The Valentine’s Day Massacre: How DOJ Lost Lucas Denney and Found Enrique Tarrio

The biggest publicly known fuck-up of the January 6 investigation thus far is when DOJ lost Lucas Denney. He’s the self-described President of the North Texas Patriot Boys. He was arrested in December with Donald Hazard and charged in another militia-related conspiracy.

Their conspiracy is interesting for several reasons:

  • Denney paid Hazard’s way to DC via fundraising that picked up after Trump announced the rally
  • At least as Denney told it, they coordinated with the Proud Boys
  • They did relatively more to arm themselves than other militias (and appeared relatively more focused on brawling with cops)
  • Denney was palling around with Ted Cruz during the summer

Hazard was charged for wrestling with some cops on the stairs under the scaffolding, which ended up knocking out one of them. Denney was grappling with cops for some time, and ultimately had a hand in pulling Michael Fanone into the crowd.

DENNEY then turned towards Officer M.F., swung his arm and fist at M.F., and grabbed M.F., pulling him farther down the stairs, as depicted below. DENNEY then himself fell backwards into the crowd. In the images below, DENNEY is circled in red; Officer M.F. is circled in yellow.

The FBI started investigating these guys from day one. By April, the government had obtained both men’s Facebook accounts. They were finally arrested on December 13. He was ordered detained by a magistrate judge in Texas. It took the Marshals until January 31 to get him to DC.

Just days earlier, Denney’s case had been moved from AUSA Benet Kearney to Jennifer Rozzoni. Between some confusion about when Denney’s initial appearance in DC would be, the shift of prosecutors, and the crushing schedule that both John Pierce and Rozzoni have, they simply never got his initial appearance scheduled. Around then, William Shipley, the far more competent attorney who does the actual lawyering for the Pierce boondoggle, joined the case and immediately started filing for release based on how long DOJ had left him sitting in DC.

On March 7, DOJ obtained a one count assault indictment against Denney alone based on his assault of a different cop, not Fanone, mooting some of the legal basis for his release. Then Shipley, thinking he was getting cute, advised his client to plead guilty to that charge as a way to stave off all the other conspiracy charges he was facing. As a result, Denney pled guilty right away to an assault charge that could get him 71 months. While his exposure on January 6 is probably eliminated with the guilty plea, it’s not for any plotting he did afterwards.

When he pled, Rozzoni was very careful to enter into the record how much of discovery Denney’s attorneys had seen and what they may not have when advising him to plead.

Losing Denney — a very-well connected militia member accused of assaulting cops — was a colossal mistake, though Shipley’s tactics saved the government from having to release him. It seemed, at the time, to be a symptom of just how overloaded the January 6 investigation has made DOJ.

And while that’s surely part of it, subsequent events make it clear that something else was going on at the time.

First, some details about grand juries. When the government is charging people with misdemeanors, they don’t need to get an indictment from a grand jury. But felonies require presenting the evidence to a grand jury.

When grand juries expire, DOJ can’t just tell a new grand jury about what the other grand jury did. They have to present all the evidence anew.

When people have asked whether DOJ will open a grand jury to investigate Trump, I have responded that they already had a grand jury. In fact, I noted, they had used at least five by the turn of the year. But as my lists below make clear, not all those grand juries were the same. Virtually every single important case — all the conspiracies, all the most important assault cases (both for import of victim or size), and most of the other cases — were presented to a grand jury seated on January 8, two days after the riot. (These lists are very incomplete but I will update them going forward.)

Most spectacularly, the relentless Oath Keepers conspiracy kept going back to the same grand jury superseding the initial charges, on February 19, 2021 (S1), on March 12 (S2), on March 31 (S3), on May 26 (S4). Then they started flipping people. Then they kept superseding, on August 4 (S5), on December 1 (S6), until, on January 12, 2022, just 369 days after the grand jury started investigating, the case split into several interlocked conspiracies, one of them charging Stewart Rhodes and others with seditious conspiracy. On March 2, DOJ got their first guilty plea to seditious conspiracy, from Joshua James, who not only knew what Rhodes was doing the day of the riot, but also knew (and reported back on) what Roger Stone was doing.

