Judge grants default judgment against Proud Boys for ignoring DC church’s civil suit

A D.C. Superior Court judge has granted a default judgment against the Proud Boys for ignoring the lawsuit filed by a church whose Black Lives Matter sign was defaced during a Dec. 12 demonstration in the nation’s capital.

The judge, however, granted Proud Boys leader Henry “Enrique” Tarrio more time to respond to the church’s suit against him.

Lawyers for Metropolitan African Methodist Episcopal Church had asked Judge Heidi Pasichow to grant default judgments against both Proud Boys International LLC and Tarrio for failing to respond to the complaint served upon Tarrio and the group in early January.

During a virtual hearing, Tarrio appeared by phone, and addressed Pasichow:

“Your honor, I’m here representing myself. I’m getting counsel for myself. I don’t know if you know this, your honor, but I have a criminal case pending. I’m afraid anything I would say in the civil case would affect my criminal case — I don’t know how to respond,” Tarrio said.

Tarrio, the leader of the far-right extremist group, was arrested ahead of protests planned by supporters of then-President Donald Trump, dubbed the Million MAGA March.

He later acknowledged participating in the defacing of the church’s flag. He was also charged with two felony counts for possessing empty high-capacity gun magazines. He is due to appear in the criminal case June 8.

Pasichow told Tarrio: “Your representation regarding PBI has been digested. Your concern for the criminal matter pending is certainly an appropriate response for you. I will give you a chance to get counsel and respond.”

The judge told Tarrio he can continue to represent himself, if he wants: “That is up to you.”

But Pasichow made it clear that if Tarrio represents himself, he must be responsive: “Your answer must be filed sooner, rather than later. Time is of the essence.”

“Even if you don’t have a lawyer, there needs to be a responsive pleading. There will be consequences in terms of your liability, if you don’t move this along,”

Pasichow granted the plaintiff’s motion for a default judgment against Proud Boys International, LLC: “I will hold in abeyance the motion regarding Mr. Tarrio, and set one more date.”

Tarrio acknowledged he understood Pasichow.

It’s unclear what penalty, if any, will be imposed on the Proud Boys group.

The lawsuit seeks unspecified compensatory damages “to compensate Metropolitan AME for the property and emotional damage caused by the Defendants.” It also asks any future relief include “stating that the Defendants have committed crimes that were motivated by bias under the D.C. Bias-Related Crime Act.”

Before Friday’s hearing, the church’s filing included an interview Tarrio conducted with the Washington Times, in which he called the suite “frivolous and ridiculous.”

“To be honest with you, I don’t care,” Tarrio told the Times. “They’re not going to get anything out of me. If they want to parade this win, that’s fine.”

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Neal Augenstein

Neal Augenstein has been a reporter at WTOP since 1997. Through the years, Neal has covered many of the crimes and trials that have gripped the region. Neal's been pleased to receive awards over the years for hard news, feature reporting, use of sound and sports.

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