A federal jury in Washington has convicted the former leader of the far-right Proud Boys and three associates of seditious conspiracy charges for their role in the January 6, 2021, attack on the U.S. Capitol.
Former Proud Boys chairman Enrique Tarrio and regional leaders Joe Biggs, Ethan Nordean and Zach Rehl, were also found guilty Thursday of conspiring to obstruct Congress from certifying Joe Biden’s victory over Donald Trump in the 2020 presidential election.
But the jury was deadlocked on both conspiracy charges against Dominic Pezzola, a former Marine who joined the Proud Boys after the 2020 election and stormed the Capitol but held no leadership position.
The five defendants faced nine charges each, including obstructing an official proceeding and conspiracy to prevent Congress and federal officers from discharging their duties. They were found guilty of most.
Pezzola was found guilty of an additional charge of robbery for stealing a police officer’s riot shield to smash a Capitol window.
The verdict marks a major victory for the U.S. Justice Department as it continues to probe the deadly rampage that left five people dead, wounded more than 100 police officers and sparked one of the largest criminal investigations in U.S. history.
“This is a significant win for DOJ and lends further credence to Attorney General [Merrick] Garland’s commitment to following the facts of the case wherever they lead and to proceed in a deliberate fashion,” Jordan Strauss, a former Justice Department official who now works at the risk consultancy firm Kroll, told VOA.
The verdict followed five days of jury deliberations and a complex trial that lasted four months and featured dozens of witnesses and numerous legal fights.
The convictions mark the third time members of an extremist group involved in the attack of January 6 have been convicted of seditious conspiracy.
In two earlier cases, juries convicted Oath Keepers founder Stewart Rhodes and a top lieutenant of seditious conspiracy in November and found four other members of the anti-government militia guilty of the charge in January.
In all, 14 members of the Oath Keepers and the Proud Boys have been either convicted or pleaded guilty to seditious conspiracy, a charge that carries a sentence of up to 20 years in prison.
The Proud Boys’ plot to attack the Capitol was hatched after Trump lost the election and urged his supporters in a December 19 tweet to come to Washington on January 6 for what he promised would be a “wild” rally, according to prosecutors.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Conor Mulroe said in his closing arguments that the Proud Boys saw themselves as a “fighting force” for Trump and were “ready to commit violence on his behalf” to overturn the election results.
Defense lawyers countered that there was no evidence of a coordinated plan to attack the Capitol.
They said the Proud Boys were so disorganized that they “couldn’t plan a trip to McDonald’s.”
Prosecutors, the defense argued, failed to show any evidence of a conspiracy to use force against the government.
The defense also tried to shift responsibility for the events of January 6 to Trump. Nayeb Hassan, Tarrio’s lawyer, told the jury that his client was not in Washington on January 6 and that prosecutors were using him as “a scapegoat for Donald J. Trump and those in power.”