In a highly politicized miscarriage of justice, a D.C. jury convicted 4 of the 5 high-profile Proud Boys of seditious conspiracy for their participation in the Capitol breach on January 6. Jurors convicted Ethan Nordean, Enrique Tarrio, Joseph Biggs, and Zachary Rehl of seditious conspiracy and conspiracy to obstruct an official proceeding. Final charges for Dominic Pezzola are still awaiting jury deliberation. Each charge is a felony subject to a punishment of up to 20 years in prison. Jury deliberations began on April 26, 2023.
Notably, Tarrio, who was national chairman for the Proud Boys, was not in D.C. on the 6th. He was actually in a hotel room in Baltimore because he had been arrested on January 4 for burning a Black Lives Matter banner stolen from a church on December 12, 2020. However, Tarrio was charged because of his alleged role in planning events and because he allegedly "continued to monitor and participate in them from afar," according to Roger Parloff, whose Twitter feed has closely monitored the trial gavel to gavel. In addition, Julie Kelly reported:
"The jury deadlocked on those two counts for a fifth defendant, Dominic Pezzola. All five were found guilty of obstruction of an official proceeding, conspiracy to prevent an officer from discharging any duties, obstruction of law enforcement during a civil disorder, and one count of destruction of government property."
The jury has yet to deliver its final verdict for Pezzola, who was found guilty of assaulting or impeding law enforcement and robbery. Pezzola also has additional counts related to the destruction of property and assaulting law enforcement. Pezzola "forcibly entered the Capitol by breaking a window to the building with a riot shield" that belonged to a Capitol Police officer," according to a superseding indictment from March 2022.
Much of the evidence in the case was taken from communications on social media accounts and messaging apps. According to Parloff, it seems none of the Proud Boys had a firm plan to "storm the Capitol" in advance of January 6, 2021. "It's quite possible," says Parloff, "That even the Proud Boy leaders—the defendants—did not expect the day to play out the way it did." However, Parloff states that evidence during the trial showed "at least a dozen alleged co-conspirator Proud Boys instantly became the tip of the spear," playing "crucial roles in the first four security breaches" that allowed individuals to enter the Capitol building.
According to Parloff, the government said it didn't need to prove the group had a plan. Rather the government argued the charge was "seditious conspiracy, not seditious plan." Lawyers for the government limited their focus to the Proud Boys' "shared objective" to achieve their "unlawful objective" of stopping the certification of the election "by any means necessary, up to and including force."
Unfortunately for the Proud Boys, the trial was, according to Julie Kelly, stacked against them because of location and Judge Tim Kelly. The Proud Boys' trial, said Julie Kelly, was "marred by controversy including last-minute disclosures of numerous FBI informants; open hostility between the judge and defense attorneys; the accidental discovery of explosive messages between FBI agents discussing deleted evidence, a doctored report, and the surveillance of attorney-client jailhouse communications; multiple sightings in evidence of the still-uncharged Ray Epps; a convoluted appellate ruling on the legitimacy of a key charge in the case; and suspicions of a jury stalker.
Proud Boys' Verdict Opens Door for Trump Conviction
Kelly contends that the verdict also lays important groundwork for a similar conviction of Donald J. Trump. Special Counsel Jack Smith's ongoing investigation into Trump will undoubtedly look at his various social media posts and statements prior to the day as an inflammatory "call to action," despite Trump asking the crowds to "remain peaceful" that day.
The government claims the Proud Boys' "seditious conspiracy" plot began on December 19, 2020, the day President Trump posted comments on the release of the Navarro Report, according to Kelly.
Julie Kelly also believes Twitter posts like the one below from Andrew Weissmann mean the government won't stop until it convicts Trump of the same. Weissman, the lead prosecutor in the Robert Mueller Russia investigation, stated the Proud Boys' verdict is a "huge win for the government." Weissman called the Proud Boys a "domestic terrorism group, unleashed by the former President, adding it is "imperative" for the government to charge Trump for seditious conspiracy as well.