Bloomberg Law
May 4, 2023, 9:30 PM

Proud Boys Leaders Convicted of Seditious Plot Over Jan. 6 (4)

Sabrina Willmer
Sabrina Willmer
Bloomberg News
David Voreacos
David Voreacos
Bloomberg News

The former chairman of the far-right Proud Boys, Henry “Enrique” Tarrio, was convicted of a seditious plot to bar the peaceful transfer of power on Jan. 6, 2021, when rioters attacked the US Capitol.

Federal jurors on Thursday also convicted three other Proud Boys on trial for seditious conspiracy tied to the riot, when supporters of President Donald Trump tried to stop certification of Joe Biden’s election. All four, along with a fifth member, were found guilty of related felonies and they face as many as 20 years in prison on the most serious charges.

Enrique Tarrio outside the US Capitol.
Source: US District Court Documents

Tarrio’s conviction in Washington was a major victory for US prosecutors, who’ve argued that leaders of the Proud Boys and another far-right group, the Oath Keepers, planned for weeks before Jan. 6 to keep Trump in power. Earlier trials led to the convictions of six Oath Keepers on seditious conspiracy charges, including its leader Stewart Rhodes. Several other members of the far-right groups have pleaded guilty to the charge.

The trial has been closely followed by Justice Department prosecutors working for Special Counsel Jack Smith. They’re building other cases tied to efforts to overturn the 2020 election, including possible charges against those who orchestrated the attack, even if they didn’t enter the Capitol on Jan. 6. That includes Trump and several top allies.

“Our work will continue,” Attorney General Merrick Garland said at a news conference after the verdict. “At my Senate confirmation hearing, just over a month after January 6, I promised that the Justice Department would do everything in its power to hold accountable those responsible for the heinous attack that sought to disrupt a cornerstone of our democracy, the peaceful transfer of power to a newly-elected government.”

Jurors in the Proud Boys trial ended deliberations Thursday afternoon after originally struggling to reach a unanimous verdict on 11 of the 46 charges. The judge declared a mistrial on 10 of those charges. The panel convicted the defendants on 31 counts, and acquitted them on five others.

Jan. 6 Prosecutions

More than 1,000 people have been charged over Jan. 6, and about 600 have been convicted through guilty pleas or trials, according to the Justice Department. Many have been sentenced, including one who got 10 years in prison.

At the Proud Boys trial over the past four months, prosecutors offered chat messages and videos, as well as testimony by police officers and two group members who pleaded guilty and cooperated with the government.

The five defendants agreed to use force to block Congress from certifying Biden’s election, prosecutors argued.

“The defendants want you to believe that they didn’t intend to stop the certification,” prosecutor Nadia Moore said in her closing argument. But, she said, chat messages showed “beyond the shadow of a doubt that these men were willing to do whatever it took to stop the certification.”

Tarrio was not in Washington on the day of the riot. He had been arrested two days earlier over the burning of a Black Lives Matter flag during a protest march weeks earlier.

A judge ordered him to leave town, and he was in a Baltimore hotel on Jan. 6. Prosecutors said Tarrio kept in touch with the other defendants, who entered the Capitol.

“Proud Of My Boys and my country,” Tarrio wrote in a social media post.

Video of Dominic Pezzola breaking a window at the US Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021.
Source: US District Court exhibit

In his summation, Tarrio lawyer Nayib Hassan blamed the riot on Trump’s rhetoric and his anger.

“They want to use Enrique Tarrio as a scapegoat for Donald Trump and those in power,” Hassan argued.

Tarrio was an Internet troll who made egregious statements, but he had a First Amendment right to do so and he didn’t organize the attack, Hassan said.

“It wasn’t about controlling individuals or asking them to commit a crime,” Hassan said. “Enrique was an entertainer, a lover, and a razzle dazzler.”

Convicted along with Tarrio of seditious conspiracy were three high-ranking Proud Boys — Joseph Biggs, Ethan Nordean and Zachary Rehl. Jurors cleared only one defendant of that count — Dominic Pezzola, a Marine veteran who used a police officer’s riot shield to break a window at the Capitol, but convicted him of other felonies, including destruction of government property.

Jurors were initially divided Thursday on two charges each against Tarrio, Biggs, Nordean and Rehl, and three against Pezzola. After further deliberations, jurors cleared Pezzola of seditious conspiracy, and the judge declared a mistrial on the remaining 10 counts.

Dominic Pezzola, center with police shield, inside the Capitol, on Jan. 6, 2021.
Photographer: Manuel Balce Ceneta/AP Photo

Pezzola and Rehl testified in their own defense, admitting wrongdoing but denying they engaged in seditious conspiracy. Pezzola attorney Steven Metcalf said in his summation that his client trespassed, grabbed a shield and broke a window.

“But seditious conspiracy? Are you kidding?,” Metcalf said.

Nordean attorney Nicholas Smith said prosecutors failed to prove the group planned the attack.

“It’s just a riot,” Smith said. “You don’t need a conspiracy to explain the facts.”

The trial was the last over Jan. 6 involving the Civil War-era seditious-conspiracy law. Prosecutors had to prove a defendant conspired to use force to oppose US government authority or to prevent, hinder or delay the execution of any US law.

The case is US v. Nordean et al, 21-cr-00175, US District Court, District of Columbia (Washington).

(Updates with Attorney General Merrick Garland’s remarks)

--With assistance from Chris Strohm.

To contact the reporters on this story:
Sabrina Willmer in Washington at;
David Voreacos in New York at

To contact the editors responsible for this story:
Angela Moon at

Steve Stroth

© 2023 Bloomberg L.P. All rights reserved. Used with permission.

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