But even while that grand jury was marching relentlessly towards charging Rhodes with sedition, it was also charging the majority of hundreds of other January 6 defendants.

The Proud Boy march has not been that focused. While all the initial Proud Boy conspiracies were charged by the same group of anonymous private citizen who would ultimately charge Rhodes with sedition, when necessary, DOJ would use another grand jury with the Proud Boys as well. The Front Door conspiracy was first superseded by a January 11 grand jury (which might be the regularly seated one, but which picked up a lot of the flood in that period). When DOJ superseded Nick DeCarlo’s conspiracy with Nick Ochs, they used a grand jury seated on November 10.

The government seemed to use a regular May 25 and August 11 for similar necessities. But when the government wanted to charge Ronnie Sandlin and Nate DeGrave in a conspiracy, they waited for months — from April until September, a month and a half after Josiah Colt had flipped on them — to present it to that January 8 grand jury.

Oh shit, now I’ve forgotten about Lucas Denney, just like DOJ did.

The point I’m trying to make is that, for that relentless year while that grand jury was finalizing the sedition charges, it also charged almost all major January 6 felonies. That group of two dozen anonymous Americans saw all of this.

Until the Enrique Tarrio indictment. The indictment against the Proud Boy head obtained on March 7 was from a new grand jury, one seated on Valentine’s Day. The same grand jury from which DOJ got their last minute single count indictment against Denney.

I’m still testing this, but it appears that after its non-stop year of indicting insurrectionists, the last thing the January 8 grand jury may have done was charge the seditious conspiracy. Before February 14, other January 6 indictments (MacCracken, AJ Fischer, and Bilyard, for example) were handled by the August 11 grand jury. Then after February 14, new January 6 indictments (like Beddingfield, Johnson, and Bingham) were done by the November 10 grand jury.

Until March 7, when that February 14 grand jury started indicting people, starting with Enrique Tarrio.

The period when DOJ lost Lucas Denney appears to be the three-week period when DOJ was shifting from the January 8, 2021 grand jury to the February 14, 2022 grand jury.

DOJ ended their first grand jury with sedition. They opened their second grand jury with Tarrio — who may or may not have known about the riot before Trump announced it.

Update, May 6: In response to a Zach Rehl request for the exhibits the government will use in its case in chief against the Proud Boys, DOJ points to what must be how they read over the evidence from the one grand jury to the other:

In the meantime, the government has turned over information and materials that provide a clear roadmap regarding the government’s anticipated case-in-chief. Specifically, following the return of the Second Superseding indictment, the government turned over to defense counsel a 160-page grand jury transcript, with exhibits, and a detailed 96-slide PowerPoint presentation containing the evidence supporting the charges against the defendants.

January 8

  • All Oath Keeper
  • Proud Boy Leader
  • DeCarlo
  • Kuehne (KC Proud Boy)
  • Klein (North Door Proud Boy)
  • Pezzola (Front Door Proud Boy)
  • Hostetter (3% SoCal)
  • Rodriguez (SoCal Anti-Mask)
  • Sandlin (disorganized conspiracy)
  • Munchel
  • Khater (Sicknick)
  • Sibick (Fanone)
  • McCaughey (all)
  • Sabol
  • Horning (Jacob Hiles’ co-defendant, so tied to Riley)

January 11

May 25

August 11

November 10

February 14

37 replies
  1. eyesoars says:

    Nits (feel free to ignore, act on, and/or remove this note):

    “charing” -> charging
    “incompletely” -> incomplete
    “Shipley’s” -> Shipley ?
    “The opened their second” -> they opened their second

  2. Zirc says:

    “When [Denney] pled, Rozzoni was very careful to enter into the record how much of discovery Denney’s attorneys had seen and what they may not have when advising him to plead.

    Given DoJ’s misplacing of Denney and his subsequent plea deal, could you please explain the import of Rozzoni’s actions?


      • Zirc says:

        Thank you. I gathered that. What I don’t know is why Rozzoni read the discovery into the record. I assume legal checking of boxes was in play, but I don’t know enough to know. What opportunities would have been lost had she not done so?


        • emptywheel says:

          They can charge Denney for things he did after January 6. She was making it sure that his lawyers hadn’t waited to see everything before he pled.

