Proud Boys leader sees potential defense against sedition in group's questionable history with police
Prpud Boy Enrique Tarrio (Photo by Chandan Khanna of AFP)

Enrique Tarrio, the Proud Boys leader charged with seditious conspiracy for allegedly attempting to obstruct the transfer of presidential power, is attempting to leverage his history of coordination with law enforcement, including a DC Metropolitan police intelligence officer currently under investigation for improper contacts with Tarrio, to undermine the government’s case that he helped organize an attack on the US government.

DC police Lt. Shane Lamond is currently on leave amidst an investigation by the FBI into improper contacts with Tarrio, according to a recent report in the Washington Post.

Tarrio and his codefendant Joe Biggs also had contacts with the FBI prior to Jan. 6, 2021, including reportedly helping agents develop intelligence on antifascist counter-protesters. The government said in a court filing that it has turned over two FBI reports that documented contact with Tarrio and Biggs in advance of planned Proud Boys rallies in Portland, Ore. in August 2019 and September 2020.

Tarrio told the Post earlier this year that he provided Lamond with advance notice of when the Proud Boys planned to rally in the city, and also that Lamond would tell him the location of left-wing counter-protesters, so that the Proud Boys could avoid them.

But on the night of Dec. 12, 2020, following large rallies in support of Trump, hundreds of Proud Boys marched to Black Lives Matter Plaza and attempted to break through a police line so they could fight with counter-protesters, and roamed the streets in smaller packs intent on attacking anyone they perceived as “antifa” while stealing a “Black Lives Matter” banner from an African-American church and publicly burning it. An altercation in front of Hotel Harrington where hundreds of Proud Boys and right-wing allies were drinking in the street ended with a handful of Proud Boys getting stabbed.

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A motion filed by Tarrio’s lawyer, Nayib Hassan, behalf omits any mention of the Proud Boys’ aggressive violence on the night of Dec. 12, instead arguing that the Proud Boys’ coordination with law enforcement was intended to prevent violence.

“Prior to any rally or protest that the Proud Boys would attend, they would always communicate with the appropriate law enforcement agencies as per standard operating procedure,” Hassan wrote. “The communications included (1) notification that the organization would be attending a rally/protest, (2) request/organize sufficient law enforcement presence for security so that the Proud Boys would not be in danger of any attacks by extreme left-wing groups, and (3) coordinate the staging area and route to avoid extreme left-wing group areas and any potential conflicts. The communications with law enforcement agencies are well documented as the information is relayed to officers and other law enforcement groups prior and during any rally/protest share their live location.”

Hassan has indicated that his client is particularly interested in interagency communications following Tarrio’s contacts with Lamond as potentially exculpatory.

During a hearing in federal court in the District of Columbia on Monday, Hassan told Judge Timothy Kelly that the government recently produced communications between Lt. Lamond from the DC Metropolitan Police Department and his counterparts at the US Capitol Police and US Park Police.

Conor Mulroe, a Department of Justice lawyer in the criminal division, told Kelly the communications were considered “highly sensitive” and asked that they be discussed under seal. About 10 minutes after the hearing was convened, Kelly said the rest of the hearing would be held under seal and closed it to the public.

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In a motion filed last month, Hassan cited a text message from Lamond to two fellow Metropolitan police officers documenting his communication with Tarrio in advance of Jan. 6. The text suggests Lamond wasn’t overly concerned about the Proud Boys plans and includes a favorable comparison to the right-wing street-fighting group’s leftist adversaries.

“We saw this yesterday,” Lamond told his fellow officers. “He told me they are trying to go incognito this time. Even if they aren’t wearing their colors they will stick together as a group so we should be able to identify them. Not to mention they won’t be head to toe in black with makeshift shields!”

Hassan cited the Proud Boys practice of communicating with the appropriate law enforcement agencies in advance of their rallies, including a handful of events that took place in Washington, D.C. in 2020 and then on Jan. 6, 2021.

“Why would a seditious traitor planning to overthrow the government advise law enforcement of his exact plans, movements, activities, and manner of dress before the event that will forever be a taint on our great country?” Hassan wrote in a filing last month. “The answer is simple, Tarrio is innocent of the charges levied against him. He was planning a rally, as he had done countless times before, nothing more.”

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By highlighting the Proud Boys’ coordination with police, Tarrio is attempting to counter the government’s case that far-right street-fighting group actively planned an attack on the US Capitol with the purpose of obstructing Congress from certifying the electoral vote.

The government has argued that Tarrio and four codefendants charged with seditious conspiracy advanced a plan to disrupt the electoral vote certification by forming a national rally planning committee known as the MOSD, implementing a top-down structure and directing members to go incognito on Jan. 6.

The government has presented evidence that a Proud Boy leader identified as “Person 3” posted a voice note in an leaders-only encrypted chat: “I mean, the main operating theater should be out in front of the house of representatives. It should be out in front of the Capitol building. That’s where the vote is taking place and all of the objections.”

The following morning, according to the government, Tarrio responded in the chat: “I didn’t hear this voice note until now, you want to storm the Capitol.”

“Person 3 has been identified as John Charles Stewart, a Pennsylvania Proud Boy who to date has not been arrested in connection with the events of Jan. 6. Like Tarrio, Stewart was not in Washington, D.C. on Jan. 6.

A video conference held for prospective members of the new MOSD, which was released by one of the defendants earlier this year, shows that the Proud Boys attempted to implement a tighter command structure and compartmentalized information sharing in the runup to Jan. 6.

“Another question I saw today was, there was a concern about who directions were coming from,” Stewart said during the Dec. 30, 2020 videoconference. “And they could come from any single person that you see on your screen right now, as well as about seven or eight more people that you don’t see yet, because they’re obviously not on the screen. But the one thing everybody has to understand is, yes, you might be getting told things from different people, but it’ all information from the same plan. Biggs isn’t going to tell you something different than I’m going to tell you. Enrique isn’t going to tell you something different than I’m telling you. It’s one operational plan. So, don’t get hung up on the delivery.

“So, turn your brains off a little bit on trying to figure out what the big picture is, and follow the 10 guys you’re with,” Stewart said later in the meeting. “You’re gonna have a leader of those ten guys. So, handle it that way and make sure you’re tight.”