The leader of the far-right Proud Boys pleaded guilty Monday to two misdemeanors stemming from his conduct in Washington, DC, amid violent pro-Donald Trump protests in December.
Enrique Tarrio appeared in DC Superior Court to plead guilty to property destruction for burning a Black Lives Matter banner that belonged to a historic Black church in DC. He also pleaded guilty to attempted possession of a high-capacity magazine, a violation of local gun control laws.
He will be sentenced next month and could face up to one year in jail, though defendants rarely get the maximum penalty. The charges were filed in local DC court and are separate from the sprawling federal investigation into the January 6 Capitol insurrection – during which dozens of Proud Boys stormed the building and have since been charged with conspiracy and other crimes.
“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 that Tarrio signed Monday.
Tarrio wasn’t near the Capitol that day because he was arrested earlier that week on the local weapons and property destruction charges, and ordered to stay out of DC. Federal authorities later said his arrested was intentionally choreographed to keep him off the streets on January 6.
There is no indication in the deal that Tarrio is cooperating with the insurrection investigation against members of the Proud Boys. (He previously acknowledged that he was an informant for the FBI and other agencies after he was convicted in a federal fraud case roughly a decade ago.)
During a brief hearing on Monday, Tarrio claimed he didn’t know that the Black Lives Matter banner belonged to a church, the historic Asbury United Methodist Church in downtown DC.
“If I had known that the banner came from a church, it wouldn’t have been burned,” Tarrio told Judge Harold Cushenberry. “I would never consider doing anything to a church myself.”
He has previously said he was “damn proud” that he burned the Black Lives Matter banner.
The incident occurred after a rally in support of Trump and his efforts to overturn the results of the 2020 election. There were violent clashes and stabbings in the streets of DC after that protest, in what many now see as a precursor to January 6.
This story has been updated with additional details.