Enrique Tarrio, the former leader of the far-right Proud Boys organization, and three of his associates were found guilty of many offenses, including seditious conspiracy, for their roles in the Capitol attack on January 6, 2021.
Tarrio, Ethan Nordean, Zachary Rehl, and Joseph Biggs were found guilty by a federal jury in Washington, D.C., of conspiring to obstruct the peaceful transition of power from Donald Trump to Joe Biden as well as of using force and advanced planning to block the certification of the 2020 presidential election.
Judge Timothy Kelly remanded the jury to deliberate when they first failed to reach a judgment for the fifth defendant, Dominic Pezzola, on the most severe accusation, seditious conspiracy.
After some time, they concluded that he was not involved in the plot to obstruct but did not find him guilty of the seditious conspiracy.
They informed the judge in writing that they had reached a consensus after extensive deliberation and that they were being dismissed.
The other felonies that the five were all found guilty of were aiding and abetting the destruction of government property as well as impeding an official procedure, obstructing Congress, conspiring to prevent an officer from performing their responsibilities, obstruction of law enforcement during a civil disturbance, and obstructing law enforcement generally.
However, the jury was deadlocked on all 10 counts, and a mistrial was declared in relation to those accusations.
Tarrio was found not guilty of assaulting officers despite being taken into custody on January 4, 2021, away from the Capitol. Of those accused, only Pezzola was found guilty.
They now probably face a maximum prison term of 20 years.
In a statement on Thursday, Attorney General Merrick Garland stated that the verdict “makes clear that the Justice Department will do everything in its power to defend the American people and American democracy.”
“Today’s verdict makes clear that the Justice Department will do everything in its power to defend the American people and American democracy,” AG Merrick Garland said today. https://t.co/7VRjJwfSD8 pic.twitter.com/YV8mNOVpAV
— POLITICO (@politico) May 4, 2023
“We have secured the convictions of defendants who obstructed the certification of a presidential election, as well as the subsequent criminal investigation in the events of Jan. 6,” Garland said. “And now, after three trials, we have secured the convictions of leaders of both the Proud Boys and the Oath Keepers for seditious conspiracy, specifically conspiring to oppose by force the lawful transfer of presidential power. Our work will continue.”
According to the prosecution, the defendants planned to use illegal force against the demonstrators in Washington, D.C., to retain former President Donald Trump in power.
Investigators claim that Tarrio posted about a “civil war” soon after the election on social media and in message groups, and then said, “No Trump…No peace. No Quarter.”
According to the government, Proud Boys leaders considered themselves “a fighting force” that was “ready to commit violence” on Trump’s behalf.
On January 6, 2021, when Trump spoke at the White House Ellipse, Nordean, Rehl, Biggs, and Pezzola allegedly assembled with more than 100 Proud Boys near the Washington Monument.
They reportedly marched to the Capitol grounds and used radios to communicate.
According to the prosecution, the defendants were among the first rioters to cross police barricades to enter Capitol grounds and direct the crowd toward the building.
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Some defendants, including Pezzola, were charged with breaking Capitol windows, while others allegedly roused the crowd and broke through metal barriers and police lines to gain entry.
Tarrio was not in Washington, D.C. on January 6 because he had been detained the previous day on other charges.
Nevertheless, the Justice Department claimed that his pre-attack planning, support for the rioters during the assault, and post-attack comments were enough to convict him of seditious conspiracy.
Tarrio posted during the riot, “Make no mistake, we did this,” on social media.
“The spirit of 1776 has been resurfaced and has created groups like the Proud Boys. And we will not be extinguished,” Nordean allegedly wrote in Nov. 2020. “Hopefully the firing squads are for the traitors that are trying to steal the election from the American people,” Rehl posted.
Tarrio allegedly encouraged violence by writing on his website before January 6: “Let’s bring this new year in with one word in mind: revolt.” Later, he linked the conduct of the Proud Boys that day to those of George Washington, Sam Adams, and Benjamin Franklin in text messages.
Defense attorneys disagreed, arguing that Tarrio and others had no straightforward plot to oppose the election results or disrupt Congress and that the Proud Boys were essentially a glorified “drinking club” where men vented their rage.
According to Tarrio’s attorney, he was only exercising his constitutional rights.
“Did Enrique Tarrio make comments that were egregious? Absolutely,” Tarrio’s attorney rhetorically asked the jury in closing arguments last week. “You may not like what he said, but it is First Amendment-protected speech.”
With dozens of witnesses called by both sides and hundreds of exhibits, the trial, which started on Jan. 12, lingered into the spring.
