Defense Rests in Proud Boys January 6 Trial

April 21, 2023

The defense rested Thursday in the seditious conspiracy trial of former Proud Boys leaders surrounding the deadly January 6, 2021 insurrection.

Federal prosecutors, however, have a right to call rebuttal witnesses to testify before closing arguments get under way and jurors begin deliberating. The trial, which started more than three months ago, is set to resume on Friday.

Already twice as long as had been anticipated, defense rested on the 50th day of testimony. Yet the trial has reportedly revealed little new information about the riot that attempted to prevent Congress’ certification of Joe Biden’s victory in the 2020 Presidential election.

Former Proud Boys chair Henry “Enrique” Tarrio, as well as Joe Biggs, Carmen Hernandez, Ethan Nordean and Dominic Pezzola have all 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, in October the former leader of the Proud Boys, Jeremy Bertino, pled 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 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.

A guilty verdict in the current Proud Boys’ trial against Tarrio—who wasn’t even in DC on January 6—would affirm that those accused of planning and inciting the violence could be held responsible even if they didn’t join in it. 

The defense has pressed the assertion that there’s no evidence Proud Boys plotted to attack the Capitol. Further, along with Tarrio, most of the other defendants are not accused of engaging in violence themselves.

However, prosecutors have asserted that 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 Thursday’s cross examination, Assistant U.S. Attorney Erik Kenerson showed Pezzola a photograph of police officers grappling with rioters as they stormed the U.S. Capitol. Kenerson asked Pezzola if he and the rest of the crowd were acting as an “invading force.”

“We were acting as trespassing protesters,” said Pezzola.

Jurors were also shown a selfie video of Pezzola after he entered the Capitol. He talked about taking a “victory smoke” on a cigar and said, “I knew we could take this (expletive) if we just tried hard enough.”

Pezzola, a veteran of the U.S. Marine Corps who began testifying on Tuesday, said he now feels “idiotic” and ashamed that he recorded that video. He reiterated that he didn’t know of any plot or plan for the Proud Boys to attack the Capitol on January 6.

Jurors have heard testimony from more than three dozen witnesses since the trial began in January. Prosecutors rested their case on March 20. They do still have the right to call more witnesses to rebut defense testimony.

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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