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Proud Boys leader pleads not guilty to conspiracy in Capitol riot case

Prosecutors say Enrique Tarrio planned the Capitol riot and, though he wasn't there himself on Jan. 6, 2021, kept in contact with other Proud Boys during the breach.

WASHINGTON (CN) — Henry “Enrique” Tarrio pleaded not guilty on Tuesday to charges that, as the leader of the Proud Boys right-wing extremist group, he orchestrated the plot to overthrow America's government after the 2020 presidential election.

Arrested in Miami on March 8, Tarrio is accused alongside five other members of the Proud Boys of conspiring to obstruct the official proceeding at the Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021, where both chambers of Congress met to certify election results that would put President Joe Biden in office.

The 38-year-old no longer serves as chairman of the right-wing extremist group but is being kept behind bars on the road to trial. Before finally making it to court this morning, Tarrio requested twice to reschedule his arraignment.

Tarrio pleaded not guilty to all seven charges against him: one count of conspiracy to obstruct an official proceeding, one count of obstruction of an official proceeding, another count of obstruction of law enforcement during civil disorder and aiding and abetting, two counts of assaulting, resisting, or impeding certain officers, and two counts of destruction of government property. 

Although he did not physically breach the Capitol building on Jan. 6, 2021, the indictment says Tarrio “led the advance planning and remained in contact with other members of the Proud Boys during their breach of the Capitol.”

Two days before the insurrection, Tarrio was arrested on Jan. 4 and charged with destruction of property related to his burning of a Black Lives Matter banner during a rally in Washington by supporters of Donald Trump, the then-outgoing president.

After he pleaded guilty to burning the banner and to attempted possession of a high-capacity ammunition magazine, Tarrio was released on the eve of Jan. 6 and court-ordered to stay out of Washington.

“The indictment alleges that Tarrio nonetheless continued to direct and encourage the Proud Boys prior to and during the events of Jan. 6, 2021, and that he claimed credit for what had happened on social media and in an encrypted chat room during and after the attack,” the Justice Department said in a press release.

Also named in the superseding indictment are Ethan Nordean, 31, of Auburn, Washington; Joseph Biggs, 38, of Ormond Beach, Florida; Zachary Rehl, 36, of Philadelphia; Charles Donohoe, 34, of Kernersville, North Carolina; and Dominic Pezzola, 44, of Rochester, New York. 

They were supposed to go to trial next month, but U.S. District Judge Timothy Kelly, a Trump appointee, approved the Justice Department's request on Tuesday to reschedule. A new trial date has not yet been set.

More than 775 people have been charged so far in connection with the riot, and at least 200 have pleaded guilty to mostly misdemeanor charges that carry a maximum sentence of six months’ imprisonment.

Tarrio and Oath Keepers founder Stewart Rhodes are two of the highest-profile defendants to be charged for their role in the Capitol attack.

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