A documentary filmmaker who followed Tarrio after the 2020 election, multiple FBI agents who looked into the case, Secret Service agents, and former Proud Boys were among the witnesses.
Only Rehl and Pezzola, two of the five defendants, gave testimony on their own behalf. Rehl claimed to be unaware of any preparations for violence and never pushed anyone to talk to the police.
The prosecution played a video of Pezzola breaking a window inside the Capitol while puffing on a “victory cigar” using a stolen police shield.
He claimed to have acted alone and been an outsider to any criminal organization. Pezzola’s attorney, Steve Metcalf referred to the prosecution’s case as a “fairy dust conspiracy.”
Former Proud Boys member Matthew Greene revealed to the jury during his testimony as a government witness that he joined the group to fight ANTIFA.
He claimed that although there had not been a direct order to violently oppose Joe Biden’s presidency, there had been a “collective expectation” that they would act if provoked.
“I can’t say it was overtly encouraged, but it was never discouraged,” Greene said of the violence, “And when it happened, it was celebrated.”
The defense questioned Greene about whether the violence on January 6 was planned after he pleaded guilty to conspiracy and entered into a cooperation arrangement with prosecutors.
The crowd, he claimed, was enraged, but the violence appeared to be “spontaneous.” Nevertheless, he stated in his testimony that on January 6, “either implicitly or overtly accepted and encouraged by the Proud Boys” the mob’s actions.
Jeremy Bertino, 43, a cooperative witness at the trial who was regarded as Tarrio’s senior subordinate, admitted guilt to seditious conspiracy last year. Bertino wasn’t at the Capitol during the attack, unlike Tarrio.
Bertino testified before the jury that the Proud Boys nearly agreed that Trump had his 2020 election results rigged as part of a larger “conspiracy.”
He claimed that the Proud Boys considered themselves the “tip of the spear” in the conflict, acting as the right’s foot troops.
And after the attack, Bertino, recovering from an injury, messaged Tarrio, “I wanted to be there to witness what I believed to be the next American revolution…I’m so proud of my country today.”
Under cross-examination, however, he also admitted to the court, “I didn’t have conversations with anybody about going into the Capitol building.” Tarrio’s attorneys questioned Bertino’s credibility during closing arguments.
They denounced Bertino as a liar and claimed his deal with the government impacted his evidence.
Conor Mulroe, the prosecutor, disputed the defense’s claim that the seditious conspiracy had to be specifically intended to be unlawful.
“A conspiracy is nothing more than an agreement with an unlawful objective,” Mulroe said of the law, “A conspiracy can be unspoken. It doesn’t have to be in writing, hashed out around the table, or even in words. It can be implicit.”
Mulr: As we explained in opening, a conspiracy is nothing more than an agreement with an unlawful objective….these defendants face multiple charges but what you’re going to see is it all boils down to 2 simple questions: what and how: What they wanted to achieve and how..
— Brandi Buchman (@Brandi_Buchman) April 24, 2023
“They were there to threaten and if necessary use force to stop the certification of the election and that is exactly what they did,” he told the jury.
The defense counsel dissented.
“If you don’t like what some of them say, that doesn’t make them guilty,” said Rehls’ attorney, Carmen Hernandez.
The trial was supposed to span a few months, but attempts to move the process along were hindered by arguments between attorneys, closed sessions, and changing court schedules.
“We’re learning to work together. We have seven very different personalities,” defense attorneys cautioned Judge Kelly in January as the trial began.
The judge sometimes looked to lose patience, especially with the defense counsel, as he tried to halt the constant interruptions, sidebars, and objections.
Last month, he struggled to get a word in edgewise with one of the defense lawyers. “For God’s sake,” he begged. During closing arguments, the judge said, “Goodness gracious,” in a frustrated tone. Days of testimony trudged along.
The decision was made less than a month before Oath Keepers leader Stewart Rhodes, who was found guilty of seditious conspiracy, will be sentenced.
He and co-defendant Kelly Meggs were convicted guilty of the high crime by a jury in Washington, D.C., but three other defendants were cleared of the accusation.
Earlier this year, four further Oath Keepers were found guilty of seditious conspiracy, despite defense counsel’s best efforts to claim that the charges were excessive and the jury in Washington, D.C. was unfairly biased.
Defense counsel frequently blamed Trump for the disturbance during the trial, bringing up the former president in their opening and closing statements.
Tarrio’s attorney, Nayib Hassan, was even more explicit, telling the jury in closing arguments that “it was Donald Trump’s words, it was his motivation, it was his anger that caused what occurred on January 6.”
“They want to use Enrique Tarrio as a scapegoat for Donald Trump and those in power,” Hassan said.
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