Jan. 6 seditious conspiracy trial against Proud Boys begins in DOJ’s third case bringing Civil War-era charge

The Department of Justice is kicking off its third seditious conspiracy case related to the Jan. 6 riot at the U.S. Capitol Wednesday after a jury was chosen this week for the trial against Proud Boys leader Enrique Tarrio and four other members facing the rare Civil War-era charge. 

Jurors are expected to hear attorneys’ opening statements in Washington’s federal court on Wednesday after the panel is sworn in, defense attorney Carmen Hernandez said. It’s one of the most serious cases to emerge more than two years after the riot that halted Congress’ certification of Joe Biden’s presidential victory over then-President Donald Trump. 

Jury selection took 10 days of questioning as many potential jurors expressed negative views about the Proud Boys. 

The panel ultimately chosen Monday includes seven men and nine women, WUSA-TV reported.

Tarrio and his co-defendants could face up to 20 years behind bars if convicted of seditious conspiracy. 

Opening statements will begin more than a month after a jury convicted two leaders of another extremist group, the Oath Keepers, of seditious conspiracy for what prosecutors said was a separate plot to stop the transfer of power from Trump, a Republican, to Biden, a Democrat. 

The Nov. 29 guilty verdicts for Oath Keepers founder Stewart Rhodes and Florida chapter leader Kelly Meggs were the first seditious conspiracy trial convictions in decades. A trial for four other Oath Keepers charged with seditious conspiracy started earlier this month in Washington.

Tarrio, of Miami, was the national chairman of the Proud Boys when a mob that included several of its members stormed the Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021.

Defense attorneys have said there was never any plan to go into the Capitol or stop Congress’ certification of the vote.

The others on trial — Ethan Nordean, Zachary Rehl, Dominic Pezzola and Joseph Biggs — also are charged with other riot-related crimes besides seditious conspiracy.

Tarrio wasn’t in Washington on Jan. 6. Police had arrested him two days earlier on charges that he vandalized a Black Lives Matter banner at a historic Black church during a December 2020 protest. Tarrio left the nation’s capital on the eve of the riot.

Prosecutors allege that even after his arrest, Tarrio kept command over the Proud Boys who attacked the Capitol on Jan. 6 and cheered on their actions from afar. As rioters stormed the building, he posted ‘don’t (expletive) leave’ on social media, and then later ‘We did this…’

Nordean, Pezzola, Biggs and Rehl were part of the first wave of rioters to push onto Capitol grounds and charge past police barricades toward the building, according to prosecutors. Pezzola used a riot shield he stole from a Capitol police officer to break a window, allowing the first rioters to enter the building, prosecutors allege.

Nordean, of Auburn, Washington, was a Proud Boys chapter president. Biggs, of Ormond Beach, Florida, was a self-described Proud Boys organizer. Rehl was president of the Proud Boys chapter in Philadelphia. Pezzola was a Proud Boys member from Rochester, New York.

The Proud Boys case has so far faced several hurdles after Judge Timothy Kelly dismissed several potential jurors who admitted they had negative opinions about the group, The Hill reported. Biggs’ attorney, Norm Pattis, also had his law license suspended in Connecticut last week. Pattis improperly shared medical information of the families of the Sandy Hook school shooting victims with another attorney representing Infowars founder and radio host Alex Jones in a Texas case. 

The Associated Press contributed to this report. 

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