Apr 05, 2022
Tarrio pleads not guilty as he and ministry of Proud Boys head toward trial
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mail: [NewsMag]Proud Boys protest in Washington, D.C., on Dec. 12, 2020.
Marking another step toward what could be a weeks-long event where a throng of Proud Boys potentially appear together in a historic trial, Henry “Enrique’ Tarrio, onetime leader of the extremist chauvinist group, entered a not guilty plea Wednesday to a series of charges, including conspiracy, tied to the Jan.6 attack on the U.S. Capitol.
Tarrio, who appeared virtually before U.S. District Judge Timothy Kelly for his arraignment, was arrested in Miami last month and has remained in detention. Prosecutors say that in addition to leading a conspiracy to stop the peaceful transfer of power on Jan. 6, he is also responsible for the destruction of government property, assaulting and impeding police, creating a civil disorder, and obstructing an official proceeding.
He is charged alongside fellow Proud Boys Ethan Nordean, Charles Donohoe, Joseph Biggs, Dominic Pezzola, and Zachary Rehl. All vow they are innocent but a mountain of video footage and other key evidence compiled against them by the Justice Department will make proving that plea a formidable task when the trial finally begins.
RELATED STORY: Proud Boys enter more guilty pleas as DOJ signals more indictments on the way
Since the last status conference in court a few weeks ago, federal prosecutors requested that Kelly vacate the May 18 trial date set for the Proud Boys conspiracy case. U.S. attorneys argued they needed more time to sort out discovery since Tarrio was only recently added to the indictment with Nordean, Donohoe, Biggs, Pezzola, and Rehl.
Hints have been dropped by the government during court appearances in the past month that a third superseding indictment is in the wings, complicating the schedule even further.
Judge Kelly was sympathetic to the government’s request on Wednesday, saying there is “good reason” to reset the trial date for later. He did not detail his thinking at length during the hour-long hearing Wednesday but told counsel he would lay it out in an upcoming order. Judge Kelly proposed June 17 for a final deadline for discovery but didn't set a a hard-and-fast trial date just yet.
The next status conference will be held on April 21.
Kelly said he expects all parties to have their latest requests filed by then. During this time, the Trump-appointed judge said he would consider requests from some of the other defendants like Ethan Nordean, who wishes to be severed from Tarrio in the indictment.
Government prosecutors have balked at splitting the defendants—any of the defendants—arguing it would be too difficult to try them this way since Tarrio is their leader and as their leader, he orchestrated their roles in a newly-formed subgroup of the Proud Boys known as the “Ministry of Self Defense,” or MOSD.
Prosecutors allege Tarrio handpicked his co-defendants to serve MOSD. It was an important new project for the network since it would become a “national rally planning” division.
The chapter’s first project? According to court records, Trump’s rally at the Ellipse on Jan. 6.
Encrypted text messages obtained via search warrant from devices belonging to Tarrio and others allegedly show how the ringleader was engaged in extensive organizing and planning of the Jan. 6 assault.
RELATED STORY: Tarrio is back in jail as feds find chilling plans to storm federal buildings
Tarrio was not in Washington, however, on Jan. 6. He had been arrested and ordered to stay away from the district two days earlier. He was arrested for charges related to his burning of a Black Lives Matter banner in December 2020.
He also didn’t skip town after being released. Tarrio instead went to meet with the leader of the extremist Oath Keepers group, Elmer Stewart Rhodes. The men met in a parking garage on Jan. 5. and Tarrio allowed the event to be filmed.
Rhodes has since been charged with sedition for his role in the Capitol assault and is awaiting trial this July. Rhodes, like Tarrio, pleaded not guilty.
In an interview with Channel 4 News last year, Tarrio told a reporter that the Proud Boys and Oath Keepers did not typically work together or get along. “But in situations like this, there is a need to unite regardless of our differences. We’re fighting the same fight and I guess that’s what's important,” Tarrio said.
In the Rhodes seditious conspiracy case, U.S. attorneys indicated the groups may have been coordinating together since at least November 2020 for the attack.
RELATED STORY: DOJ wrestling over evidence with Oath Keeper defendants but Jan. 6 trials still on track
Tarrio has tried to distance himself from his Proud Boy co-defendants since indictments started raining down. That would include co-defendant Dominic Pezzola. Pezzola is clearly seen on video smashing a window at the Capitol with a police riot shield before waving a mob of protesters inside, prosecutors say.Former U.S. Marine Dominic Pezzola
Tarrio once told Channel 4 he never coordinated with Pezzola and it was very likely Pezzola was just caught up “in the heat of the moment” on Jan. 6
But prosecutors say it was more involved than that.
Pezzola was allegedly wearing an earpiece connected to a handheld radio on an order handed down to him from Tarrio.
Matthew Greene, another Proud Boy who pleaded guilty last December, has already admitted in court that he and Pezzola moved jointly during the attack. Pezzola’s attorney has insisted Greene’s plea has no bearing on his client’s plea.
RELATED STORY: Proud Boy will cooperate with Jan. 6 probe after guilty plea
Court records say Tarrio instructed Proud Boys to wear paramilitary gear on Jan. 6 and dress “incognito” or obscure their insignia.
Defense attorneys argued Wednesday that the government had simply waited too long to add Tarrio to the case, effectively jeopardizing the defendant’s right to a speedy trial. The government pushed back, saying the delay was partly caused because it was unable to access a cell phone seized from Tarrio. It took a considerable amount of time to crack it, prosecutors told Judge Kelly, but they eventually did.
“There’s no evidence of dilly dallying by the government,” assistant U.S. attorney Jason McCullough said.Daily Kos relies on readers like you. We don't have billionaire backers like some right-wing media outlets. Half our revenue comes from readers like you, meaning we literally couldn't do this work without you. Can you donate $3 right now to help Daily Kos keep fighting? Donate $3 Donate $5 monthly
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Former federal attorney suggests Trump is guilty because he invoked 5th Amendment rights. The backlash is bipartisan.
Former Assistant Attorney General Jeff Clark, who served in the Trump administration, called Goldman's remarks a "disgraceful position."
"Contrary to Constitution. Contrary to Supreme Court 5th Amend. jurisprudence. An indication that any oaths you took while in the fed'l gov't were a farce," Clark said. "No way you'd be saying this if it were the Clintons or Bidens."
"For the record, s*** like this is why I talk so much about needing more former public defenders — and fewer former prosecutors — on the bench," Geidner tweeted.
Meanwhile, Institute for Justices senior attorney Paul Sherman accused Goldman of lying to score political points.
"Mr Goldman is a Stanford-trained former federal prosecutor and he knows with 100% certainty that this is not true. He’s comfortable lying about it because he’s running for office, and we’ve convinced ourselves that lying is okay if it secures power for your team," Sherman said.