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Proud Boys Leader Pleads Guilty to Property Destruction in Burning of ‘#BlackLivesMatter’ Banner Stolen from D.C. Church

Enrique Tarrio smiles

ATLANTA, GA – NOV. 18: Enrique Tarrio, leader of the Proud Boys, a far-right group, is seen at a “Stop the Steal” rally against the results of the U.S. Presidential election outside the Georgia State Capitol on Nov. 18, 2020 in Atlanta, Georgia.

Proud Boys chair Henry “Enrique” Tarrio, a  37-year-old Florida man, pleaded guilty to two offenses in Washington, D.C. on Monday, including a property destruction charge related to burning a Black Lives Matter banner taken from an historic church.

The far-right nationalist leader, recently revealed by The New York Times and Reuters as a former FBI informant, pleaded guilty in the Superior Court of the District of Columbia one count each of property destruction and attempted possession of a large-capacity ammunition feeding device. The latter count has been technically classified as a minor felony offense in the nation’s capital since 2019.

Tarrio admitted to both crimes by way of what is known as a “proffer of facts” during a hearing on Monday.

In the property destruction case, the defendant and the prosecution agreed that Tarrio and a group of his extremist followers facilitated the theft and destruction of the banner hanging from an historic Black church in December 2020.

That banner, ripped off the side of the Asbury United Methodist Church, contained the phrase: “#BLACKLIVESMATTER,” as well as the church’s logo and address. According to a Justice Department press release, “[u]nidentified members of the group stole the banner from the church’s property.”

After swiping the banner, the extremist group members walked south until they reached the intersection of 11th and E Streets NW. There, the Proud Boys went on to burn the banner using bottles of lighter fluid and several butane lighters, prosecutors say.

In an image cited by the DOJ, Tarrio can be seen holding an unlit lighter as other members of the group hold ignited lighters up to the banner. That image, the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Columbia noted, was then posted to Tarrio’s Parler account.

“Numerous unidentified individuals crouched down and applied lighters to the edges of the banner,” the USAO’s office noted. “In the days that followed, Tarrio admitted to burning the banner on social media and in comments to numerous media outlets.”

The defendant made his way back to the federal district in early January of this year. He was subsequently arrested on a warrant issued for the December property destruction charge.

In a search incident to his arrest, officers with the D.C. Metropolitan Police Department discovered two high-capacity firearm magazines inside Tarrio’s backpack. Each magazine was decorated with the Proud Boys logo, according to prosecutors. During a custodial interview, Tarrio told law enforcement that he had intended to transfer and sell the magazines to a customer who planned to meet him in D.C.

Tarrio's magazines bearing the Proud Boys' insignia

Metropolitan Police recovered these two high-capacity firearm magazines branded with Proud Boys insignia from the group’s leader Enrique Tarrio.

Tarrio, who hails from Florida, is barred from entering Washington, D.C. until his sentencing at the earliest under the terms of a previous court order, as Law&Crime previously reported and as Courthouse News Service‘s Brandi Buchman also noted on Twitter.

Each count carries a maximum 180 days in prison and/or a fine of up to $1,000. If given the maximum sentence for each charge, Tarrio would spend just shy of a full year behind bars. Maximum sentences tend to be considered rare in cases involving guilty pleas.

Tarrio started becoming a prolific cooperator as far back as 2012 after being involved in various drug- and gambling-focused investigations, according to the Washington Post.

“From day one, he was the one who wanted to talk to law enforcement, wanted to clear his name, wanted to straighten this out so that he could move on with his life,” a federal prosecutor told a judge at the time.

While copping to the two charges on Monday, Tarrio has affected ignorance about his years spent informing on others.

“I don’t know any of this,” he told Reuters when pressed about helping federal and local law enforcement put over a dozen other people into the legal system. “I don’t recall any of this.”

[image via Elijah Nouvelage/Getty Images]

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