Proud Boys leader pleads guilty to burning Black Lives Matter flag at DC church

Henry “Enrique” Tarrio, 36, is chairman of the far-right Proud Boys group.
Henry “Enrique” Tarrio, 36, is chairman of the far-right Proud Boys group. | YouTube/ WPLG Local 10

Henry “Enrique” Tarrio, the Afro-Cuban international chairman of the far-right Proud Boys group arrested in January for the burning of a Black Lives Matter banner at a historic Washington, D.C., church, pleaded guilty Monday to two misdemeanors. 

"If I had known that the banner came from a church, it wouldn't have been burned," Tarrio told Judge Harold Cushenberry of the destroyed banner that belonged to the historic Asbury United Methodist Church in downtown D.C., CNN reports. "I would never consider doing anything to a church myself." 

Tarrio entered guilty pleas in the D.C. Superior Court for burning the Black Lives Matter banner during a rally last December as well as attempted possession of a high-capacity magazine, a violation of local gun control laws.

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The 37-year-old Proud Boys leader was arrested two days before supporters of President Donald Trump stormed the U.S. Capitol building on January 6.

Tarrio was found with high-capacity firearm magazines at the time of his arrest and was banned until June from entering the District of Columbia, with minimal exceptions to meet with his attorney or appear in court.

The court order banning him from Washington, D.C., also prevented him from participating in pro-Trump events.

However, he went on to praise the storming of the Capitol on the social networking website Parler and promised legal support to any member of his group arrested for their role in the riot.

He faces a maximum sentence of up to one year in jail when he appears before the court again next month. Tarrio signed a plea agreement on Monday.

"Nothing in this plea agreement is intended to prevent the government from bringing different, additional charges against your client based on his conduct on January 6, 2021, or at any other time," prosecutors wrote in the four-page plea deal, according to CNN.

Paul A. Hodgkins, who pleaded guilty last month to obstruction of an official proceeding before Congress, was the first person sentenced for storming the Capitol on Jan. 6 in a bid to stop the certification of the Electoral College vote. He was sentenced to eight months in prison Monday. 

Judge Randolph D. Moss said while there needed to be “severe consequences” for the Jan. 6 riot, Hodgkins, a 38-year-old crane operator from Florida, was a first-time offender.

"Although Mr. Hodgkins was only one member of a larger mob, he actively and intentionally participated in an event that threatened not only the security of the Capitol but democracy itself," Moss was quoted as saying. 

"Because of the actions of Mr. Hodgkins and others that day, members of U.S. Congress were forced to flee their respective chambers. I think it's worth pausing for a moment to think about that — that is an extraordinary event under any circumstances that the members of the United States Congress are forced to flee the building fearing for their physical safety."

Hodgkins said he was "truly remorseful and regretful" for his role in the attack on the Capitol.

"I say this not because I face consequence, but because of the damage that day's incident caused, the way this country that I love has been hurt," he was quoted as telling the court, according to NPR. "This was a foolish decision on my part that I take full responsibility for.”

Five people died during or after the U.S. Capitol riot.

An unarmed U.S. Air Force veteran was shot by an officer while trying to climb through a smashed door pane into the House chamber. Three others who died include a woman trampled by the crowd who was ruled to have died from a drug overdose and two people who died of heart failure. Capitol Police officer Brian Sicknick, who was reportedly pepper-sprayed during the riot, was ruled to have died of natural causes the next day after suffering strokes. 

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