Prosecutors say Tarrio conspired with other Proud Boys to obstruct official proceedings. They also charged him with other crimes related to actions allegedly committed by supporters on the day Congress met to certify Joe Biden’s presidential victory.
Tarrio denied wrongdoing and denied that his group planned to commit any acts of violence that day. He appeared in federal court in Miami on Tuesday, where prosecutors said they want him held until trial. Tarrio spoke briefly during the hearing, saying he had little money and only recently got a job printing t-shirts. A bail hearing is scheduled for Friday.
Hours after his arrest, a federal jury in Washington convicted Texas man Guy Reffitt of the five counts he faced for leading part of the angry pro-Trump crowd at police and protesters. barricades on January 6. Reffitt’s trial featured video he took with a helmet-mounted camera and searing testimony from his own son, who told the FBI about his concerns about his father.
This victory for prosecutors – in the first of what could be hundreds of criminal trials of the defendants on January 6 – came a day after a significant setback for the Justice Department. A federal judge in a separate Jan. 6 case ruled that the government could not charge the defendants with obstructing Congress’ certification of the 2020 election results unless they falsified documents or official records.
The three near-simultaneous developments underscore how the Jan. 6 investigation has become a sprawling legal enterprise — one likely to see arrests, trials and appeals in years to come.
In overturning the most frequently charged felony count against the Jan. 6 defendants, U.S. District Judge Carl Nichols broke with other U.S. trial judges in Washington who have ruled on this issue in the cases of Capitol Riots. His ruling may encourage up to 275 other defendants to fight that charge in court or on appeal, or to reject plea offers until higher courts rule on the matter (although in many cases these people face other charges). The obstruction charge – which carries a sentence of up to 20 years in prison – is one of seven counts filed against Tarrio.
Since the start of the Jan. 6 investigation, officers have focused on the role the Proud Boys and Oath Keepers allegedly played in driving the confrontation between President Donald Trump’s supporters and police guarding the Capitol. More than 100 police officers were injured, many seriously, by a violent mob that falsely claimed Trump had won the election.
Tarrio’s indictment, unsealed Tuesday, accuses him of conspiring with other top Proud Boys executives, including Ethan Nordean and Joe Biggs, both of whom have already been charged in connection with Jan. 6.
The indictment offers new details about Tarrio’s alleged role in the discussions leading up to the violence at the United States Capitol. On December 30 and 31, prosecutors charge, Tarrio exchanged messages with an individual who sent him a plan called “1776 Returns” to occupy “crucial buildings” in Washington, including the House and Senate buildings, with “as many people as possible”. After sending the document, the individual reportedly messaged Tarrio saying “revolution is (sic) more important than anything”, to which Tarrio reportedly replied, “That’s what every waking moment is all about. .. I don’t play games.”
The Proud Boys are notorious for wielding batons at rallies and gatherings and for being eager to do battle with their perceived enemies in the left-wing antifa movement. During a debate on the September 2020 presidential election, Trump notoriously refused to speak out against the Proud Boys, urging them to “stand back and sit idly by.” The group took those words as a rallying cry, which seemed to energize the members in the months leading up to January 6. While the group’s leaders disavow racism, some members have ties to groups that espouse the white nationalist rhetoric common to hate groups. Sometimes their visits to the District ended in street fights.
Days before Jan. 6, Tarrio had been charged in a separate incident — the burning of a stolen Black Lives Matter banner from a DC church in December 2020 after another pro-Trump rally — and ordered to stay out of Washington. He eventually pleaded guilty to the case, serving four months in prison before his release this year.
The new indictment ostensibly ties Tarrio to Rhodes, noting that even after Tarrio was ordered by a court to leave Washington, he didn’t do so right away. On January 5, 2021, according to the indictment, he met in a parking lot in Rhodes Town and others “known and unknown to the grand jury, for approximately 30 minutes.” During this meeting, a participant made reference to the Capitol.
The indictment also charges that after Tarrio was arrested on the banner, he continued to communicate electronically in a messaging group with other Proud Boys leaders as they coordinated their actions on 6 January. Prosecutors say at 3 p.m. that day, as the angry mob rampaged through the Capitol, Tarrio posted a social media message that read “1776” – a reference to the Dec. 30 plan to occupy government buildings. .
Tarrio allegedly continued to lead and encourage the Proud Boys despite being ordered out of town, prosecutors said, and claimed what happened on social media and in an encrypted chat room during and after the attack.
The new indictment also adds that Dominic Pezzola, 44, of Rochester, NY, to the alleged Proud Boys conspiracy. Pezzola had previously been arrested and charged with using a stolen police riot shield to smash the first window opened by rioters at the Capitol, but had not been charged with being part of the larger conspiracy led by Tarrio.
Tarrio’s arrest comes just weeks after DC police officials furloughed a lieutenant from their own intelligence department during an investigation into possible inappropriate contact with the leader of the Proud Boys. Officials familiar with this part of the investigation said authorities found evidence suggesting communications between Shane Lamond, a 22-year-old police veteran, and Tarrio.
The officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity because the investigation is ongoing, would not describe the nature of the alleged contact between Lamond and Tarrio or how the investigation into those communications began. Tarrio described his contacts with Lamond as professional, saying the Proud Boys would give him or other police officials advance notice when the Proud Boys planned to assemble or march in the district.
But Tarrio also said that during marches, Lamond tells him the location of counter-protesters. Tarrio said it was so his band could avoid conflict. After a violent night of protests, however, police accused the Proud Boys of roaming the city seeking and instigating fights, targeting people they identified as antifa or antifascists.
The federal conspiracy charges against Proud Boys members stemming from Jan. 6 are separate from the charges against Rhodes and 10 other oath keepers or associates who were charged in January with seditious conspiracy, a historically rare charge that carries a maximum prison term of 20 years. . That indictment alleges Rhodes conspired in late 2020 and early 2021 to prevent Biden from becoming president, guiding a months-long effort to spark the political violence that prosecutors say culminated in the Jan. 6 breach of the Capitol.
“Rhodes and certain co-conspirators … planned to halt the lawful transfer of presidential power by January 20, 2021, which included multiple ways to deploy force,” his indictment reads.
Rhodes, 56, remains in jail awaiting trial. He pleaded not guilty and denied any wrongdoing.
Joshua James last week became the first defendant in the case to plead guilty to seditious conspiracy. James, a 34-year-old army veteran from Arab, Alabama, admitted to helping lead a group that prosecutors say sent two teams in body armor, helmets and tactical gear to the Capitol and organized a weapons cache at a hotel just outside. the city.
Peter Hermann and Rachel Weiner contributed to this report.