WASHINGTON — Henry “Enrique” Tarrio, the former national leader of the Proud Boys far-right extremist group, has been charged with conspiracy in connection with the Jan. 6 insurrection, the US attorney’s office in Washington announced on Tuesday.
Tarrio was arrested Tuesday morning at his home in Miami. A federal grand jury in Washington, DC, returned an indictment on Monday that accuses Tarrio of conspiring with other Proud Boys members to storm the Capitol; Tarrio is charged with participating in planning efforts, but not with physically participating in the assault. The Washington Post first reported the charges.
Tarrio’s codefendants include five men with various ties to the Proud Boys who had already been charged in connection with the insurrection. Although Tarrio had been ordered to leave Washington a day before the attack — he’d been arrested in connection with an incident in DC a month earlier — prosecutors alleged that he stayed in contact with members who did breach the building and continued to “direct and encourage” them.
During Tarrio's initial court appearance, US District Court Judge Alicia M. Otazo Reyes appointed a public defender to represent him. Wearing a t-shirt and shorts, Tarrio told the court via Zoom that he recently got a job printing t-shirts and makes about $400 to $500 a week. When Otazo Reyes asked whether he had any savings, Tarrio responded "absolutely not."
Tarrio is scheduled to appear again on Friday morning for a detention and removal hearing. Assistant US Attorney Amanda Perwin said the government was seeking Tarrio's detention due to a risk of flight and "danger to the community."
A source familiar with the situation said he was arrested early in the morning on Tuesday and his house was searched.
The Proud Boys have defined themselves as a “pro-Western fraternal organization” and as “Western chauvinists.” They’ve long had ties to people in former president Donald Trump’s orbit; Tarrio has been close for years with Trump ally Roger Stone. During a presidential debate in September 2020, Trump was asked if he would condemn white supremacists and other far-right extremist groups, and when asked specifically about the Proud Boys, Trump said his message to them was to “stand back and stand by.”
Tarrio’s codefendants Ethan Nordean, Zachary Rehl, Joseph Biggs, and Charles Donohoe had already been charged with conspiracy for their alleged roles in coordinating to attack the Capitol. The final defendant, Dominic Pezzola, had been charged in a separate case with conspiracy; one of his former codefendants, Matthew Greene, took a plea deal with prosecutors that included an agreement to cooperate with the investigation.
Although Tarrio is now identified as the former leader of the group, on Jan. 6, 2021, he was still the national chairman. In the latest indictment, prosecutors described how he’d posted messages that supported the lie pushed by Trump and other supporters that the election had been stolen. On Nov. 16, 2020, he’d posed: “If Biden steals this election, [the Proud Boys] will be political prisoners. We won't go quietly...I promise.”
The following month, Tarrio and a few other unnamed members created a new national Proud Boys chapter called the “Ministry of Self Defense” whose leaders included Nordean, Biggs, Rehl, and Donohoe. In one Dec. 19 exchange quoted by prosecutors, Biggs had sent a private message to Tarrio that read that the Proud Boys “recruit losers who wanna drink” and to which Tarrio replied, “Let’s get radical and get real men.”
The indictment accuses the group of extensive planning leading up to Jan. 6, including urging other Proud Boys members to travel to DC, fundraising to buy supplies and stocking up on paramilitary gear, agreeing not to wear clothes that identified them as Proud Boys — members are known for sporting black and yellow — and communicating using encrypted messaging platforms.
Near the end of December, the indictment alleges that an unnamed person sent Tarrio a nine-page document titled “1776 Returns” that laid out a plan to occupy buildings in DC, including the Capitol. The person messaged Tarrio, “The revolution is important than anything,” and Tarrio replied, “That's what every waking moment consists of... I'm not playing games.”
At the start of January, prosecutors said Tarrio and other defendants continued to message one another about their plans for Jan. 6 and to recruit other members. After a person identified only as “PERSON-3” left a voice note for the “Ministry of Self Defense” group that discussed planning for “operations” around a front entrance to the Capitol, Tarrio left a voice note of his own early in the morning on Jan. 4 that stated, “I didn’t hear this voice note until now, you want to storm the Capitol.”