  3. Ginevra diBenci says:

    “When he pled, Rozzoni was very careful to enter into the record how much of discovery Denney’s attorneys had seen and what they may not have when advising him to plead.”

    I’ve been obsessed with what defense attorneys might be accessing through discovery, not just with Capitol rioters but with a potential indictment of Meadows. I’m wondering if the Denney slip-up and his resulting plea yielded him a lesser discovery trove than Shipley, Pierce & Co. would have gotten if Denney had faced all the charges. (I am assuming that defense lawyers with many clients are exploiting any/all discovery for all their clients.)

    • emptywheel says:

      Yes. I believe it did.

      One interesting thing is that Hazard was charged by the November 10 GJ. Probably, Denney would have been along with Hazard. Or maybe not. Maybe they’re interested in his comms with Ted Cruz.

      • Ginevra diBenci says:

        It sure jumped out at me that Cruz would be “palling around” with someone of Denney’s apparent ilk. I would’ve expected Cruz’s acquired-to-the-point-of-reflexive elitism to kick in–or at least some atavistic instinct for self-preservation.

        I’ll look forward to seeing what, if anything, we learn from these legal wranglings. (By which I mean, of course, what we learn from *you* about these wranglings. I’ve found nothing like this reporting elsewhere. Thank you.)

  4. The Old Redneck says:

    who not only knew what Rhodes was doing the day of the riot, but also knew (and reported back on) what Roger Stone was.
    “was doing.” (?)

  5. Thomas says:

    Great analysis and documentation. The news media are overpaid gossips compared to your efforts. Do you have interns? Proteges?

    I wish I could help you, but I am disabled and retired.

  6. obsessed says:

    I’ve been following these posts much more easily this year, but this one is confusing me. I’m not grasping the “lost and found” analogy. The post starts by introducing the concept that DOJ screwed up by “losing” Denney. Then it paints a damning picture of how horrible and interconnected this guy is, making him even more emotionally compelling by linking him to Fanone, probably the most human face of the whole tragedy. Then the description of Denney’s lawyer Shipley’s strategy:

    Then Shipley, thinking he was getting cute, advised his client to plead guilty to that charge as a way to stave off all the other conspiracy charges he was facing. As a result, Denney pled guilty right away to an assault charge that could get him 71 months. While his exposure of January 6 is probably eliminated, it’s not for any plotting he did afterwards.

    I read this to mean that Denney is: in custody and facing a 5+ year sentence, but it also seems to imply that it’s no longer possible to get him to cooperate in return for a shorter sentence, and no longer possible to charge him for additional crimes, especially his role in the assaults on Fanone. How does that work? 71 months seems like a lot of bargaining power. Why is Denney’s exposure probably eliminated?

    Turning to the “finding” of Tarrio (not grasping that part of the analogy very well either), does it look like he’ll be similar to Rhodes in terms of not being likely to flip? And how likely is it that the many who have flipped will make the heat unbearable on these two, e.g., get them well into double digits in terms of their likely effective sentences after taking parole etc. into consideration? Seems like some version of “everybody has their price” has to kick in such that even these dead-enders aren’t willing to do the time. Of course, they’re probably assuming Trump will find his way back to the White House and pardon them. If the 2nd impeachment had at least gone through with barring him from holding office again I imagine a lot more of these guys would have flipped by now. To me, that’s the biggest mistake in the game plan. Until Trump and the pardon pen are forever split asunder, these guys will see a big asterisk on every perceived sentence.

    • Silly but True says:

      Denney’s Constitutional right was violated. When “lost” is written, it literally means that DoJ had him arrested and locked up but then forgot to tell the court why, much less charge him with any crime.

      Denney’s 6th & 14th Amdt. Rights were then violated, and much less Speedy Trial Act statutory requirements for bringing federal cases which was intended to protect those rights.

      Te trade off was this, Denney’s Jan. 6 crimes could have put him away for more than 20 years. He lucked out at getting 70, and may likely get less.

      It was a _really_ big screw up, because he was one of the bad ones; one of the guys who assaulted a Capitol Police officer, multiple, in fact.

