Updates to our Terms of Use

We are updating our Terms of Use. Please carefully review the updated Terms before proceeding to our website.

Sunday, July 14, 2024 | Back issues
Courthouse News Service Courthouse News Service

‘Jubilation’: Witness recounts mood after Trump called to Proud Boys by name

The president had urged, "Proud Boys, stand back, stand by," rather than condemn white supremacists when invited to do so in a live televised debate.

WASHINGTON (CN) — “Guys… Standby,” is the directive Proud Boys leader Enrique Tarrio gave to a group of leaders within the far-right organization moments after then-President Donald Trump exhorted the group with those very words during a September 2020 presidential debate.

Trump's words — "Proud Boys, stand back and stand by," he had said — came in response to an invitation from the Fox News host moderating the first presidential debate of 2020 to condemn white supremacists.

It's the government's contention that the Proud Boys switched from standby to attack mode on Jan. 6, 2021, as both chambers of Congress met at the U.S. Capitol to certify that Trump had lost the election and that President Joe Biden would be taking office. Investigators who have parsed the private chats of pro-Trump extremists in the aftermath of the deadly Jan. 6 riot say the president's words in the Sept. 29 debate sparked an immediate reaction of jubilation among Proud Boys.

Responses from the various defendants charged in the seditious conspiracy trial were shown to the court Wednesday.

“HE SAID OUR NAME!!!” said Ethan Nordean, from Auburn, Washington, who held himself out as sergeant-at-arms of the Proud Boys.

In the same thread on Telegram with Nordean, who went by the pseudonym Rufio Panman, another of the defendants noted that his phone “hasn’t stopped ringing.”

“I’m so happy,” enthused Joe Biggs of Ormond Beach, Florida.

Tarrio gave his "standby" order in a thread on the encrypted messaging application Telegram that included several chapter presidents of the Proud Boys from around the country. It was called the “Official President’s Chat,” FBI Special Agent Peter Dubrowski said.

One of the defendants in this chat was Zachary Rehl, former president of the Proud Boys chapter in Philadelphia, who went by the moniker “Captain Trump."

“Looking at the news," Rehl wrote to the other chapter leaders, "we are clearly brought into the Presidential conversation, we have no platform but will be part of the conversation, [let’s] hope daddy Trump plays it right.”

Agent Dubrowski told the jury that communications between alleged co-conspirators can reveal information about their relationships, the object of their conspiracy and “the manner in which they intend to go about achieving that goal.” Called as the government's 12th witness, he has been with the bureau for three years, working in counterintelligence.

Prosecutors say the seditious conspiracy plot between the defendants ran between Trump's defeat and Biden's inauguration from December 2020 to January 2021. On Jan.6 , according to the indictment, they “directed, mobilized and led members of the crowd onto the Capitol grounds and into the Capitol, leading to dismantling of metal barricades, destruction of property, breaching of the Capitol building, and assaults on law enforcement.” 

Rounding out the group of defendants is Dominic Pezzola, a member of the Proud Boys chapter in Rochester, New York.

In addition to seditious conspiracy, which carries a 20-year maximum prison sentence, the defendants all face one count of conspiracy to prevent an officer from discharging any duties. All have pleaded not guilty.

U.S. District Judge Timothy Kelly, a Trump appointee, is presiding over trial.

The government has so far charged approximately 985 people in connection with the Capitol riot. As of Feb. 6, about 375 people had pleaded guilty to misdemeanors, and about 125 had pleaded guilty to felonies. Approximately 220 people have been sentenced to prison time.   

Follow @EmilyZantowNews
Categories / National, Politics, Trials

Subscribe to Closing Arguments

Sign up for new weekly newsletter Closing Arguments to get the latest about ongoing trials, major litigation and hot cases and rulings in courthouses around the U.S. and the world.