Proud Boys led Jan. 6 riot to keep Trump in office, U.S. says at trial


Federal prosecutors for the first time blamed the success of the January 6, 2021 attack on the U.S. Capitol on five Boy Pride leaders in their sensational conspiracy trial Thursday, accusing members of the extremist group of leading the violence that stalled congressional confirmation of the results of the 2020 presidential election.

“The transfer of power from Donald Trump to Joe Biden has been stopped — at the hands of these defendants,” Assistant U.S. Attorney Jason BA McCullough told jurors.

Led by former Gay Pride chairman and lead defendant Enrique Tario, the prosecutor said, “these men banded together and agreed to use any means necessary, including force, to prevent Congress from ratifying the election, and on January 6, they turned to the heart. of our democracy”.

Defense attorneys attacked prosecutors’ efforts to find “scapegoats” for what they called unplanned mayhem. Instead, they blamed President Donald Trump for inciting the mob and law enforcement leaders for failing to prepare for violence.

“President Trump told these people that the election was stolen. … He is the one who unleashed the mob at the Capitol on January 6,” said Tario’s lawyer, Sabino Giorgoi.

It would be an “injustice” to hold Trump’s followers accountable, while “it’s too hard to indict Trump … it’s too hard to put him on the witness stand with his army of lawyers,” Jurgoi told jurors.

Even though more than 930 people have been indicted in the Jan. 6 attack and a special counsel is investigating Trump, opening statements from Thursday’s duel in federal court from the Capitol hammered home an important question that remains unanswered two years later: Who should ultimately bear the brunt of Nothing. The greatest criminal responsibility for the events of that day?

Prosecutors have already suggested the Proud Boys played a major role in the violence. But for the first time in the 90-minute argument, punctuated by recorded words of the defendants themselves on social media and encrypted, the government argued that the successful break-in of the Capitol was not the product of a spontaneous and misguided mob but the result of a premeditated attack by dedicated extremists.

The defendants, however, insisted that they had gathered in Washington to support Trump as they had done at previous DC rallies and had no other plans. They didn’t bring a weapon, didn’t attack anyone and couldn’t expect the Capitol Police to be unprepared, their defense said.

“A plot to use force that didn’t involve a weapon?” defense attorney Nicholas D. Smith asked rhetorically.

Instead, defense attorneys urged jurors to redirect their emotions to the historic attack on Trump. They are not alone – the House Select Committee investigating the events of January 6th recently recommended charging the former president with crimes that include obstruction of official process, one of the charges brought against Tario.

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Tario and his co-defendants – Ethan Nordin, of Auburn, Washington; Joe Biggs, of Ormond Beach, Florida; Dominic Pezzola, of Rochester, New York; and Zachary Rehl, of Philadelphia – pleaded not guilty to a 10-count indictment. Two charges they face are punishable by up to 20 years in prison: conspiracy to resist by force federal authority or the inauguration of Joe Biden for president, and conspiracy to disrupt a joint session of Congress.

In court, Tario sipped from a glass of water and Pesola stared ahead with a hand to his chin as McCullough presented the case against them to a jury of eight women and seven men.

According to McCullough, the Separate Boys the day after November 3, 2020, the election began “calling for war because their preferred candidate was not elected.” Trump falsely claimed the election was stolen, called protesters to Washington in November and December, then later that month announced a “wild” protest in DC on January 6 when Congress met.

Prosecutors alleged that for that day’s special operations, Tario chose co-defendants Nordian, Biggs and Rahel to lead an office ironically called the “Self-Defense Department.”

Until then, the Gay Boys were best known for engaging in street battles with their perceived enemies in the left-wing Antifa movement, before Trump refused to denounce the group during a September 2020 presidential election debate, urging them instead to “stand back and stand up.” .”

On Jan. 6, as Tario followed events from Baltimore, the trio marched on the Capitol with nearly 200 other men, joining the first wave to sweep onto the Capitol grounds and take out opposing police lines, the government said. There, they pressed forward until they made their way inside, led by Petzola, who was recorded smashing with a stolen police riot shield the first window of the building to be broken into, McCullough said.

“These gentlemen did not stand by, they did not stand by,” McCullough told jurors.

Instead, McCullough showed video footage of members of the Proud Boys at the forefront of attacks on police at the Capitol, where they had gathered that morning even before Trump spoke to supporters at the White House Oval rally.

The Post obtained hours of video footage, some of it exclusive, and placed it inside a digital 3D model of the building. (Video: Washington Post)

“Let’s storm the capitol,” yelled one of the proud boys’ friends, who later bulldozed through police lines guarding a key staircase. “Let’s not shout it,” Nordine warned in the video.

