Stewart Rhodes is in Prison. Why is Enrique Tarrio Free?

Stewart Rhodes is in Prison. Why is Enrique Tarrio Free?

Something’s Rotten in the State of Florida

On Friday, January 14th, Proud Boy Chairman Henry “Enrique” Tarrio Jr. left the DC Central Detention facility with a plastic garbage bag full of his belongings, an armful of paperwork and, as the Daily Mail tastefully pointed out, an unzipped fly.

Tarrio’s sentence ended 25 days early for reasons no one seems able to explain. The court denied his November petition for compassionate release. And yet here he is, presumably enjoying his life as a free proud western Chauvinist who refuses to apologize for creating the modern world, without a single January 6th criminal charge.

Tarrio walked free just one day after authorities arrested Oathkeepers founder and leader Eugene “Stewart” Rhodes. Rhodes and his associates face sedition charges for their January 6th plans: a fever dream of Arlington weapons caches, plots for boat crossings in case summoned by Trump, tactical golf carts, and military “stack” formations to save America from the democratic process or whatever. 

Tarrio and his “War Boys” fall far short of the standard of competence set by the Oathkeepers, a group that primarily recruits “current and formerly serving military, police, and first responders” rather than, say, that one guy who always starts shit at the bar on UFC night and then pukes on your shoes. No military formations of golf carts here, just a bunch of civilians in paramilitary gear scattered to the four winds and following their hearts (mostly into the Capitol building).

Nevertheless, the Proud Boys persisted, and no one denies they had a large role in what happened on January 6th. They recruited aggressively online. They promoted the event and raised the temperature with their violent rhetoric. The conspiracy indictment against the other Proud Boys elders alleges that the group bought paramilitary equipment and radio comms prior to J6 in order to coordinate their attack, and other Proud Individuals allegedly forced a Capitol door open, shattered a window to gain entry, and showed an interest in bomb-making. Two Proud Boys stand accused of assaulting police officers.

The Proud Boys also actively coordinated with the seditious Oathkeepers in the lead-up to January 6th. “At night we have orchestrated a plan with the Proud Boys,” Oathkeeper Kelly Meggs wrote in a Facebook message. “I’ve been communicating with [REDACTED], their leader.”

These chats, which plan grievous violence against left-wing protesters, offer evidence of coordination between the Oathkeepers and the leader of the Proud Boys–that is, Enrique Tarrio. So why is Tarrio riding off into the sunset while his fellow Proud Boys and the Oathkeepers face sedition and conspiracy charges for their January 6th activity? Rhodes did not enter the Capitol building, yet still caught a sedition charge. Why does the FBI seem to consider Tarrio’s involvement in planning January 6th beneath notice?

One possible explanation is that the FBI has simply not gotten around to charging Tarrio yet. After all, Rhodes just caught his charge a few days ago. Maybe Tarrio’s indictment is just around the corner. Maybe it’s out now, as you read this, and this entire article is an embarrassment.

But why would you allow someone you plan to arrest for a very serious crime walk free 25 days earlier than you have to?

Once you start asking questions, the questions keep coming.

Why was Tarrio Arrested?

A quick Google search will tell you that the DC police arrested Tarrio for stealing and torching a Black Lives Matter banner belonging to a historic Black church in Washington DC in December of 2020.

But here’s the thing.

Multiple news outlets caught the banner burning on film because, as I can tell you from personal experience, nothing gets a journalist harder faster than seeing something on fire. Here we have an example from Ruptly, whose cameraman lovingly captured a large non-Tarrio Proud Boy as he set the banner ablaze–a man who was never identified or charged.

A screenshot of a YouTube video, title in corner: USA: Proud Boys burn 'Black Lives Matter' banner at DC rally. On camera, a heavyset man with a brown beard, a backwards baseball cap, a plate carrier, and Proud Boys colors on his shirt kneels to light a Black Lives Matter banner on fire. He is very clearly not Enrique Tarrio. Many people surround the banner

And here we have screenshots from News2Share, which has the clearest video of the incident, where we see many Proud Boys attempting to light the banner on fire. It takes a village, I guess.

Here’s a fun game you can play at home. Which one of those pictures is Enrique Tarrio?

Is your answer “I have no idea?” Because that was everyone’s answer until Tarrio started bragging about single-handedly setting the banner ablaze and shoving proof in everyone’s face.

He bragged about it on War Boys, a Proud Boys affiliated podcast. 

"In the burning of the BLM sign, I was the one that lit it on fire. I was the person that went ahead and put the lighter to it and engulfed it in flames, and I am damn proud that I did."

To prove it, Tarrio threw up a screenshot very much like the third one from News2Share: a man holding a white cup with two points of light visible. Tarrio claimed to be the man with the cup.

I will not exhaust you with a blow-by-blow description of how the police eventually proved that Tarrio was the man with the cup. You can read about it in the deposition. I duplicated their work and yes, it’s Tarrio, and yes, there’s footage of him holding an unlit lighter, and yes, it takes three separate videos to establish that for certain and no, the police would never have figured that out if Tarrio had not told them exactly what to look for. There’s no clear footage of Tarrio using that lighter. Investigators would have identified many other people before they ever thought to wonder about Mr. White Cup. 

Just to make sure no one doubted his culpability, on December 18th, Tarrio doubled down on Parler:

“The FBI is currently the [sic] investigating a supposed 'hate crime' perpetrated by the ProudBoys…Against the wishes of my attorney I am here today to admit that I am the person responsible for the burning of this sign…

“Let me make this simple. I did it. Come get me if you feel like what I did was wrong. We'll let the public decide.”

