to obstruct and stop the counting of the Electoral College vote on Jan. 6. An unnamed individual sent Tarrio a document entitled “1776 RETURNS,” which described a plan to occupy multiple buildings in Washington, D.C., including congressional chambers.
On January 5 — when he was under orders not to be in the District of Columbia — Tarrio met with, the head of another far-right group, the Oath Keepers, and others in a D.C. parking garage. According to a recent government court filing, a documentary film crew was with the group inside the garage and picked up audio of an unnamed individual discussing the Capitol.
An individual familiar with the footage told CBS News it had been shot by a Goldcrest Film International film crew, which was present at the January 5 meeting between Rhodes, Tarrio, and others. CBS News has also learned that the House committee investigating the Capitol assault is in possession of the footage in question.
Tarrio allegedly told an individual at the meeting that he had erased all of the messages on his phone before his arrest and made it difficult for anyone to access his phone records, court records indicate.
The next day, on January 6, about 100 members of the Proud Boys gathered at the Washington Monument at 6 a.m, the indictment said. Several were alleged to have “directed, mobilized, and led members of the crowd onto the Capitol grounds and into the Capitol, leading to dismantling of metal barricades, destruction of property, and assaults on law enforcement,” the indictment said.
Tarrio posted on social media that day, “Make no mistake…we did this.” At 2:41 p.m, he wrote “Proud of My Boys and my country,” according to charging documents.
Prosecutors indicated in a previous court filing that their probe into the Proud Boys may be far from over. Following Tarrio’s arrest, the Justice Department wrote, investigators uncovered evidence that may prompt them to “seek to charge several additional defendants and/or seek to add new charges.”
The trial is set for late May, but will likely be pushed back after the government said the parties needed more time to prepare. Some of the defendants have said they oppose the all-but-certain delay.
More than 30 members or affiliates of the Proud Boys have been charged as part of the Justice Department’s growing probe into the Capitol attack. Notably, Proud Boy Matthew Greenlate last year and is now cooperating with investigators.