An FBI Informant who marched to the U.S. Capitol with the Proud Boys testified Wednesday at five former members’ seditious conspiracy trial related to the deadly January 6, 2021 insurrection.
Identifying himself as “Aaron,” the informant testified that he didn’t know of any plans by the extremist group to invade the U.S. Capitol, and he didn’t think they inspired the violence that day.
The informant spent nearly two years with the Proud Boys following the insurrection, according to a court filing by Carmen Hernandez, the 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. Court proceedings were postponed last week after “Aaron’s” role as an informant was revealed and the judge in their case suspended the trial until related issues “have been considered and resolved.”
Texts have revealed that the informant was in communication with his FBI handler as the mob breached police barricades at the Capitol.
“Barriers down at capital building. Crowd surged forward, almost to the building now,” the informant texted.
In another message, he wrote that the Proud Boys “did not do it, nor inspire.”
He added, “The crowd did as herd mentality. Not organized.”
His testimony is part of an attempt by defense attorneys to undermine the prosecution’s assertions that the Proud Boys plotted to attack the Capitol in an ultimately failed undertaking to prevent Congress from certifying Joe Biden’s 2020 Presidential Election victory.
The defense has argued there is no evidence 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.
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.
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 has rarely been prosecuted. However, the former leader of the Proud Boys, Jeremy Bertino, pled guilty in October 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 linked to his actions during January 6, as well as the head of the Oath Keepers’ Florida chapter, Kelly Meggs. In January four more Oath Keepers were also found guilty of seditious conspiracy.
“Aaron” was one of several Proud Boys associates who were FBI informants before or after January 6. He is the first to testify at their trial.
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.