“The transfer of power from Donald Trump to Joe Biden was prevented — in the hands of these defendants,” Assistant U.S. Attorney Jason Bar McCullough told jurors.
Under the direction of former Proud Boys chairman and lead defendant Enrique Tarrio, prosecutors said, “These men, in combination, agreed to use any means necessary, including force, to prevent Congress from sanctioning the election.” On the 6th, they aimed at the heart or our democracy.”
Defense attorneys slammed prosecutors’ efforts to find “scapegoats” for what they called unplanned riots. Instead, they accused President Donald Trump of inciting the mob and law enforcement leaders for failing to prepare for the violence.
“President Trump told these people that the election was stolen. … He was the one who unleashed the mob at the Capitol on Jan. 6,” said Tario’s attorney, Sabino Jauregui.
It would be an “injustice” to hold Trump’s followers accountable while finding it “hard to blame Trump … too hard to get him to testify with his army of lawyers,” Jauregui told jurors.
This is despite the charges being laid against more than 930 people in January. Ahead of the Sept. 6 attack and a special counsel investigating Trump, dueling opening statements Thursday in a federal courthouse block near the Capitol made clear a major question that remains unanswered two years later: Who ultimately Should there be maximum criminal responsibility for the events of the day?
Prosecutors have previously said Proud Boys members played a huge role in the violence. But during the 90-minute debate, the administration asserted for the first time that the successful breach of the Capitol was not the work of a spontaneous, misguided mob, but rather the words, videos and photos recorded by the defendants themselves on social media and encrypted media. The result of a premeditated attack by zealous extremists.
The defendants, on the other hand, insisted they had gathered in Washington to support Trump, as they had done at an earlier Washington rally, with no other plans. Their defense attorneys said they were unarmed, did not attack anyone, and did not expect Capitol Police to be unprepared.
“A conspiracy to use force that doesn’t involve a weapon?” asked defense attorney Nicholas D. Smith.
Instead, defense attorneys urged jurors to shift their emotions to the historic attack on Trump. They’re not alone — the House select committee investigating the January events. 6 It was recently recommended that the former President be charged with obstructing official process, one of the charges against Tario.
Tarrio and his co-defendants — Ethan Nordean of Auburn, Washington; Joe Biggs of Ormond Beach, Florida; Rochester, New York Dominic Pezzola; Zachary Rehl of Philadelphia pleaded not guilty to 10 charges. They face two charges that carry a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison: conspiring to use force against the federal establishment or the presidency of Joe Biden, and conspiring to obstruct a joint session of Congress.
In court, with Tarrio sipping water and Pezzola staring ahead with her chin in her hand, McCullough addressed a jury of eight women and seven men took their case.
According to McCullough, the day after November 11, the Proud Boys. 3. In 2020, the election begins, “because their favorite candidate was not elected, they declare war.” Falsely claiming the election was stolen, Trump rallied demonstrators to Washington in November and December before announcing a “brutal” protest in Washington on Jan. 12 later that month. 6 When Congress is in session.
Prosecutors allege that Tarrio handpicked co-defendants Nordan, Biggs and Rael for the day’s special operation to head an ironically titled “Ministry of Self-Defense.”
Before that, the Proud Boys were known for engaging in street fights with their perceived enemies in the left-wing antifa movement, and then Trump was known during the September 2020 presidential debate for refusing to condemn the group, instead urging them to “Stand back and stand by””
January. The three men marched to the Capitol with nearly 200 other men on Sept. 6, joining the first wave that flooded the Capitol grounds and dispersed the cordon on the opposite side, as Tarrio monitored events from Baltimore, the government said. From there, they pushed forward until they were led inside by Pezzola, who was recorded smashing the building’s first window with a stolen police riot shield, McCullough said.
“These gentlemen didn’t back down, they didn’t stand by,” McCullough told jurors.
Instead, McCullough showed video clips of members of the Proud Boys standing on the front lines of the attack on police at the Capitol, where they had gathered that morning even before Trump addressed supporters at the White House Oval.
“Let’s storm the fucking Capitol,” one Proud Boys member yelled, before rushing toward the police line guarding the key staircase. “Let’s not yell,” Nordean admonishes in the video.
While the Proud Boys said they were preparing for violence only in self-defense in case they were attacked by anti-Trump activists, McCullough showed jurors Dec. 12 texts Tarrio had sent to others. 27 hints at their real plans: “Whispering… 1776.”
“‘Whisper,’ because it’s a secret,” McCullough said. “‘1776,’ like a revolution.”
