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Federal prosecutors for the primary time laid accountability for the success of the Jan. 6, 2021, assault on the U.S. Capitol on 5 Proud Boys leaders at their seditious conspiracy trial Thursday, accusing members of the extremist group of spearheading violence that halted Congress’s affirmation of the 2020 presidential election outcomes.
“The switch of energy from Donald Trump to Joe Biden was stopped — by the hands of those defendants,” Assistant U.S. Lawyer Jason B.A. McCullough informed jurors.
Directed by former Proud Boys chairman and lead defendant Enrique Tarrio, the prosecutor mentioned, “These males joined collectively and agreed to make use of any means mandatory, together with power, to cease Congress from certifying the election, and on January 6 they took goal on the coronary heart of our democracy.”
Protection attorneys blasted prosecutors’ effort to seek out “scapegoats” for what they referred to as an unplanned riot. As a substitute, they blamed President Donald Trump for inciting the mob and regulation enforcement leaders for failing to organize for violence.
“President Trump informed these those that the election was stolen. … He’s the one who unleashed that mob on the Capitol on Jan. 6,” Tarrio legal professional Sabino Jauregui mentioned.
It could be an “injustice” to carry Trump’s followers accountable whereas discovering it “too arduous in charge Trump … too arduous to place him on the witness stand along with his military of attorneys,” Jauregui informed jurors.
Though fees have been introduced towards greater than 930 people within the Jan. 6 assault and a particular counsel is investigating Trump, Thursday’s dueling opening statements in a federal courtroom blocks from the Capitol crystallized a significant query nonetheless unanswered after two years: Who ought to in the end bear the best felony accountability for that day’s occasions?
Prosecutors earlier than have steered Proud Boys members performed an outsize function within the violence. However for the primary time in a 90-minute argument punctuated by the defendants’ personal recorded phrases, movies and images on social and encrypted media, the federal government asserted that the profitable breach of the Capitol was not the product of a spontaneous, misguided mob however the results of a preplanned assault by devoted extremists.
The defendants, however, insisted they gathered in Washington to help Trump as that they had at earlier D.C. rallies and had no different plans. They introduced no arms, assaulted nobody and couldn’t have anticipated that Capitol Police could be unprepared, their protection mentioned.
“A plot to make use of power that didn’t contain weapons?” protection legal professional Nicholas D. Smith requested rhetorically.
As a substitute, protection attorneys urged jurors to redirect their feelings over the historic assault at Trump. They don’t seem to be alone — the Home choose committee investigating the occasions of Jan. 6 lately really useful charging the previous president with crimes that embrace obstructing an official continuing, one of many fees lodged towards Tarrio.
Tarrio and his co-defendants — Ethan Nordean, of Auburn, Wash.; Joe Biggs, of Ormond Seashore, Fla.; Dominic Pezzola, of Rochester, N.Y.; and Zachary Rehl, of Philadelphia — have pleaded not responsible to a 10-count indictment. Two fees they face are punishable by as much as 20 years in jail: conspiring to oppose by power federal authority or the inauguration of Joe Biden as president, and conspiring to impede Congress’s joint session.
In courtroom, Tarrio sipped from a glass of water and Pezzola stared forward along with his hand to his chin as McCullough laid out the case towards them to a jury of eight ladies and 7 males.
In keeping with McCullough, the Proud Boys the day after the Nov. 3, 2020, election started “calling for battle as a result of their favored candidate was not elected.” Trump falsely claimed the election was stolen, referred to as demonstrators to Washington in November and December, then later that month introduced a “wild” protest in D.C. on Jan. 6 when Congress met.
Prosecutors alleged that for that day’s particular operations, Tarrio handpicked co-defendants Nordean, Biggs and Rehl to guide an mockingly named “Ministry of Self-Protection.”
Till then, Proud Boys have been finest identified for partaking in avenue fights with their perceived enemies within the leftist antifa motion, earlier than Trump famously refused to denounce the group throughout a presidential election debate in September 2020, urging them as an alternative to “stand again and stand by.”
On Jan. 6, whereas Tarrio monitored occasions from Baltimore, the trio marched to the Capitol with practically 200 different males, joined the primary wave that surged onto the Capitol grounds and fanned out reverse police strains, the federal government mentioned. There, they pressed ahead till they made their approach inside, led by Pezzola, who was recorded smashing with a stolen police riot defend the primary window of the constructing to be breached, McCullough mentioned.
“These gents didn’t stand again, they didn’t stand by,” McCullough informed jurors.
As a substitute, McCullough confirmed video clips of Proud Boys members on the forefront of assaults on police on the Capitol, the place that they had assembled that morning even earlier than Trump spoke to supporters at a White Home Ellipse rally.
The Put up obtained hours of video footage, some completely, and positioned it inside a digital 3-D mannequin of the constructing. (Video: The Washington Put up)
“Let’s storm the f—— Capitol,” yelled one Proud Boys member who later bullrushed police strains guarding a key stairway. “Let’s not f—— yell that,” Nordean admonished on video.
Whereas Proud Boys mentioned their preparations for violence have been solely meant as self-defense in case they have been attacked by anti-Trump activists, McCullough confirmed jurors a textual content by Tarrio to others on Dec. 27 hinting at their true plans: “Whispers … 1776.”