While the Proud Boys said their preparations for violence were only for self-defense in case they were attacked by anti-Trump activists, McCullough showed jurors a text from Tario to others on Dec. 27 that hinted at their true plans: “Whispers… 1776.”

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“‘Whispers,’ as in is a secret,” McCullough said. “‘1776’, as in revolution.”

The Proud Boys didn’t come to DC on Jan. 6 to run against Antifa, he said: “They’re coming to stop the endorsement of the election for Joe Biden.”

Even throwing out the accused before January. 6 speakers, their actions that day exposed their conspiracy, McCullough said.

“Make no mistake … we did it,” Tario wrote to others in an encrypted chat at 2:41 p.m., according to material presented in court.

“These are his words, his thoughts, minutes after Congress was forced to adjourn,” McCullough said.

“January 6th will be a day of infamy,” Biggs wrote that evening, after Petzola had earlier registered himself with “smoke of victory” at the Capitol.

“Infamous day,” McCullough repeated. “This is how President Roosevelt described the attack on Pearl Harbor that sent us into World War II.” Victory smoke, he told jurors, “like a sports team might see after a big game.”

When it was their turn, the defense attorneys accused the government of taking statements from their clients’ connections, and urged the mostly Democratic jurors to “put aside politics” and prosecutors’ attempts to manipulate their emotions “so that you hate them, you hate the proud boys.”

Jauregui, the lawyer for Tario, who is Afro-Cuban, called the mostly gay boys a “drinking group” that included all races and sexual preferences, though civil rights monitors say the group is increasingly targeting gay and transgender people and is being used by white nationalists to recruit followers.

“What they share is an ideology. The gay boys think that Western civilization is the best. … The gay boys think that America is the best,” said Jaurgoi. “That’s what they’re fighting for. It’s not a political issue, it’s not a racist issue. And they believe in freedom of speech. They believe you should say what you want.”

Boys Pride leaders argued self-defense because they believed D.C. police and federal prosecutors responded inadequately to the stabbing of member Jeremy Bertino outside Harry’s Bar in downtown Washington after the support rally in December. Bertino pleaded guilty to an indictable conspiracy charge and agreed to cooperate with the government.

The FBI is investigating possible links between extremist groups at the heart of the violence in the Capitol

Tario wasn’t even in Washington on January 6 because he was arrested two days earlier and deported by a judge to stand trial on charges that at that rally he set fire to the church’s stolen “Black Lives Matter” flag and returned to DC. Unregistered high capacity ammunition magazine. He later pleaded guilty to these charges and served four months in prison.

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Georgiou and Smith said prosecutors twisted and twisted innocent, if sometimes “offensive” chatter into a seditious plot. Smith said the defendants called as witnesses a number of government informants embedded with the group, including those who said Nordian was trying to stop the violence.

“You will not see at trial any evidence that supports the government’s conspiracy claim that these defendants conspired before January 6th to do what the government alleges,” Smith said.

“Over and over and over again,” Smith said, “the government has been told by witnesses that there is no plan for January 6th. You’ll see that even the government’s own cooperating witnesses have said that.”

Tario may have “made it easy” on investigators by celebrating the riot, but he and other friends behaved themselves, their lawyers said. The group was followed that day by a documentary filmmaker, and Smith said the informants “will testify that the march to the Capitol was just for the cameras.”

Another informant texted his FBI handler at noon, when initial barriers were breached that “PB didn’t do it and didn’t inspire,” instead blaming “herd mentality.”

Petzola’s attorney, Roger Roots, said his client only smoked to celebrate the takeover of the Capitol, not the obstruction of Congress. Roots accused police and prosecutors of overreacting by firing tear gas and bullets into the crowd and blaming a “six-hour delay in Congress.”

Rahel’s attorney, Carmen Hernandez, said Rahel went to the Capitol expecting the speeches. He did not come in until after the electoral vote had been counted, and that “not a single message” of the 160,000 reviewed by the FBI showed that he “intended or planned … to disrupt the proceedings.”

As they watched in court, the five defendants sat calm, neatly groomed and wearing dark suits, ties and white shirts – four wore dark glasses – in contrast to their agitated expressions as shown in the government videos.

The prosecutors admitted to the jurors that the Gay Boys organization as a whole “is not on trial today.”

“A lot of proud boys who were angry about the election, they didn’t take part in the mission on January 6,” McCullough said.

But they showed jurors the defendants’ own social media posts, including the flashing words “kill them” and footage of groups of men beating others in the streets at night. One December 2020 post by Tario featured Petzola against a fiery background captioned “Warlords” and “#J6,” and another included a hype video posted by Rehl showing Trump attorney Sidney Powell saying she would “unleash the Kraken.”

“This was the image that these defendants sought to promote in their fight to keep Donald Trump in office,” McCullough said and concluded. “These ‘warlords’ banded together to stop the presidential transfer of power.”


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