Four Proud Boys members found guilty of seditious conspiracy
By Hannah Rabinowitz and Holmes Lybrand, CNN
(CNN) -- Four members of the far-right Proud Boys have been found guilty of seditious conspiracy by a jury in Washington, DC, for their roles to forcibly prevent the peaceful transfer of power from then-President Donald Trump to Joe Biden after the 2020 election.
Enrique Tarrio -- the Proud Boys longtime chairman -- Ethan Nordean, Joseph Biggs and Zachary Rehl were found guilty Thursday of seditious conspiracy and a range of other charges, including three separate conspiracy charges, obstructing the Electoral College vote and tampering with evidence.
The guilty verdict marks the third time that prosecutors have secured convictions for seditious conspiracy in the Justice Department's historic prosecution of those who breached the US Capitol on January 6, 2021.
A fifth defendant, Dominic Pezzola, was found not guilty of seditious conspiracy after the jury returned for several more hours of deliberation on Thursday. Unlike the other defendants in this trial, Pezzola is not alleged to have a leadership position in the organization and was inactive in Proud Boys group chats.
All five defendants were found guilty of other charges related to January 6, including: obstruction of an official proceeding; conspiracy to prevent an officer from discharging any duties; obstruction of law enforcement during civil disorder; and destruction of government property and aiding and abetting.
Each of the defendants were convicted of at least one charge that carries a 20-year maximum prison sentence, and could face a lengthy amount of time behind bars. A sentencing date for the five defendants has not yet been scheduled. District Judge Timothy Kelly said it is likely to happen in late July.
The jury did not reach a verdict with regards to some defendants on charges of assaulting, resisting or impeding certain officers as well as destruction of government property and aiding and abetting. A mistrial was declared on those counts.
In court, as each juror was polled, Tarrio -- dressed in a three-piece suit -- peered over the desk, straining his neck to watch the jury. Rehl shook his head as he was convicted of seditious conspiracy while the others sat still in their chairs.
After the jurors left, several defendants and attorneys shook hands, hugged, and exchanged brief words. Family for the defendants cried together in a hallway outside the courtroom.
'Not a happy day'
Attorney General Merrick Garland said the verdict "makes clear that the Justice Department will do everything in its power to defend the American people and American democracy."
"The evidence presented at trial detailed the extent of the violence at the Capitol on January 6, and the central role these defendants played in setting into motion the unlawful events of that day," he told reporters at the Justice Department.
Garland said that the DOJ's massive investigation into the Capitol riot "has secured more than 600 convictions for a wide range of criminal conduct" during the attack and in the days leading up to it.
Lawyers for some of the defendants provided mixed reactions to reporters outside the courthouse, with Tarrio's attorney, Nayib Hassan, saying that although he did not agree with the jury's decision, he respected it.
"At this point in time we're currently drafting all the appellate paperwork to proceed forward," Hassan said.
Steven Metcalf, a defense attorney for Pezzola, said he, too, would be appealing the verdict, but praised the jury for acquitting Pezzola of seditious conspiracy.
"Dominic Pezzola was ultimately separated from the seditious conspiracy charge," Metcalf said. "Which is what I set out to do over a year and a half ago and which I was able to accomplish."
Asked how Rehl was feeling, attorney Carmen Hernandez told reporters that her client was "not happy."
"This week is his wife's birthday, his wedding anniversary, his little girl will be two years old in June. It's not a happy day," she said.
"We're very disappointed," Hernandez said. "I don't believe he committed seditious conspiracy ... but the jury has spoken and that's our system of justice. I'm very disappointed in the verdict."
Nick Smith, who represents Nordean, declined to comment on the verdict to reporters inside the courthouse. Biggs' attorney, Norman Pattis, also declined to comment, but later said on Twitter, "It was a difficult trial. The appeal is promising. Much love to the Boys and their supporters."
The conviction of Tarrio is especially significant, even though he was not in Washington, DC, on January 6. According to the indictment, the Proud Boys leader helped to create a command structure within the Proud Boys in the lead up to January 6.
Text and Signal messages highlighted in the indictment suggest that Tarrio was preparing for a "revolution," and reviewed documents that set forth a plan to occupy a few "crucial buildings" in Washington, including House and Senate office buildings around the Capitol.
Tarrio was arrested on January 4, 2021, for bringing high-capacity rifle magazines to DC and ordered to leave the city.
During the trial, using messages and videos posted by the defendants and other members of the group, prosecutors laid out the case that the Proud Boys, animated by Trump and his election lies after the 2020 defeat, began calling for violence and revolution against the incoming Biden presidency.
Members of the group saw Biden and others on the left as a threat to the country, according to prosecutors, and messaged one another about the need for "war," "revolution," and firing squads for traitors.
On January 6, prosecutors said, many of the defendants didn't attend Trump's speech that day but instead began a march to the Capitol.
Proud Boys were at the front lines of the mob on Capitol grounds and were there when the first barriers were breached. Prosecutors have alleged that leaders of the group riled members up and communicated with them, through hand signals, to move ahead.
After rioters had arrived at Senate wing doors of the Capitol building, Pezzola used a police riot shield he stole during the attack to break open a window, prosecutors said, which rioters entered the Capitol through.
Defense attorneys have argued that their clients never had a plan to storm the Capitol and stop the electoral college vote that day. The messages and videos show nothing more than stupid, vulgar rhetoric, defense attorneys said, hardly a seditious plot against the US government.
Often teetering into disarray with legal battles, evidentiary disputes, sealed hearings, countless calls for a mistrial and several shouting matches with the judge, the trial concluded last Tuesday with the final closing arguments from defense counsel and federal prosecutors.
During the trial, jurors listened to testimony from multiple officers who defended the Capitol on January 6 as well as FBI agents who investigated the Proud Boys and testimony from several Proud Boys members, including two of the defendants, none of whom said there was ever a specific plan to take the Capitol.
The countless delays, brought on by newly unveiled evidence and informants, a juror who believed they were being followed, and internecine squabbles among attorneys pushed a trial originally estimated to last five to seven weeks to stretch across four months.
This story has been updated with additional developments.
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