The Proud Boys didn’t come to DC on January 1st. Opposing Antifa on the 6th, he said: “They are here to prevent the certification of Joe Biden’s election.”
Even discarded the defendant’s January ago. 6 talk, their actions that day exposed their plot, McCullough said.
“Make no mistake…we did it,” Tarrio wrote in an encrypted chat at 2:41 p.m., according to documents shown in court.
“Here are his words, his thoughts, just minutes after Congress was forced to stop working,” McCullough said.
“January 6 will be a day of infamy,” Biggs wrote that evening, after Pezzola had earlier recorded herself at the Capitol with “victorious smoke.”
“An infamous day,” McCullough repeated. “That’s how President Roosevelt described the attack on Pearl Harbor that got us into World War II.” The smoke of victory, he told jurors, “is like the sports teams you see after a big game Same.”
When their turn came, defense attorneys accused the government of picking their clients’ statements out of context and urged jurors from overwhelmingly Democratic districts to “put aside politics” and prosecutors for trying to manipulate their emotions “so you hate They, you hate proud boys.”
Jauregui, an attorney for Tarrio, who is Afro-Cuban, called the Proud Boys primarily a “drinking group” that includes all races and sexual orientations, though civil rights monitors say the group is increasingly targeting gay and transgender people and has been overshadowed by white ethnic groups. Christians use it to recruit followers.
“What they share is an ideology. Proud boys think Western civilization is best. … Proud boys think America is best,” Jauregui said. “That’s what they’re fighting for. It’s not about politics, it’s not about race. They believe in free speech. They think you should say whatever you want.”
The leaders of the Proud Boys discussed protecting themselves because they believe DC police and federal prosecutors did not respond adequately to the stabbing of member Jeremy Bertino outside Harry’s Bar in downtown Washington after a pro-Trump rally in December. Bertino has pleaded guilty to inciting conspiracy and has agreed to cooperate with the government.
FBI investigates possible links between extremist groups at center of Capitol violence
On January 1, Tarrio wasn’t even in Washington. 6 because he was arrested two days earlier and fired pending trial by a judge for setting fire to a stolen Black Lives Matter banner from a church during the same rally and carrying an unregistered mass Magazines returned to Washington, DC. He later pleaded guilty to the charges and served four months in prison.
Prosecutors misrepresented and distorted innocent, if sometimes “offensive” babble into an insurrectionary conspiracy, Jauregui and Smith said. The defendants will call multiple government informants in the group as witnesses, including those who claim Nordean tried to stop the violence, Smith said.
“What you’ll see at trial is that there’s no evidence to support the government’s conspiracy thesis that these defendants planned what the government alleges before January 6,” Smith said.
“Over and over again,” Smith said, “witnesses have told the government that there are no plans for January 6. You’ll see even the government’s own cooperating witnesses say the same.”
Tario’s celebration of the riot may have made it “easy” for investigators, but he and the other members were largely putting on a show, their lawyer said. A documentary filmmaker followed the group that day, and Smith said the informant would “prove that the march to the Capitol was just for the photoshoot.”
Another informant texted his FBI handler at noon to say that because the initial barrier was breached, “PB didn’t do it and didn’t inspire,” blaming “herd mentality.”
Pezzola’s attorney, Roger Roots, said his client was smoking to celebrate the Capitol takeover, not to obstruct Congress. Roots accused police and prosecutors of overreacting, firing tear gas and projectiles into crowds and criminalizing the “six-hour delay in Congress.”
Rehl’s attorney, Carmen Hernandez, said Rehl went to the Capitol in anticipation of the speech. He didn’t enter until after the electoral vote count stopped, and “not a single message” of the 160,000 messages reviewed by the FBI indicated that he “intended or planned to … sabotage the process.”
As they watched in court, the five defendants sat calmly, fully dressed, in dark suits, ties and white shirts — four of them wore black-rimmed glasses — matching their agitated expressions depicted in government video In sharp contrast.
Prosecutors admitted to jurors that the entire Proud Boys organization “is not on trial today.”
“A lot of the Proud Boys who were angry about the election, they didn’t go to the Jan. 6 mission,” McCullough said.
But they showed the jury the accused’s own social media posts, including flashes of the words “kill them” and clips of groups of men beating up people in the street at night. A Dec. 2020 post by Tario showed Pezzola against a fiery backdrop tagged “Lord of War” and “#J6,” while another included a promo from Rael The video, which shows Trump’s lawyer Sidney Powell saying she will “release the Kraken.”
“This is the image these defendants are trying to promote in their fight to keep Donald Trump in power,” McCullough concluded. “These ‘lords of war’ banded together to prevent the transfer of presidential power.”