“‘Whispers,’ as in it is a secret,” McCullough mentioned. “‘1776,’ as in revolution.”
The Proud Boys didn’t come to D.C. on Jan. 6 to go up towards antifa, he mentioned: “They have been coming to cease the certification of the election for Joe Biden.”
Even discarding the defendants’ pre-Jan. 6 discuss, their actions that day revealed their conspiracy, McCullough mentioned.
“Make no mistake … we did this,” Tarrio wrote others on an encrypted chat at 2:41 p.m., based on materials proven in courtroom.
“These are his phrases, his ideas, simply minutes after Congress had been pressured to cease its work,” McCullough mentioned.
“January sixth can be a day in infamy,” Biggs wrote that night, after Pezzola earlier recorded himself with “a victory smoke” within the Capitol.
“A day in infamy,” McCullough repeated. “That’s how President Roosevelt described the assault on Pearl Harbor that despatched us into World Struggle II.” A victory smoke, he informed jurors, “such as you would possibly see by a sports activities crew after a giant sport.”
When their flip got here, protection attorneys accused the federal government of cherry-picking statements out of context by their purchasers, and urged jurors from the overwhelmingly Democratic space to “put apart politics” and prosecutors’ makes an attempt to govern their feelings “so that you hate them, you hate the Proud Boys.”
Jauregui, legal professional for the Afro-Cuban Tarrio, referred to as the Proud Boys principally a “consuming group” that was inclusive of all races and sexual preferences, though civil rights screens say the group more and more targets homosexual and transgender individuals and has been utilized by white nationalists to recruit followers.
“What they share is an ideology. The Proud Boys assume that Western civilization is the perfect. … The Proud Boys assume America’s the perfect,” Jauregui mentioned. “That’s what they struggle for. It’s not a political factor, it’s not a racial factor. And so they consider in free speech. They consider it’s best to say no matter you need.”
Proud Boys leaders mentioned defending themselves as a result of they believed D.C. police and federal prosecutors responded inadequately to the stabbing of member Jeremy Bertino outdoors Harry’s Bar in downtown Washington after the December pro-Trump rally. Bertino has pleaded responsible to seditious conspiracy and agreed to cooperate with the federal government.
FBI probes attainable connections between extremist teams at coronary heart of Capitol violence
Tarrio was not even in Washington on Jan. 6 as a result of he was arrested two days earlier and expelled by a choose pending trial on fees that in that very same rally he set a church’s stolen “Black Lives Matter” flag on hearth and returned to D.C. with an unregistered high-capacity ammunition journal. He later pleaded responsible to these fees and served 4 months in jail.
Jauregui and Smith mentioned prosecutors had warped and twisted harmless, if generally “offensive,” chatter into an insurrectionist plot. Smith mentioned defendants would name as witnesses a number of authorities informants embedded within the group, together with those that mentioned Nordean tried to cease violence.
“You will notice at trial no proof that helps the federal government’s conspiracy declare that these defendants plotted earlier than January 6 to do what the federal government alleges,” Smith mentioned.
“Over and again and again,” Smith mentioned, “the federal government has been informed by witnesses there was no plan for January 6. You will notice even the federal government’s personal cooperating witnesses mentioned that.”
Tarrio could have “made it straightforward” for investigators by celebrating that riot, however he and different members have been largely posturing, their attorneys mentioned. The group was adopted that day by a documentary filmmaker, and Smith mentioned informants would “testify that the march to the Capitol was only for the cameras.”
One other informant texted his FBI handler at midday as preliminary boundaries have been being breached that “PB didn’t do it nor encourage,” as an alternative blaming “herd mentality.”
Pezzola legal professional Roger Roots mentioned his shopper smoked to have fun solely the takeover of the Capitol, not the obstruction of Congress. Roots accused police and prosecutors of overreacting by firing tear gasoline and projectiles into the group and criminalizing “a six-hour delay of Congress.”
Rehl legal professional Carmen Hernandez mentioned Rehl went to the Capitol anticipating speeches. He didn’t enter till after the electoral vote depend had stopped, and that “not a single message” of 160,000 reviewed by the FBI confirmed that he “meant to or deliberate to … disrupt the proceedings.”
As they watched in courtroom, the 5 defendants sat calmly, neatly groomed and carrying darkish fits, ties and white shirts — 4 wore dark-rimmed glasses — in distinction to their agitated expressions as depicted in authorities movies.
Prosecutors acknowledged to jurors that the Proud Boys group as an entire “shouldn’t be on trial right now.”
“Many Proud Boys who have been offended in regards to the election, they took no half within the mission on January 6,” McCullough mentioned.
However they confirmed the jury the defendants’ personal social media posts, together with the flashing phrases “kill them” and clips of teams of males beating others on the streets at night time. One submit from December 2020 by Tarrio featured Pezzola towards a fiery backdrop labeled “Lords of Struggle” and “#J6,” and one other included a hype video posted by Rehl exhibiting Trump legal professional Sidney Powell saying she would “launch the Kraken.”
“This was the picture these defendants sought to advertise of their struggle to maintain Donald Trump in workplace,” McCullough mentioned, concluding. “These ‘lords of battle’ joined collectively to cease the presidential switch of energy.”