Proud Boys leader Enrique Tarrio charged with conspiracy in US Capitol attack; allegedly met Oath Keepers head in DC parking garage

CNN/March 8, 2022

By Holmes Lybrand, Katelyn Polantz, Hannah Rabinowitz and Tierney Sneed

Enrique Tarrio, the leader of the far-right Proud Boys, has been charged with conspiracy in the US Capitol attack on January 6, 2021, the Justice Department announced on Tuesday.

The superseding indictment unveiled Tuesday includes several other members of the Proud Boys who are already facing charges for actions relating to January 6. It also reveals that Tarrio allegedly met with Oath Keeper leader Stewart Rhodes in a Washington, DC, parking garage leading up to the riot.

Tarrio and Rhodes met for approximately 30 minutes, according to the indictment, and at least one participant "referenced the Capitol." Tarrio then traveled to Baltimore, according to the indictment, and he was not in the District during the Capitol riot. Tarrio is scheduled to appear in federal court in Florida on Tuesday afternoon.

According to the Justice Department Tuesday, "Tarrio and his co-defendants...conspired to corruptly obstruct, influence, and impede an official proceeding, the certification of the Electoral College vote."

"On Jan. 6, the defendants 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 Justice Department said in a statement.

The indictment marks a newly aggressive step in a conspiracy case against Proud Boys leadership that had appeared to stagnate in recent months in federal court. The new set of charges adding Tarrio come shortly after prosecutors expanded their January 6 case into another right-wing extremist group, the Oath Keepers, whose leaders are accused of seditious conspiracy for actions they took on January 6 and leading up to Joe Biden's inauguration.

The developments with the Proud Boys and the Oath Keepers now put both groups' top people under arrest.

Tarrio previously served a jail sentence in DC for burning a church's Black Lives Matter banner in December 2020, and for bringing high-capacity rifle magazines to Washington, DC. That conduct occurred days before the attack on the Capitol.

According to the new court filings, Tarrio did not immediately comply with an order issued after his January 4, 2020 arrest in the flag-burning case that he leave DC upon his January 5 release.
Tarrio is charged in the indictment with five other Proud Boys leaders.

The other defendants are Ethan Nordean, the "sergeant at arms" of the Proud Boys and president of his local chapter; Joseph Biggs, a self-described organizer of Proud Boys events; Zachary Rehl, who runs the Philadelphia chapter of the Proud Boys; Charles Donohoe, the president of a local Proud Boys chapter in North Carolina; and Dominic Pezzola, a New York Proud Boy who goes by "Spaz."

Rehl, Donohoe, Biggs and Nordean were initially charged together with conspiracy and other charges relating to the attack on the Capitol in March of last year.

The conspiracy that the prosecutors allege included the use of social media and other means to raise fund to support travel and "equipment purchases" for the trip to DC. The indictment pointed to plans by the Proud Boys to dress "incognito" on January 6, as well as their efforts to allegedly obtain gear and supplies.

They used encrypted messages in the lead up to plan for the attack, the indictment said, as well as handheld radios to "coordinate" the breach. They're accused of carrying out the conspiracy by directing and mobilizing the crowd into the Capitol grounds, by dismantling and storming past its barricades, by destroying property and assaulting law enforcement.

"The purpose of the conspiracy was to stop, delay, and hinder the Certification of the Electoral College vote," the indictment said.

'I'm not playing games'

After the plans for the rally were publicly announced, Tarrio allegedly discussed in a messaging group with several of his co-defendants and others plans for a "national rally planning committee."

By late December, according to the filings, Tarrio and a handful of his associates had created the new Proud Boys chapter, referred to as "Ministry of Self Defense (or "MOSD'); its leadership was divided into three branches -- operational, marketing and a second tier of eight regional leaders.

It messages, they allegedly discussed raising funds online for "protective gear and communications" to be used on January 6, and other logistics around the day -- including plans to abandon the usual Black and Yellow worn by the Proud Boys.
On December 30, a person not identified in the indictment allegedly messaged Tarrio a nine-page document entitled "1776 returns." it set forth a plan to occupy a few "crucial buildings" in DC, including House and Senate office buildings around the Capitol, with as "many people as possible" to "show our politicians We the People are in Charge."

The person said that revolution was "more important than anything," according to the indictment, to which Tarrio said, "That's what every waking moment consists of... I'm not playing games."

The same night, Rehl allegedly warned prospective members that had been convened on a video call that January 6 would be a "completely different operation," the indictment said.

The discussions continued in the following days. Someone identified in the indictment as "Person-3" allegedly posted a voice note in the messaging group that said "main operating theater...should be out in front of the Capitol building. That's where the vote is taking place and all of the objection."

After Tarrio's arrest in the flag-burning case, Donohue created a new group chat without Tarrio initially and informed the group that it was "nuking" the previous messaging chain, according to the indictment.

The night before the attack, Tarrio was allegedly added back into the messaging group, and the indictment also highlights public social media posts published by Tarrio on January 6 cheering on the breach.

Just before 1 p.m. that day, according to the indictment, Biggs spoke to an unidentified individual who, a minute later, crossed the barrier that was first to be breach in the attack, according to the indictment. It was also the access point for Biggs and others named in the indictment.

Tarrio, according to the filings, was also trying to communicate directly to Nordean and Biggs as they were moving in and out of the Capitol. The indictment describes photos and video the defendants took allegedly capturing their participation in the breach.

The high profile face of the Proud Boys group

Tarrio, as chairman of the Proud Boys, has been its highest profile face since he became close to Trump adviser Roger Stone and he's continued to speak about the national right-wing group.

In the plea deal Tarrio reached with the government in the flag burning case, the agreement included a carveout for the potential of federal charges being brought related to the January 6 insurrection.

Tarrio has led the far-right extremist organization since 2018.

Prosecutors previously accused the group of reorganizing their leadership for the attack after Tarrio left the city.

Prosecutors have said in court they believed the Proud Boys wanted another member of the group already charged with conspiracy, Nordean, to assume "war powers" in Tarrio's absence. Tarrio's five co-defendants have all pleaded not guilty to January 6-related charges.

Outside of criminal court, the Proud Boys and Tarrio have been accused in civil complaints of conspiracy -- alongside Donald Trump -- related to January 6. A federal judge overseeing the civil case in Washington, DC, recently allowed Democratic members of Congress and the Capitol police to move forward with their accusations, after finding it plausible Tarrio coordinated with others.

When asked at a presidential debate in 2020 about the Proud Boys, Trump responded the group should "stand back, and stand by." To that, Tarrio tweeted a response: "Standing by sir."

The flag-burning case played out in DC local court. It concerned a flag was burned at Asbury United Methodist Church, a historically Black church, on December 12, after Tarrio and other Proud Boys attended a pro-Trump rally in Washington that preceded violent clashes. When Tarrio was arrested upon his returned to DC on January 4, he was found with two high-capacity magazines that are banned under DC's strict gun control laws.

He was previously released from jail in January.

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