      While one hates to put it this way, “luckily,” Denney was so bad a guy that he assaulted so many cops on Jan. 6, DoJ could let the ones they knew about go and could still get him in jail for as long as 71 mos. for ones they didn’t originally go after him for.

    • Leoghann says:

      Good questions, which others have asked as well. I’m hoping Marcy will roll through and answer some of them. But there was one minor point I can clarify.

      Since the late 80’s, there as been no Federal parole as such, except for those who had already been convicted when the law went into effect (1987?). At the same time, sentencing guidelines came into effect that pretty much did away with federal defendants getting draconian, life ending sentences that might be reduced to a few years, depending on the parole board.

      Instead, what used to be the parole period, which was always questionable, has been made into part of the sentence. You may have noticed most defendants have been handed sentences that read, “xxx months (or days) in an FCI and xxx months (or years) of supervised release.” That supervised release, which can be revoked or modified if release conditions aren’t followed, is basically what took the place of federal parole.

      That takes some guesswork and attempted clairvoyance out of the picture for both defendants and prosecutors, because any plea deal is exactly what it says, without a nebulous hope of parole. Of course, judges don’t have to follow the prosecution’s recommendations, but sentencing guidelines are still in place.

  7. Cosmo Le Cat says:

    Another great article.

    Can Lucas Denney now be subpoenaed by one or more grand juries? Can his records be obtained? Without criminal exposure, would he be unable to plead the 5th?

    More generally, when defendants plead guilty without a cooperation agreement, can they be forced to cooperate?

  8. Eureka says:

    “Oh shit” —

    Cross-stitch that.

    Many highlight your closing paras, and while they are great my fav instead is your middle movement at the heart.

      • Eureka says:

        DO IT DO IT.

        I have a fondness for hardcore shit in sentimental dress.

        Someday I will get me one of the mini-loomed Philly Special play cross-stitches.

        • Rayne says:

          You need to look up ‘sweary embroidery’ on Pinterest for all the hardcore in stitchery.
          photo by E Davis (emidav92 via Pinterest)
          Should probably cross-stitch Marcy’s opening line: “The biggest publicly known fuck-up of the January 6 investigation thus far…”

        • Eureka says:

          If you do, throw some italics on publicly known … [ugh]

          I’ve seen a bunch of that embroidery style on etsy — where many of the shops are on strike (closed) this week due to corporate’s change in fee policies (I imagine that in itself has some hands-and-machines humming with fresh lines).

        • civil says:

          If you’re not familiar with the Profanity Embroidery Group in the UK, they’re worth checking out:

      • Leoghann says:

        For a wedding gift about a year ago, my nephew and his new wife received a pair throw pillows, color coordinated with their living room furniture, on which are beautifully embroidered “fuck” and “this.”

      • Eureka says:

        LOL I just saw your tweet hosting the image, now I get why the (c).

        I love the pixelly color array & font.

        Extra-double toucan DO IT.

  9. Leoghann says:

    In related, semi-conspiratorial news, Thomas Robertson, the Rocky Mount cop-turned-insurrectionist, is found guilty of all five counts.

  10. harpie says:

    Some info from these two articles:

    Exclusive: White House aide [ZIEGLER] relayed information from Giuliani research team to Trump during campaign to overturn 2020 election April 11, 2022
    CNN Exclusive: ‘We control them all’: Donald Trump Jr. texted Meadows ideas for overturning 2020 election before it was called April 8, 2022

    – NAVARRO aide, Garrett ZIEGLER works on “reports touting “the Trump economic record” in sectors like mining and manufacturing in swing states.”

    “Following in the footsteps of his older cousin Ron Ziegler, onetime press secretary for President Richard Nixon, Garrett Ziegler landed an internship at the White House as a college student in 2017. He joined NAVARRO’s staff in 2019.

    10/XX/20 Michael TRIMARCO is analyzing the contents of Hunter BIDEN’s laptop for GIULIANI. Lawyer Howard KLEINHENDLER allows him to come by his law office to print out pages from the device.

    [paraphrased] TRIMARCO is a Long Island businessman with a background in finance and tech, whose family is politically connected in NY. He claims in March 2022 that “the feds are coming after me” related to a matter involving CAMBRIDGE ANALYTICA, and that GIULIANI is representing him.