Maybe Tarrio was trying to protect his fellow arsonists from jail time. Maybe he liked the attention. Maybe he had some other reason for wanting to be in jail. It all adds up to the same thing.

Why was Tarrio arrested?

Because he wanted to be.

Why would Tarrio Want to be Arrested?

On January 4th, DC police pulled Tarrio over in a silver Honda Crosstour. They held him overnight, then released him on January 5th on the condition that he not return to Washington DC pending trial. Tarrio adhered to the condition, and so the Chairman of the Proud Boys missed out on January 6th entirely.

When Tarrio was arrested, the Proud Boys very sensibly expected the police to search his electronic devices. So they nuked all their private Telegram channels and started a new one: “The New MOSD” (Ministry of Self Defense). All the final planning for January 6th occurred on these new channels. So Tarrio missed out on these last days of planning as well.

This, according to the FBI, was all part of the plan: proof the bureau didn’t completely fail to notice that, hey, all signs point to January 6th being maybe a violent kind of day:

“We developed some intelligence that a number of individuals were planning to travel to the D.C. area with intentions to cause violence. We immediately shared that information and action was taken, as demonstrated by the arrest of Enrique Tarrio by the Metropolitan Police Department the night before the rally. Other individuals were identified in other parts of the country and their travel subsequently disrupted.”

It is January 4th. Enrique Tarrio is in jail. His personal effects, including his laptop and cell phone, are safe and warm in the police station. The FBI knows Tarrio has been arrested, arranged for Tarrio to be arrested, in order to keep people safe. They know he is dangerous.

You’d think they’d look at the cell phone and laptop, right?

A child in a field looking at something with a magnifying glass
Image by Efraimstochter on Pixabay

You’d be wrong.

In fact, the DC Court explicitly did not issue a search warrant for Tarrio’s electronic devices. And if the FBI broke into the devices, they sure didn’t use anything they found in there for anything public, at any time, ever. Throw a rock at a Proud Boys indictment and you’ll find evidence from Ethan Nordean’s phone, which the FBI absolutely eviscerated, but nothing from Tarrio’s devices. At any point. Ever.

Even if the Proud Boys managed to nuke the chats in time, something interesting remained on Tarrio’s devices, I guarantee it. Maybe those Oathkeeper communications about coordinating attacks. Stuff like that. Tarrio is very lucky–suspiciously lucky–that the FBI never used the contents of his phone to charge him.

The really horrifying thing is: this scenario, where the FBI is too incompetent to search the cell phone of Enrique Fucking Tarrio on January the Goddamn 4th Twenty Twenty One, is the best case scenario. 

If the FBI did search Tarrio’s stuff on January 4th or 5th, that means they found things similar to what they found on Nordean’s phone just a few days later. Things they now claim in a court of law clearly show violent Proud Boy intent on January 6th. Possibly those Oathkeeper communications. God only knows what else.

Which would mean they knew…and then did nothing.

I am Once Again Asking…

So why was Enrique Tarrio arrested?

Was it to deter violence on January 6th–a threat the FBI took seriously enough to arrest Tarrio but not seriously enough to search his personal effects and act on their contents?

Or was it to give Tarrio the kind of alibi he’d need to skate past the serious charges his fellow Proud Boys now face?

Henry “Enrique” Tarrio Jr is an established FBI informant. He was an informant in 2014, when he helped various agencies bust illegal gambling rings and growhouses. He informed the FBI of Proud Boy march routes and also gave them “information about Antifa” during his time as chairman. 

Who knows what other kind of informing Tarrio did during his 4 years in the Proud Boys?

“Your Honor, frankly, in all the years, which is now more than 30, that I've been doing this, I've never had a client as prolific in terms of cooperating in any respect.”

-Jeffrey E. Feiler, Esq., 2014

A picture of Enrique Tarrio in sunglasses and a suit, sitting in a crowd. He is wearing body armor under his suit jacket and a very official-looking communications device is strapped to it
Detail from “Enrique Tarrio and the Proud Boys at Virginia 2nd Amendment Rally (2020 Jan)” by Anthony Crider from Flickr (CC BY 2.0)

The timing of Tarrio’s arrest allowed the chairman to actively steer the group’s mission leading up to January 6th, then conveniently distanced him from both the final planning and the action itself. Just enough, perhaps, to give him plausible deniability and allow him to escape charges.

The extremely elementary and obvious step of searching Tarrio’s cell phone would almost certainly help the FBI prosecute other Proud Boys, but it would also likely reveal enough information to indict Tarrio. Incredibly convenient for Tarrio that they passed on this low-hanging fruit.

Tarrio only served 30 days for burning the Asbury UMS banner. He served the rest of his time for the two 20-round AR-15 magazines the police found when they searched his car. Had he been less careless, Tarrio could have spent a month in jail and then walked free, away from the absolute shitshow of January 6th with a watertight alibi and unmolested cell phone, ready to join some other group of special interest to three-letter agencies.

But Tarrio was careless, and so he spent four months in prison instead of 30 days. And now, for reasons no one has been able to explain to me, he walks free, nearly a month earlier than his sentence demands. In all likelihood, he is in Miami right now, drunk as fuck and having a great time while his fellow Proud Boys languish under home detention. 

Who knows, right? Maybe Tarrio catches charges tomorrow. Maybe the FBI has some kind of grand master plan, maybe they’re giving him enough rope to hang himself, etc. Maybe Tarrio’s devices had such good encryption that the FBI couldn’t crack it in time.

Or maybe January 6th was a lot more preventable than the FBI would like us to believe.

Either way, Fred Perry polo aficionados might want to ponder just how proud they should be of their boy.

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