Dozens of messages, social media posts and videos show that far-right Proud Boys leaders not only masterminded the January 6, 2021 attack on the U.S. Capitol, but also recruited others to help stop Joe Biden from becoming president. , federal prosecutors said Thursday during opening remarks in the seditious conspiracy trial.
“We are going to bring in this new year with one word in mind… revolt,” defendant and then Proud Boys president Enrique Tarrio wrote to others in the group on Jan. 1, 2021, according to prosecutors. “New Year Revolution.”
Prosecutor Jason McCullough told the jury that Proud Boys leaders feared that a Biden presidency would spell the end of the organization and that, after President Donald Trump infamously said in a 2020 presidential debate to “stand back and wait,” the organization has reached a turning point.
“At that moment, some battle lines were drawn. President Trump was for the proud boys and Joe Biden was for the antifas,” McCullough said.
“The defendants’ mission threatened the very foundations of our government,” McCullough told the jury. “These five defendants have agreed – by any means necessary, including the use of force – to prevent Congress” from certifying Biden’s election.
The defendants – Tarrio, Joseph Biggs, Zachary Rehl, Dominic Pezzola and Ethan Nordean – pleaded not guilty to charges including seditious conspiracy, conspiracy to obstruct and obstructing official proceedings.
According to McCullough, the five defendants planned to prevent the transfer of power to Biden that day and communicated and organized through messaging apps. McCullough played video of several defendants allegedly tearing down police barricades, attacking officers, and finally being the first to storm the Capitol, celebrating along the way.
Why did some Proud Boys dress like Antifa on January 6th?
– Source: CNN
“Victory smoke on the Capitol, boys,” said Pezzola, who prosecutors say was the first to break into the Capitol using a riot shield he stole from a police officer, said inside the building, according to a video shown in court. “This is fucking amazing. I knew we could take this motherfucker [if we] just tried hard enough. Proud of you motherfucking motherfucker.”
“Don’t go away,” Tarrio allegedly wrote in a public post during the riot.
Prosecutors played a video of Nordean allegedly celebrating the riot.
“I was part of the fucking Capitol invasion of the most powerful fucking country in the world,” Nordean said.
On Jan. 7, Rehl reportedly wrote to fellow Proud Boys, “I’m so proud of what we accomplished yesterday.”
In their opening statements, defense attorneys repeatedly told jurors that the Proud Boys had no plans to storm the Capitol building on Jan. 6 and instead got caught up in a mob mentality.
“You will see at trial no evidence to support the government’s conspiracy claim that these defendants conspired prior to Jan. 6 to do what the government alleges,” Nordean’s attorney, Nick Smith, told the grand jury.
“It’s only human to say that something phenomenal must have caused this,” Smith said of the deadly riot. “But, as we often see, this is not true.”
But because it is “emotionally unsatisfying” to admit that a mob mentality has taken over, Smith said, prosecutors “selectively presented messages” to make the Proud Boys a “scapegoat.”
Tarrio’s attorney, Sabino Jauregui, also said that his client, who was not in Washington, DC, on Jan. 6, is being held accountable for the actions of others.
“You see, Trump, President Trump, told them the election was stolen,” Jauregui said. “It was Trump who told them to go [to the Capitol]. And it was Trump who freed them on January 6th. He was the one who told them to march there and ‘fight like hell’”.
He continued: “It’s very hard to blame the left and right politicians, the ones who use us for fundraising and your re-election, the ones who pit us against each other… Instead, they go for the easy target, they go for Enrique Tarrio.
Jauregui highlighted to the jury that Tarrio, according to Jauregui, had no communication with members of the group that was in the Capitol and never called for the attack on the building.
Rehl’s attorney, Carmen Hernandez, pleaded with the jury to forget everything they heard about the Proud Boys’ reputation, including allegations that the group is violent or racist.
“Americans express a lot of opinion about politics, about politicians, about elections, about other public issues,” Hernandez said. “The fact that we state these opinions, I would tell you, is not evidence of a crime.”
“You all swore to the court that you would put aside any theories, any opinions you had about the Proud Boys,” Hernandez said, adding, “Depending on that.”
Smith, Jauregui and Hernandez said the government spoke with FBI informants and cooperative Proud Boys who were on Capitol Hill on Jan. 6. Those witnesses repeatedly stressed that the group had no plans, the lawyers said.
While several defense attorneys condemned the Capitol riot, Pezzola’s attorney Roger Roots used his opening statement to downplay the attack, repeatedly saying the Proud Boys case is simply a six-hour delay by Congress.
“The government places great importance on this six-hour recess, from two to eight o’clock,” Roots said of the forced recess of Congress on Jan. 6, when protesters stormed the Capitol.
“Some called it an attack or even an insurrection,” continued Roots. “The evidence will show that if it was an attack, it might have been one of the dumbest attacks you can imagine.”
Roots also said that his client did not “stole” a riot shield from a police officer, as prosecutors alleged, and suggested that “someone chose not to” protect the Capitol windows, one of which Pezzola allegedly broke with the shield.
Roots closed by asking the jury to question whether Pezzola’s motivation that day was really to prevent Congress from certifying the 2020 election and to look closely at what his client saw as the “victory” that day.
“Sir. Pezzola described winning simply as catching this son of a bitch,” Roots said.
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