    In 2018, KLEINHENDLER represented TRIMARCO in a lawsuit against Dish Network scion Chase Ergen. A Fast Company story linked CAMBRIDGE ANALYTICA to members of the Ergen family, who own Dish Network, and court records indicate that TRIMARCO was involved in marketing and distribution work for Dish Network in 2010.

    11/3/20 ELECTION
    “Around 11/3/20” GIULIANI is working out of the TRUMP Hotel
    11/4/20 TRUMP Energy Secretary Rick PERRY texts MEADOWS:
    Here’s an AGGRESSIVE STRATEGY: Why can t (sic) the states of GA NC PENN and other R controlled state houses declare this is BS (where conflicts and election not called that night) and just send their own electors to vote and have it go to the SCOTUS.

    CNN: A spokesman for Perry told CNN at the time that the former Energy secretary denies being the author of the text. However, multiple people who know Rick Perry previously confirmed to CNN that the phone number the committee has associated with that text message is Perry’s number.

    9:12 AM TRUMP Tweets: STOP THE COUNT!
    “Minutes before” 12:51 PM Conservative radio host Mark LEVIN tweets an idea similar to JUNIOR DON’s [below], and that state legislatures have final say on electors.
    12:51 PM JUNIOR DON text to MEADOWS:
    “It’s very simple” [] “We have multiple paths We control them all.” [] “We have operational control Total leverage” [] “Moral High Ground POTUS must start 2nd term now.” [] [secretaries of state should] “step in” [] [forward separate slates of ] “Trump electors” [] “Republicans control Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, Michigan, North Carolina etc we get Trump electors” [] “Republicans control 28 states Democrats 22 states” [] “Once again Trump wins.” [] “We either have a vote WE control and WE win OR it gets kicked to Congress 6 January 2021.” []

    Trump Jr. ends his November 5 text by calling for a litany of personnel moves to solidify his father’s control over the government by putting loyalists in key jobs and initiate investigations into the Biden family. [] “Fire Wray; Fire Fauci” [] [JUNIOR] proposes making former acting Director of National Intelligence Ric GRENELL interim head of the FBI and having […] BARR “select Special prosecutor on HardDrivefromHell Biden crime family.”

    – KERIK and GIULIANI set up shop at the Mandarin Oriental hotel

    [Approx.] 11/5/20 The WESTIN Hotel in Arlington, Va. serves as the initial hub for the teams collecting affidavits to support the legal challenges. [POWELL, FLYNN, BYRNE, TRIMARCO, KLEINHENDLER] TRIMARCO pays for the rooms.

    Patrick BYRNE: “All of this would have fallen apart on that side of the river had it not been for [Trimarco] showing up and not just with a credit card, but trying to provide some adult supervision” [] “He’s a real champion, and the MAGA crowd should know that when push came to shove, this fellow came up out of nowhere and was very valuable in helping corral all these forces and keep things from just spinning apart in the early days.”

    11/7/20 AP calls election for BIDEN
    “shortly after” the election Meeting of the WESTIN TEAM, including KLEINHENDLER, POWELL, retired Army Col. Phil WALDRON and Texas businessman Russell RAMSLAND. WALDRON and RAMSLAND explained “their theories on how the system was hacked.”

    Mid-November 2020
    – POWELL, FLYNN, and BYRNE decamp from the WESTIN to Lin WOOD’s TOMOTLEY [South Carolina]
    -WESTIN TEAM-2 remains. ZIEGLER is often at WESTIN; he calls Team-2 “cyber-patriots”
    – ZIEGLER and three OTHER NAVARRO AIDES begin compiling what will become “The NAVARRO Report”, which TRUMP quotes in his 12/19/20 “Be there, will be wild!” tweet.
    ZIEGLER: “We prepared — Peter gave direction,” [] “He laid it out, what his vision was. And our job was to get the first draft.” While gathering “information” for NAVARRO’s “report,” ZIEGLER works with a team that “reports directly to GIULIANI” to get information to TRUMP.

