The former national chairman of the extremist Proud Boys group pleaded not guilty Tuesday to charges that he conspired to block Congress' certification of the 2020 election as part of the Jan. 6, 2021 assault on the Capitol.
Enrique Tarrio, 38, entered the plea through his attorney during a hearing in Washington, D.C., where he is accused along with five other group members of plotting to obstruct Congress as lawmakers voted to affirm President Joe Biden's election.
The charges against Tarrio were added to an existing conspiracy case involving the other group members in March even though the high-profile former Proud Boy leader was not present at the Capitol on the day of the deadly assault.
Prosecutors have alleged that Tarrio "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."
Tarrio faces one count each of conspiracy to obstruct an official proceeding and obstruction of an official proceeding, as well as two counts each of assaulting, resisting or impeding certain officers and destruction of government property.
Federal authorities have reportedly been investigating Tarrio's activities in the run-up to the insurrection, including a brief meeting in a downtown Washington parking garage between the Proud Boys leader and Stewart Rhodes, the founder of the Oath Keepers militia group, who is also facing conspiracy charges.
Tarrio was the national leader of the Proud Boys in the months leading up to the Jan. 6 attack. Since the insurrection, he has publicly criticized the actions of other Proud Boys who attacked the Capitol, saying the riot was a "bad idea."
Tarrio told a Miami NBC News station last year that he has been cooperating with the FBI and police in multiple investigations into the events of Jan. 6.
Tarrio has a long record of cooperating with federal authorities. Last year, Reuters reported that he was a "prolific" informant for the FBI. Since that revelation, his relationship with the Proud Boys has been fractious at best, with several chapters rejecting his leadership of the group. As a result, the Proud Boys has largely splintered since Jan. 6, 2021.
Tarrio’s attorney, Nayib Hassan, told USA TODAY Tuesday that his client has been “traveling the country” while in federal custody. Tarrio has been moved from prison to prison, making it difficult to communicate with him, the Miami-based attorney said.
Hassan said he planned to ask that Tarrio be relocated to federal prison in the Miami area to be closer to him while preparing for trial. The attorney also is expected to renew a request for his client's release.
Shortly after Tarrio's arrest last month, a federal magistrate ordered him jailed pending trial.
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Jan. 6: Ex-Proud Boy leader Tarrio pleads not guilty to conspiracy