WASHINGTON (CN) — Putting the social media of five Proud Boys front and center in their seditious conspiracy trial, prosecutors called an FBI agent to testify Monday in front of a series of poster boards with their activity on Parler.
FBI Special Agent Kate Camiliere testified that the posts from a Parler monicker called NobleLead belonged to Enrique Tarrio, the highest-ranking member of the Proud Boys and likewise of the defendants in this indictment.
Camiliere, who is the government’s fifth witness, noted that Tarrio also described himself as a fourth-degree Proud Boys chairman, war lord and American supremacist in the biography section of his account. Tarrio had 102,802 followers on the social media site, four of whom are on trial with him, and he followed each of his co-defendants except one, Dominic Pezzola.
The first Parler message shown to the jury Monday was posted by Tarrio at 2:38 p.m. on Jan. 6, 2021. “Don’t fucking leave," it said.
Inside the U.S. Capitol at the same time, a mob of right-wing extremists had breached building security and caused Congress to temporarily abandon its official proceedings, namely a ceremony certifying that the outgoing President Donald Trump had lost reelection in favor of his Democratic challenger, Joe Biden.
“Proud Of My Boys and my country," came the next message from Tarrio, about four minutes later.
Having been arrested on unrelated charges earlier in the week and barred from setting foot in the nation's capital as a condition of his release, there is no allegation Tarrio was in Washington for the riot.
But roughly 30 minutes prior to his Parler posts, footage from the insurrection shows Pezzola using a police officer's riot shield to break a window of the Capitol building, through which the first members of the mob entered. Pezzola is a member of the Rochester, New York, chapter of the Proud Boys.
Prosecutors say Tarrio was aware of plan for the riot, including discussions from Jan. 5 about occupying buildings within the Capitol complex.
He is said to have communicated with an unnamed person about plans to occupy “crucial buildings” with “as many people as possible” to “show our politicians We the People” are in charge.
Jurors also saw several posts made by the defendants in the months leading up to Jan. 6, including a post by Ethan Nordean, who went by the moniker “RebelRufio” on Parler. Nordean’s Parler biography included several statements such as, punch heard around the world, “patriotus ProudBoy,” entrepreneur, party of American Rebels and communists ruin everything.
In a Parler post dated Nov. 11, 2020, a user said they would sign up for the Proud Boys “as long as all politicians we [have] currently are lynched on your inauguration day and all bureaucrats are summarily shot on sight. Deal?” Nordean responded, “Deal.”
Camiliere, who works within the Washington bureau’s counterterrorism unit, told the jury social media can be evidence of a crime because when a crime occurs it does not occur in a vacuum and online actions can potentially reveal motive, intent, state of mind, co-conspirators and belief systems.
U.S. District Judge Thomas Kelly, a Trump appointee, is presiding over the trial, which is expected to resume Tuesday with cross-examination of Camiliere.
The agent took the stand after Matthew Greene, a former Proud Boys member, who offered testimony over the course of three days.
Standing trial alongside Tarrio, Nordean and Pezzola are self-described Proud Boys organizer Joseph Biggs, of Ormond Beach, Florida, and Zachary Rehl, former president of the Proud Boys chapter in Philadelphia.
Each of the defendants faces nine charges, including one count of seditious conspiracy and one count of conspiracy to prevent an officer from discharging any duties. Pezzola is also facing a robbery charge. All have pleaded not guilty to charges that carry up to 20 years in prison.
The government has so far charged approximately 950 people in connection with the Capitol riot. As of Jan. 6, about 364 people had pleaded guilty to misdemeanors, and about 119 had pleaded guilty to felonies. Approximately 192 people have been sentenced to prison time.
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