The former leader of the Proud Boys, Enrique Tarrio, and four associates were charged with seditious conspiracy on Monday for their role in the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the U.S. Capitol.
It is the second time the sedition charge has been applied over the riot. Leaders of the militia group the Oath Keepers were indicted on sedition charges in January. In total, more than 860 people in 48 states have been charged with crimes connected with the riot. Seditious conspiracy is a Civil War-era charge that carries up to 20 years in prison.
Prosecutors revealed Tarrio’s text messages from January 6, where he appears to compare the attack on the US Capitol to “The Winter Palace” — the home of the Russian emperor, which was stormed during the Russian Revolution in 1917.
In the texts, Tarrio appears to comment on Congress being evacuated from the chambers, unable to certify the Electoral College vote.
An unnamed person reportedly texted Tarrio, “Dude. Did we just influence history?” prompting Tarrio to respond, “Let’s first see how this plays out,” before the Senate resumed certifying the presidential vote. The unnamed person writes back, “They HAVE to certify today! Or it’s invalid.”
The four men charged alongside Tarrio in the indictment are Ethan Nordean, the “sergeant at arms” of the Proud Boys and president of his local chapter; Joseph Biggs, a self-described organizer of Proud Boys events; Zachary Rehl, who runs the Philadelphia chapter of the Proud Boys; and Dominic Pezzola, a New York Proud Boy who goes by “Spaz.”
Lawyers for Nordean, Rehl, Pezzola and Biggs have maintained in court that their clients had no plan when they walked to the Capitol on January 6, while Tarrio’s lawyers have stressed that their client left Washington on January 5 after being arrested for burning a church’s Black Lives Matter banner in December 2020.
Rehl responded to the new charge with his defense attorney, Carmen Hernandez, writing in a court filing Monday night that the new indictment “does not allege that Mr. Rehl used force at any time nor encouraged anyone to do so.”
“The worst that has been alleged against Mr. Rehl is that he has associated himself with the Proud Boys, a lawful fraternal association as is his right protected by the First Amendment,” Hernandez said, adding that “to bring such serious charges against Mr. Rehl at this late date without alleging a single new fact against him is simply wrong and deserves a response.”
Rehl has pleaded not guilty to his previous January 6-related charges in court, and, like the others in the case, has not had the opportunity yet to respond formally in court to the sedition charge.
Charles Donohoe, who is a Proud Boy from North Carolina, pleaded guilty in April and agreed to cooperate with the investigation. He was not named in Monday’s indictment.
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