Proud Boys Found Guilty of Seditious Conspiracy Over Role in Jan. 6 Insurrection
After a trial that stretched nearly four months, four Proud Boys have been found guilty of seditious conspiracy in connection to the insurrection of Jan. 6.
The jury delivered guilty verdicts for Enrique Tarrio, the former chairman of Proud Boys; Ethan Nordean, who was the leader on the ground in Washington; Zachary Rehl, a top Proud Boy from Philadelphia; and Joseph Biggs, one of the best known militants, with a big social media following.
After several hours of additional deliberation, the jury found a fifth Proud Boy, Dominic Pezzola, who smashed out a window at the Capitol, not guilty of the sedition charge. However, all five defendants were found guilty of secondary charges, including obstructing Congress.
The Proud Boys are a far-right drinking and fighting club. Famous for fucking around, they’ve now found out.
In one of the last, major high-profile cases stemming from the insurrection, prosecutors succeeded in proving that Proud Boys defendants engaged in a seditious effort to prevent the transfer of power from Donald Trump to Joe Biden. The verdict builds on the previous convictions of numerous Oath Keepers on the same seditious conspiracy charge. More than a dozen right-wing militants have now been convicted of this crime against the nation.
The Proud Boys promote “Western Chauvinism” — which they define as a refusal “to apologize for creating the modern world.” The Associated Press dubs them “a neofacist group,” and they are deemed a terrorist entity by the government of Canada.
The club members are infamous for brawling with antifa activists during street protests. At the bitter end of the Trump era, the group had become increasingly militia-like in its M.O., and staunchly backed the MAGA president. Trump even said during a debate ahead of the 2020 election that the group should “stand back and stand by.” Tarrio’s lawyer said during closing arguments that the directive led the Proud Boys to “grow so large that vetting became difficult.”
This Proud Boys trial stood out, in part, because the most prominent defendant on trial, former honcho Tarrio, was not on the ground in D.C. on the day of the attack, having been ordered to leave the city after an unrelated arrest days earlier. But Tarrio, according to evidence in the case, continued to direct his handpicked deputies in a strike force dubbed the “Ministry of Self-Defense,” or MOSD, from nearby Baltimore.
Dominic “Spaz” Pezzola, was also found guilty of a robbery charge for wrestling a riot shield from a Capitol police officer. Pezzola used it to break through a window at the Capitol, in one of the first breaches of the building. Pezzola was defiant when he took the stand during the proceedings, railing against “this corrupt trial” and “these fake charges.” He insisted the Proud Boys who stormed the Capitol were just “trespassing protesters.”
The trial was not a bonanza of new information — although there was some drama as a witness that the defense hoped to call was revealed at the last moment to have been an FBI informant. The trial’s unanticipated length was explained by the complexities of simultaneously trying five defendants and accommodating their lawyers’ motions, sidebars, and repeated moves for mistrial. The trial was presided over by District Judge Timothy J. Kelly, a Trump appointee.
Defendant Rehl also took the stand in his defense, insisting he believed “what ultimately unfolded, all the violence, was a disgrace.” Rehl added that the Proud Boys’ only intention was to march, and that they’d hoped to keep the peace, rather than foment unrest: “The purpose of the MOSD was to reduce violence, protect our members, and that’s it.”
The government’s strongest evidence against the Proud Boys were their own text messages. Tarrio appeared to take credit for the chaos at the Capitol, including by writing: “Make no mistake… We did this…” A fellow Proud Boy texted back, “Are we a militia yet?,” and Tarrio responded: “Yep.”
The government had already secured a conviction in the broader legal offensive against the Proud Boys. Jeremy Bertino — a member of the MOSD leadership — pleaded guilty to seditious conspiracy in early October. His texts to Tarrio celebrating Jan. 6 included: “You know we made this happen” and “1776 motherfucker.”
As summarized in the final report of the House Jan. 6 Committee, “Bertino admitted that the Proud Boys traveled to Washington, D.C. on January 6, 2021, ‘to stop the certification of the Electoral College Vote.’” It added: “They ‘were willing to do whatever it would take, including using force against police and others, to achieve that objective.’”
On Thursday afternoon, Attorney General Merrick Garland held a press conference to mark the verdicts as a capstone to the Department of Justice’s efforts to establish legal accountability for the events of Jan. 6, which he touted as “one of the largest, most complex and most resource intensive investigations in our history.”
“After three trials, we have secured the convictions of leaders of both the Proud Boys and the Oath Keepers for seditious conspiracy,” Garland said, “specifically: conspiring to oppose by force, the lawful transfer of presidential power.”
The Justice Department, he continued, “will never stop working to defend the democracy to which all Americans are entitled.”
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