Proud Boys leaders found guilty of January 6 conspiracy
Four leaders of the right-wing organization Proud Boys have been convicted of seditious conspiracy for their alleged role in masterminding the riot at the US Capitol on January 6, 2021.
Chairman Enrique Tarrio, Philadelphia chapter leader Zachary Rehl, Joe Biggs, and Ethan Nordean each face up to 20 years in prison after being found guilty by a Washington, DC federal jury on Thursday of trying to prevent the peaceful transfer of presidential power.
Jurors failed to reach a decision on conspiracy charges regarding a fifth defendant, Proud Boys neophyte Dominic Pezzola. All five were found guilty of obstructing Congress, felony civil disorder, and destroying government property.
A sixth Proud Boy, Jeremy Bertino, pleaded guilty to lesser charges and testified that his comrades wanted a “revolution” and were working to stop then-president-elect Joe Biden from assuming the role of commander-in-chief.
Tarrio, whom prosecutors described as the “leader of the conspiracy to stop the certification” of Biden as president, was not actually present at the Capitol on January 6, having been arrested just days before for possession of high-capacity rifle magazines and subsequently ordered to stay out of Washington until his trial date. However, the message he sent from his Baltimore hotel room the night of the riot – “make no mistake, we did this” – along with a plan to amass a crowd in Washington and storm government buildings found in his email inbox were presented as evidence of his guilt.
The five defendants had talked of keeping Trump in power “by any means necessary including force” in messages obtained by the FBI. Defense lawyers dismissed this – and their post-riot boasts – as mere “locker room talk.”
The FBI has claimed that Tarrio was arrested in order to prevent the events of January 6, and the Proud Boys leader has a lengthy history as a federal informant, lending credibility to persistent rumors that federal agents-provocateurs had agitated the riot.
Over 1,000 people have been charged in relation to the events of January 6, but just 14 have been convicted of seditious conspiracy, including the four Proud Boys. The riot began as a protest against the certification of the 2020 electoral vote for Democrat Joe Biden and devolved into anarchy after some protesters rushed the barricades surrounding the Capitol.
While footage from inside the building released earlier this year countered the prevailing depiction of the day’s events as a violent armed insurrection, violent clashes between protesters and police did occur, leaving four demonstrators dead. Former President Donald Trump was impeached – but not convicted – for allegedly inciting the violence.