Closing arguments in the seditious conspiracy trial of former Proud Boys leaders entered a second day on Tuesday, and depending on who was speaking—the prosecution or the defense—the Proud Boys were either former President Trump’s “army” or his “scapegoats” on January 6, 2021.
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 surrounding their actions related to the deadly insurrection upon the U.S. Capitol and attempt to block the certification of the 2020 Presidential election. Seditious Conspiracy is defined as attempting to “overthrow, put down or to destroy by force the government of the United States.”
A guilty verdict in the 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.
In their closing arguments on Monday, the prosecution argued that the defendants stirred fellow Proud Boys toward violence in the lead up to January 6 and directed them on that day to attack the U.S. Capitol building.
“These defendants saw themselves as Donald Trump’s army, fighting to keep their leader in power no matter what the law or the courts had to say about it,” said Department of Justice Attorney Conor Mulroe.
On Tuesday, though, the defense continued to press its assertion that there was no evidence of the Proud Boys plotting to attack the Capitol. Further, along with Tarrio, most of the other defendants are not accused of engaging in the violence themselves.
“It was Donald Trump’s words, it was his motivation, it was his anger that caused what occurred on January 6 in your amazing and beautiful city,” Nayib Hassan, Tarrio’s attorney, argued in a Washington DC federal courtroom. “They want to use Enrique Tarrio as a scapegoat for Donald Trump and those in power.”
Until after January 2021, “seditious conspiracy” 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 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.
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.