A former leader of the Proud Boys testified Wednesday in the trial of its current leader that the extremist group believed an “all-out revolution” was brewing in the days before the deadly January 6, 2021 insurrection on the U.S. Capitol.
Former Proud Boys regional leader Jeremy Bertino pled guilty in October to seditious conspiracy for his connections to January 6 insurrection. He is now a key government witness in the seditious conspiracy trial of Proud Boys chairman Henry “Enrique” Tarrio and four other members surrounding the roles they played on January 6.
Seditious conspiracy is defined as attempting to “overthrow, put down or to destroy by force the government of the United States.” Until the January 6 insurrection, it had rarely been prosecuted.
During his second day of testimony, 43-year-old Bertino testified that the Proud Boys had plotted to violently “save the country” from what they’d feared would be a tyrannical government under President Biden. He added that their revolution failed due to the efforts of law enforcement officers on January 6.
“Going halfway through a revolution doesn’t give you a revolution,” Bertino testified.
Bertino did concede that he’d never heard of any specific plan for the Proud Boys to storm the Capitol on January 6, but he said that he and other Proud Boys had reached an agreement “to do anything that was necessary to save the country” on the day of the insurrection.
Tarrio and the other four indicted Proud Boys—Ethan Nordean, Joseph Biggs, Zachary Rehl and Dominic Pezzola—face a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison if they’re found guilty of seditious conspiracy for having conspired to forcibly oppose the lawful transfer of Presidential power following the 2020 election.
Several members of another extremist organization, the Oath Keepers, have already been found guilty of seditious conspiracy for their actions surrounding January 6, including the group’s founder Stewart Rhodes and head of its Florida chapter, Kelly Meggs, who were convicted in November.
Four more Oath Keepers—Roberto Minuta, Joseph Hackett, David Moerschel and Edward Vallejo—were convicted of seditious conspiracy for their role in the insurrection last month.
While neither Bertino nor Tarrio were in Washington on January 6, on Wednesday jurors were shown a string of messages in which Bertino cheered on Proud Boys members as the mob stormed the Capitol, including one in which he urged the Proud Boys to “form a spear.”
In that same Telegram message Bertino wrote, “Storming the [Capitol] building right now!! Get there.”
Tarrio, meanwhile, had posted on his Parler account on January 1, “Let’s bring this new year with one word in mind…Revolt.”