Prosecutors charge Proud Boys with seditious conspiracy in January 6 case

WASHINGTON — With a trial on the horizon and at least one cooperator locked up, federal prosecutors on Monday upped the stakes for Proud Boys leaders charged in the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol, announcing a new indictment for seditious conspiracy.

The original non-sedition conspiracy case against Henry “Enrique” Tarrio — the former national president of the Proud Boys — and his four co-defendants already carried a significant potential prison sentence, but Monday’s replacement indictment added two new counts as well as the symbolic weight of the seditious charge of conspiracy. They had previously been charged with conspiring to obstruct congressional certification of the Electoral College vote. The latest set of charges broadened the scope of the alleged criminal conduct, accusing them of conspiring to “oppose the lawful transfer of presidential power by force.”

This is the Justice Department’s second successful seditious conspiracy case related to the January 6 uprising. Signaling prosecutors’ focus on the role extremist movements played in the attack, the first seditious conspiracy indictment was handed down in January against Oath Keepers chief Elmer Stewart Rhodes and a group of other defendants with an alleged connection to the group.

More than 800 people have been charged so far in connection with January 6; the most common crimes were obstructing Congress and assaulting or interfering with police. Seditious conspiracy is an offense rarely charged in federal prosecutions. The Proud Boys’ latest indictment came on the eve of a scheduled prime-time public hearing on June 9 before the congressional select committee investigating the attack. The committee’s job has been to probe the involvement of far-right groups like the Proud Boys, who have described its members as “Western chauvinists”, and the Oath Keepers, who have focused their recruitment on current and former members. of the army and law enforcement. .

The bulk of the new Proud Boys indictment largely follows the conspiracy case that a federal grand jury in Washington, D.C., dismissed in March against Tarrio and his co-defendants Ethan Nordean, Joseph Biggs, Zachary Rehl and Dominic Pezzola. It almost verbatim repeats prosecutors’ allegations about what the group did before, during and immediately after a crowd of thousands descended on the Capitol complex. A new paragraph near the end describes a set of texts that prosecutors say Tarrio exchanged to celebrate the attack with an unnamed person called ‘PERSON-1’ shortly before members of Congress returned in the evening to wrap up to certify the election once the police have cleared the building.

According to the government, after PERSON-1 wrote to Tarrio, “Brother. You know we made this possible” and “I am so proud of my country today. Tarrio replied, “I know. PERSON-1 texted, “1776 motherfuckers,” and Tarrio replied, “The Winter Palace”; the indictment did not specify what prosecutors believed Tarrio was referring to. PERSON-1 texted: “Dude. Did we just influence the story? and Tarrio replied, “Let’s see how it goes first. »

A jury trial in the conspiracy without sedition case is scheduled to begin on August 8. It was not immediately clear whether the new indictment would change that timeline. Tarrio and his co-defendants are in jail awaiting trial and are scheduled to appear before U.S. District Judge Timothy Kelly for a previously scheduled hearing later this week.

Tarrio’s lawyer, Nayib Hassan, wrote in an email that “Mr. Tarrio will have his day in court and we will vigorously represent our client throughout this process.” Mr. Tarrio eagerly awaits vindication of these allegations. »

Rehl’s attorney, Carmen Hernandez, asked the court for permission to release a statement responding to the new charges on her client’s behalf. Hernandez cited court rules that prevent attorneys from speaking publicly about pending cases and argued that the Justice Department circumvented that rule by issuing a press release announcing the latest indictment. Hernandez also used the filing to question the legal basis of the seditious conspiracy count against his client.

“To bring such serious charges against Mr. Rehl at this late date without alleging a single new fact against him is simply wrong and deserves a response. Indeed, over the decades that the attorney has defended people charged with federal criminal offenses, much of my career has been as a public defender representing indigent people and people of color, I shouldn’t be surprised at the heavy hand from federal prosecutors,” Hernandez wrote. Other defense attorneys in the case did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

Like the Oath Keepers case, the Proud Boys conspiracy case has been ongoing in a few different iterations since last year. Tarrio was added in March. He is not accused of being physically at the Capitol or participating in the Jan. 6 attack — he had been arrested two days earlier and ordered to leave DC the next day — but is instead accused of to have played a central role in planning the group and encouraging the people who were on the scene that day. Prosecutors say Tarrio did not immediately leave town on Jan. 5 and instead met Rhodes and others in an underground parking lot. Tarrio pleaded guilty in the DC case and finished serving his prison sentence earlier this year.

Looming conspiracy charges resulted in a series of cooperation agreements in cases involving the Proud Boys and the Oath Keepers. Charles Donohoe of Kernersville, North Carolina, a leader of a local Proud Boys chapter, pleaded guilty in April to the earlier version of the Proud Boys conspiracy case that included Tarrio and agreed to cooperate with the government.

Donohoe’s guilty plea included an admission that he knew the organization’s leaders were “discussing the possibility of storming the Capitol” at least two days before the Jan. 6 attack and that the “purpose” of the group was to stop the peaceful transfer of power. Late last year, Matthew Greene, a member of the Proud Boys charged in another conspiracy case, pleaded guilty and agreed to cooperate with federal investigators. Eight people connected to the Oath Keepers have pleaded guilty and agreed to cooperate with the government, including three who pleaded guilty to seditious conspiracy.

The Proud Boys’ latest indictment also adds a new charge that accuses the group of conspiring to prevent members of Congress and police from performing their duties using force, intimidation or threats. The seditious conspiracy charge carries the same maximum sentence — up to 20 years in prison — as some of the other criminal crimes that Tarrio and his co-defendants already faced in the previous indictment.

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