In a landmark verdict, a jury in Washington convicted four members of the far-right Proud Boys group, including its former leader Enrique Tarrio, of seditious conspiracy on May 4.
This marked a significant victory for the U.S. Justice Department in its pursuit of criminal charges against over 1,000 individuals involved in the infamous Capitol attack on January 6, 2021.
Tarrio and fellow Proud Boys members Ethan Nordean, Joseph Biggs, and Zachary Rehl were found guilty of seditious conspiracy, a rarely prosecuted charge stemming from the Civil War era that could land them each in prison for up to 20 years.
The trial, which lasted nearly four months, was the longest of any related to the Capitol riot. It exposed the inner workings of the Proud Boys, a self-described “Western chauvinist group,” and their extensive planning leading up to the fateful day.
Prosecutors painted a vivid picture of a group that viewed themselves as a “fighting force lined up behind Donald Trump and ready to commit violence on his behalf” in order to overturn the 2020 election results. They presented evidence that Tarrio and other defendants purchased paramilitary gear and urged their members to descend on Washington.
The prosecution argued that Tarrio and others formed an elite group within the Proud Boys called the Ministry of Self Defense, comprising about 65 members who exchanged encrypted messages in preparation for the attack.
While Tarrio himself was not present at the Capitol due to being barred from the city, prosecutors argued that he played a key role in directing the attack from Baltimore. The other four members on trial, with the exception of Dominic Pezzola, were among the first to breach the barricades and enter the building.
Defense lawyers sought to shift blame onto then-President Trump, claiming their clients had no intention of attacking the Capitol and were merely there to protest. They argued that it was Trump who incited the violence with his repeated false claims of election fraud and his incendiary speech, urging supporters to “fight like hell.”
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