WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Federal prosecutors on Tuesday will ask a judge to detain former Proud Boys chairman Enrique Tarrio pending trial on a conspiracy charge for his alleged role in the Jan. 6, 2021 Capitol riots, saying they had “compelling evidence” of his guilt and fear he may try to flee or obstruct justice.
In a 21-page court filing on Monday, the Justice Department said it had damning encrypted messages exchanged between Tarrio and other Proud Boys who were invited to participate in a new chapter Tarrio created in December 2020 called the “Ministry of Self Defense” or “MOSD.”
MOSD, they said, was described by Tarrio as a “national rally planning” chapter. Several of its “hand-selected” members are facing charges as co-defendants in the case after they breached the Capitol grounds and tussled with police.
In an encrypted chat group for MOSD, one member told the others it was “time to stack those bodies in front of Capitol Hill,” prosecutors said.
Tarrio, 38, is one of the most high-profile of more than 775 people criminally charged for their roles in the attack on the Capitol by supporters of then-President Donald Trump in an effort to keep Congress from certifying Joe Biden’s election victory.
He is due to appear before a U.S. magistrate in federal court in Miami on Tuesday for his detention hearing, but his trial will be handled out of Washington, D.C.
Tarrio was not on the Capitol grounds on the day of the riot. Police arrested him on Jan. 4, 2021, for burning a Black Lives Matter banner at a historic African-American church in December 2020, a charge for which he later served four months in jail.
But prosecutors said Tarrio still maintained an active leadership role behind the scenes on Jan. 6, forcefully telling his followers on social media not to leave the Capitol, and later, in the encrypted chat, telling them: “We did this.”
After the attack on the Capitol, they said Tarrio took steps to prevent law enforcement from accessing the encrypted messages on his phone and encouraged other Proud Boys not to cooperate with police.
(Reporting by Sarah N. Lynch; Editing by Bill Berkrot)