Washington — Enrique Tarrio, the leader of the far-right group the Proud Boys, pleaded not guilty to multiple federal felony charges on Tuesday, including conspiracy to obstruct Congress’ certification of 2020 electoral votes stemming from his alleged participation inof January 6, 2021.
Tarrio was arrested in Miami last month after a grand jury in Washington, DC, indicted him and five other Proud Boys members who had previously been charged with other Jan. 6 crimes. A Florida judge ordered Tarrio.
He appeared virtually during an arraignment in U.S. District Court in Washington to enter his plea of not guilty on Tuesday.
The Justice Department said Tarrio was not at the Capitol on Jan. 6, but prosecutors say he led pre-planning for part of the attack and stayed in contact with some of the Proud Boys during that they were taking part in the assault.
The Proud Boys frontman 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 a time, directing the actions of the Proud Boys during the Capitol Riots and later bragging about it 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 was also accused of stealing an officer’s riot shield before allegedly using it to smash a window at the start of the Capitol breach.
Prosecutors said Tarrio and other Proud Boys would have 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 the group targeted was the rally in DC on the 6th January,” prosecutors said. written in the indictment.
Using encrypted messaging programs, the group are accused of discussing their plans for the rally and beyond. “One of the MOSD members selected by Tarrio posted a message that said ‘it’s time to pile these bodies up in front of Capitol Hill,'” the government said.
According to the indictment, in December 2020, members of Tarrio and Proud Boys conspired to obstruct and stop the counting of the Electoral College vote on January 6. several buildings in Washington, DC, including chambers of Congress.
On January 5 – when he had been ordered not to be in the District of Columbia – Tarrio met, the leader of another far-right group, the Oath Keepers, and others in a DC parking lot. 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.
A person familiar with the footage told CBS News it was shot by a film crew from Goldcrest Film International, which was present during the Jan. 5 meeting between Rhodes, Tarrio and others. CBS News has also learned that the House committee investigating the Capitol storming is in possession of the footage in question.
Tarrio allegedly told a person at the meeting that he had deleted all messages from his phone before his arrest and that it was difficult for anyone to access his phone records, court records show.
The next day, Jan. 6, about 100 members of the Proud Boys gathered at the Washington Monument at 6 a.m., according to the indictment. Several allegedly “directed, mobilized and drove members of the crowd onto Capitol grounds and into the Capitol, resulting in the dismantling of metal barricades, the destruction of property and assaults on law enforcement,” according to the act. of accusation.
Tarrio posted on social media that day, “Make no mistake…we did it.” At 2:41 p.m., he wrote “Proud of my boys and my country,” according to charging documents.
Prosecutors said in a previous court filing that their investigation into the Proud Boys may be far from over. After Tarrio’s arrest, the Justice Department wrote, investigators uncovered evidence that may prompt them to “seek to charge multiple additional defendants and/or seek to add new charges.”
The trial is scheduled for late May, but will likely be pushed back after the government said the parties needed more time to prepare. Some of the defendants said they objected to the almost certain delay.
More than 30 Proud Boys members or affiliates have been charged as part of the Justice Department’s growing investigation into the Capitol attack. Notably, Proud Boy Matthew Greenlate last year and is now cooperating with investigators.