Prosecutors Reveal Proud Boys Witness was an Informant

March 23, 2023

Federal prosecutors on Wednesday disclosed that a witness who was to testify for the defense at the seditious conspiracy trial of five former Proud Boys had secretly acted as a government informant.

The informant spent nearly two years with the extremist group following the deadly January 6, 2021 insurrection upon the U.S. Capitol and attempt to overturn the 2020 Presidential election, according to a court filing by Carmen Hernandez, attorney for defendant Zachary Rehl. 

Rehl is on trial along with former Proud Boys chair Henry “Enrique” Tarrio, as well as Joe Biggs, Ethan Nordean and Dominic Pezzola. The other defendants’ attorneys joined Hernandez in asking a judge to schedule an emergency hearing and suspend the trial “until these issues have been considered and resolved.”

In her court filing, Hernandez said the informant—whom she referred to as a “confidential human source”—participated in “prayer meetings” with relatives of at least one of the Proud Boys on trial and had discussions with family members about replacing one of the defense attorneys in the case. The informant had also been in contact with at least one of the defense attorneys and at least one of the five defendants, according to Hernandez. 

The judge ordered prosecutors to file a response to the defense by Thursday afternoon. A hearing was scheduled for Thursday as well, putting testimony in the seditious conspiracy trial on hold until Friday.

The prosecution in the case rested on Monday. The five defendants have pleaded not guilty to seditious conspiracy, which is defined as attempting to “overthrow, put down or to destroy by force the government of the United States.” Until recently, it had rarely been prosecuted. However, in October the former leader of the Proud Boys, Jeremy Bertino, pleaded guilty to seditious conspiracy for his connections to the January 6 insurrection. 

In November, a jury found Stewart Rhodes, founder of the far-right group the Oath Keepers, guilty of seditious conspiracy for his actions surrounding January 6, along with the head of the Oath Keepers’ Florida chapter, Kelly Meggs.  In January, four more Oath Keepers were also found guilty of seditious conspiracy.

Defense attorneys have argued there is no evidence the Proud Boys plotted to attack the Capitol. Tarrio was not within Washington city limits on January 6, and most of the defendants are not accused of  engaging in violence themselves on that day.

However, prosecutors said Tarrio directed the attack from Baltimore because he had been ordered to stay out of DC after being arrested on January 4 for burning a Black Lives Matter banner at a historic African-American church during the previous month.

So far, prosecutors have brought criminal charges against more than 1,000 people following the assault on the U.S. Capitol. Four people died during the insurrection, and five police officers died of various causes following the attack.

PHOTO: Ethan Nordean (left) and other Proud Boys heading toward the Capitol on January 6 2021

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