Later on Jan. 4, Tarrio was arrested in Washington in connection with a demonstration by the Proud Boys in December 2020 where people had burned a “Black Lives Matter” banner stolen from a local church. He’d been released the day after his arrest but was ordered to leave the city. Tarrio later pleaded guilty to burning the banner; during his arrest, police had found two high-capacity firearm magazines in his bag, and he pleaded guilty to a charge related to that as well.
After Tarrio’s arrest, prosecutors say his codefendants created new group chats without him and began discussing how to delete messages from the other thread. They continued to plan for activities on Jan. 6; one of the new groups was called “Boots on Ground.” Biggs messaged “Boots on Ground” the night of Jan. 5, “We are trying to avoid getting into any shit tonight. Tomorrow's the day.”
In another chat called “New MOSD Leaders Group,” a person identified as “PERSON-2” messaged that same evening, “Rufio is in charge, cops are the primary threat, don't get caught by them or BLM, don’t get drunk until off the street.” (“Rufio” was an apparent reference to Nordean’s nickname Rufio Panman.) A few minutes later, prosecutors say that Biggs alerted the group he’d spoken with Tarrio, and Tarrio was then added to the chat, as well as another group called “New MOSD Members Group.”
Nordean, Biggs, Rehl, Donohoe, and Pezzola gathered with approximately 100 other Proud Boys members near the Washington Monument on the morning of Jan. 6, according to the indictment. They’re charged with making their way to the Capitol and being part of the mob that breached the building. Pezzola is accused of stealing a US Capitol Police officer’s riot shield and, at around 2:13 p.m., using it to break a window that other members of the mob climbed through. Prosecutors said Pezzola and Donohoe worked together to carry the shield, and that Donohoe sent a message at 1:37 p.m. that stated, “Got a riot shield.” Donohoe is also accused of throwing two water bottles at police.
A few minutes earlier, prosecutors said Biggs had filmed a selfie video outside with Nordean and other people they were with where he said, “So we just stormed the fucking Capitol. Took the motherfucking place back. That was so much fun. … January 6 will be a day in infamy.”
Tarrio, meanwhile, had been posting public messages of support online and attempted to call Biggs and Nordean during the breach, according to the government.
In addition to the conspiracy allegation, the eight-count indictment also charges the group with obstructing an official proceeding and aiding and abetting, interfering with law enforcement during a civil disorder and aiding and abetting, destruction of government property, and assaulting police. Pezzola alone is also charged with robbing government property.
Although Tarrio had been ordered to leave DC on Jan. 5, prosecutors say he didn’t depart right away. Instead, he went to an underground parking garage where he met with Elmer Stewart Rhodes, the leader of the Oath Keepers extremist group, and other individuals for approximately 30 minutes; Rhodes is in jail after being charged earlier this year with seditious conspiracy and other offenses in connection with his group’s activities at the Capitol. Tarrio then left DC and went north to Baltimore, the government said.
Tarrio was sentenced in September to 155 days in jail and was released in mid-January.
The grand jury returned the new indictment against Tarrio on the same day that a jury in the same courthouse began deliberating in the first trial in the Jan. 6 prosecution effort. The defendant in that other case, Guy Reffitt, is facing a five-count indictment that accuses him of bringing guns to DC to support a “civil disorder,” bringing a handgun holstered on his hip to the Capitol, obstructing Congress, interfering with police trying to guard the building against the mob, and threatening his family not to report him to the FBI.
The conspiracy case isn’t Tarrio’s only legal exposure related to Jan. 6. He’s a defendant in three civil lawsuits — filed by members of Congress, police officers, and the DC attorney general’s office — seeking to hold Trump, his allies, and members of the Proud Boys and Oath Keepers liable for the violence and disruption at the Capitol. His attorney in those cases, Joseph Daniel Hull, declined to comment. Tarrio has also been subpoenaed by the special congressional committee investigating Jan. 6.
Stephanie K. Baer contributed reporting.