Proud Boys leader sentenced to more than 5 months for burning Black Lives Matter banner
WASHINGTON (V&P) — The leader of the far-right Proud Boys and State Director of Latinos for Trump was sentenced Monday to more than five months in jail after admitting that he burned a Black Lives Matter banner taken from a historic Black church in Washington during a pro-Trump demonstration in December.
Henry Tarrio, known to followers as Enrique, was arrested Jan. 4 in Washington on a warrant stemming from an incident on Dec. 12. The Proud Boys and other groups marched in a raucous rally through downtown. The banner was stolen from Asbury United Methodist Church, one of the oldest Black churches in Washington.
Tarrio, 37, of Miami, also pleaded guilty to attempting to possess a high-capacity gun magazine, which is illegal in Washington. Investigators said he had the magazines with him when he returned to the city for the Jan. 6 protests of the electoral vote count in Congress.
Both charges were misdemeanors, punishable by up to six months in jail.
Federal prosecutors recommended a sentence of 90 days in jail followed by three months of probation and an order forbidding him to return to Washington. They said his burning of the banner "had profound emotional and psychological effect upon the church and its members" and that he bragged openly about it, saying on social media, "I'm damn proud I did it!"
A senior pastor at the church, the Rev. Dr. Ianther Mills, spoke during the court hearing before the sentence was imposed. She called Tarrio's conduct "an act of intimidation and racism" and he treated his action as "a trophy on social media."
Tarrio told the judge Monday that he made "a grave mistake" by burning the banner. "I profoundly apologize. I didn't see the consequences of what I did."
But prosecutors said that video taken during the December demonstration showed that he was on and around the church property as other members of the Proud Boys stole the banner. "He surely knew where he was and where the banner he burned — which had Asbury's name printed on it — had come from."
Superior Court Judge Harold Cushenberg said Tarrio "did not credibly express genuine remorse" and sentenced him to a total of 155 days.
Tarrio was ordered to surrender to the Washington, DC jail on September 6.
The guilty plea and sentence were unrelated to the Jan. 6 Capitol riot, in which at least three dozen members or followers of the Proud Boys have been charged. Federal prosecutors said in court documents that Tarrio, referred to as the "Proud Boys Chairman," posted messages on social media that members of the group planned to "turn out in record numbers on Jan 6th."
After Tarrio was arrested, prosecutors said, other members of the group took over the planning for what would happen when Congress met to count the electoral vote for president.
Federal law enforcement officials have said Washington police were tipped off that he was coming to Washington for the event and were on the lookout for him, prepared to arrest him for burning the banner.
Tarrio arrested ahead of Capitol Hill riot
The DC Superior Court ordered him to leave the city pending a court date in June.
Though Mr Tarrio did not take part in the Capitol riot, at least five Proud Boys members have been charged over the incident.
The FBI has said Mr Tarrio's arrest in the lead-up was an effort to pre-empt the events of January 6.
Lawyer tells court Tarrio was a 'prolific' cooperator
The transcript from 2014 shines a new light on Mr Tarrio's past connections to law enforcement.
During the hearing, the prosecutor and Mr Tarrio's defence lawyer asked a judge to reduce his prison sentence and that of two co-defendants.
They had pleaded guilty in a fraud case related to the relabelling and sale of stolen diabetes test kits.
The prosecutor said Mr Tarrio's information had led to the prosecution of 13 people on federal charges in two separate cases, and had helped local authorities investigate a gambling ring.
Washington police arrested Mr Tarrio in early January when he arrived in the city two days before the Capitol Hill riot.
He was charged with possessing two high-capacity rifle magazines, and burning a Black Lives Matter banner during a December demonstration by supporters of former president Donald Trump.
Mr Tarrio's then-lawyer Jeffrey Feiler said in court that his client had worked undercover in numerous investigations, one involving the sale of anabolic steroids, another regarding "wholesale prescription narcotics" and a third targeting human smuggling.
He said Mr Tarrio helped police uncover three marijuana grow houses, and was a "prolific" co-operator.
In the smuggling case, Mr Tarrio, "at his own risk, in an undercover role met and negotiated to pay $11,000 to members of that ring to bring in fictitious family members of his from another country", the lawyer said in court.
In an interview, Mr Feiler said he did not recall details about the case.
An FBI agent at the hearing called Mr Tarrio a "key component" in local police investigations involving marijuana, cocaine and MDMA, or ecstasy.
The Miami FBI office declined comment. There was no evidence Mr Tarrio had cooperated with authorities since then.
In his interview with Reuters, however, Mr Tarrio said that before rallies in various cities, he would let police departments know of the Proud Boys' plans.
It is unclear if this was actually the case.
He said he stopped this coordination after December 12 — just weeks before the riot — because the DC police had cracked down on the group.
Proud Boys extremist group leader Enrique Tarrio denies being 'prolific' informer for the FBI
Tarrio helped 'clear up' questions but denies being an informant
Mr Tarrio acknowledged that his fraud sentence was reduced, from 30 to 16 months, but insisted that leniency was provided only because he and his co-defendants helped investigators "clear up" questions about his own case.
He said he never helped investigate others.
That comment contrasts with statements made in court by the prosecutor, his lawyer and the FBI.
The judge in the case, Joan A Lenard, said Mr Tarrio "provided substantial assistance in the investigation and prosecution of other persons involved in criminal conduct".
As Trump supporters challenged the Republican's election loss in often violent demonstrations, Mr Tarrio stood out for his swagger as he led crowds of mostly white Proud Boys in a series of confrontations and street brawls in Washington DC, Portland, Oregon, and elsewhere.
The Proud Boys, founded in 2016, began as a group protesting political correctness and perceived constraints on masculinity.
Above photo, Henry Tarrio poses with Donald Trump Jr. , Senator Ted Cruz and Roger Stone
Henry Tarrio and White House Press Chief Sarah Hucklebee
Henry Tarrio with Senato Rick Scott
Henry Tarrio and Texas Rep Dan Crenshaw