    Ziegler was working so closely with the team at the Westin that information often reached Trump before it reached [TRIMARCO] [] “Garrett [ZIEGLER] would give it to Peter [NAVARRO], and Peter would give it to the president [TRUMP], and then it would circle back to Rudy.[GIULIANI]”]

    – ZIEGLER assists POWELL, FLYNN et al to get “craziest” WH meeting w/ TRUMP, who later calls GIULIANI to be there.
    – KERIK and GIULIANI move their operation from TRUMP Hotel to WILLARD

    3/XX/22 ZIEGLER is invited to speak with the staff of the J6 Committee

  11. harpie says:

    Steven MILES, 39 [FLA] and Matthew LEBRUN, 33 [NOLA]

    Florida Man Arrested on Charges For Assault on Law Enforcement Officers During Jan. 6 Capitol Breach Defendant Accused of Shoving Officers, Using Wooden Plank to Smash Window of Senate Wing Door
    4:15 PM · Apr 13, 2022

    Feds apprehend an alleged January 6th window breaker and his accomplice who wore a 3%-er patch to the attempted coup. [Link] [PHOTO]

    Here’s the Warrant:

    LeBRUN was in touch with “Defendant-1”, also charged in the attack.

    • harpie says:

      16. According to LEBRUN’s text messages with Defendant-1, at approximately 4:23 a.m., on January 6, 2021, [1/6/21 4:23 AM] LEBRUN alerted Defendant-1 that he “got called to respond to antifa in freedom plaza. Supposedly they busted a woman in the face. Going to meet up with some guys now.”

    • harpie says:

      27. After briefly walking through the Capitol building, MILES and LEBRUN exited through the Senate Carriage Door. See Images 20 – 22. [pdf19/24]

      • harpie says:

        I’m pretty sure this is the door I’ve been calling the NE Carriage Door. It’s where I think Joe BIGGS left the building.

        I think BIGGS can be seen in Image 21, just behind MILES at 2:16 PM

        BIGGS entered in the same location/time as these guys at 2:14 PM

    • harpie says:

      Named people who “marched with” MILES [Fla] and LEBRUN [NOLA] are
      1] Zachary JOHNSON [Fla]
      2] Dion RAJEWSKI [Fla]
      3] Alan FISCHER III [Fla]

      [fn2 On February 9, 2022, Johnson, Fischer and Rajewski were charged by superseding indictment, in case number 22-CR-11, with violations of 18 U.S.C. §§ 231(a)(3), 1752(a)(1), (2) and (4) and 40 U.S.C. § 5103(e)(2). Johnson was also charged with a violation of 18 U.S.C. § 111(a)(1) and (b). Fischer was also charged with violations of 18 U.S.C. § 111(a)(1) and (b) and 40 U.S.C. § 5104(e)(2)(F). All of these charges relate to the attack on the Capitol.

      The Indictment from GW Program on Extremism does NOT seem to include FISCHER:

      The only document they have for FISCHER is the criminal complaint:

  12. harpie says:

    The other day I was trying to think through some PB cases:

    I think there may be some info in the arrest warrant for Alan FISCHER III [link in next comment] where DOJ speaks of a CERTAIN “Proud Boys Group”

    Certain Proud Boys’ Conduct at and Around the Capitol on January 6, 2021
    16. On January 6, 2021, individuals that agents have identified as a group of people that hold themselves out as Proud Boys (the “Proud Boys Group”) were observed on the east side of the U.S. Capitol. Also, on January 6, 2021, the Proud Boys Group was observed marching at the front of a group of individuals on Constitution Avenue, Northwest, in the area around First Street, Northwest. The Proud Boys Group was engaged in various chants and response calls, including “F*** Antifa!” and “Whose streets? Our streets!”

    17. The Proud Boys Group then stopped at or around 12:15p.m. [12:15 PM], near Second Street and Constitution Avenue, NW, near some food trucks, before making their way to the west side of the outer secure perimeter surrounding the Capitol grounds on First St, NW.

    18. […] Fischer marched with the Proud Boys Group. […]

    Second Street and Constitution Avenue, NW is further away [WEST] from the Capitol than the BIGGS, DONOHOE, REHL group had been shown to be. And the timing may be just right for this Group to end up at the Peace Monument around 12:53 PM, depending on how long they “stopped” there.

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