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Judge weighs sanctions against lawyer for Proud Boys leader

A Trump appointee is expected to rule on sanctions Wednesday, having been presiding for the last month over the seditious conspiracy trial against five members of the far-right militia.

WASHINGTON (CN) — Prosecutors pushed for sanctions Tuesday after a defense lawyer for Enrique Tarrio, the leader of the Proud Boys, improperly gave the jury access to certain evidence they had agreed to exclude from trial.

Defense attorney Sabino Jauregui asked problematic questions, according to prosecutors, while cross-examining FBI Special Agent Peter Dubrowski, who has been testifying for the government for nearly a week.

“Your honor can take it for what it’s worth,” Assistant U.S. Attorney Conor Mulroe advised U.S. District Judge Timothy Kelly. “I think it is just an affront to the dignity of these proceedings.” 

Accusing the defense lawyer of putting protected information in front of the jury, the prosecutor said Jauregui also played two exhibits that he initially agreed not to play, and then “told your honor it was accidental.” 

Speaking on his fellow lawyer's behalf, defense counsel Norm Pattis insisted Jauregui is regretful and that, if the judge believes his questions were improper then the court should consider allowing prosecutors to do cross-impeachment.

Pattis, who represents Tarrio's co-defendant Joe Biggs, said he fears this could be an irreconcilable conflict and end up chilling Jauregui's advocacy.

In an unrelated but similarly high-profile trial from 2022, Pattis earned sanctions of his own during his representation of conspiracy theorist Alex Jones against victims of an elementary school massacre in Newtown, Connecticut. Having divulged privileged documents, Pattis saw his license to practice law suspended for six months in the Nutmeg State.

Judge Kelly, a Trump appointee, told the courtroom Tuesday that he has “great patience for legitimate pushing of where boundaries are in scope of direct but what we’re talking about here is information that has no place before the jury and it’s been repeated, repeated, repeated.”  

Kelly assured the parties that he has no intent to chill advocacy on what is proper in scope, but that Jauregui's infraction is less about scope than about raising an improper question that caused the jury to see something where there was no basis in evidence to do. 

Prosecutors have sought to paint Jauregui's client as the mastermind of the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the U.S. Capitol, a deadly riot that coincided with the ceremony that Congress was holding to certify the 2020 electoral college results.

Tarrio was not in Washington on Jan. 6, however, because he had been arrested two days earlier and ordered by a federal judge to stay away from the city except for court-related matters.

During his cross-examination Tuesday of the FBI agent, attorney Jauregui insisted that Tarrio had a positive relationship with law enforcement and that he cooperated with officials for this case. To demonstrate this, the lawyer presented some of the messages between Tarrio and a former lieutenant who is currently under investigation for alleged ties to the Proud Boys.

Dubrowksi agreed that Tarrio communicated with law enforcement throughout his time in the Proud Boys, and that he exchanged texts and Telegram messages with Lt. Shane Lamond, the former head of intelligence for the Metropolitan Police Department.  

Jauregui suggested there was discussion about plans for a barbecue with a local leader of the Black Lives Matter movement, but the agent said he could not confirm.  

In a bid to portray his client as a patriot, Jauregui tried as well to have Dubrowksi confirm that it was "Antifa — not America” that Tarrio and his Proud Boys had a problem with.

Unlike the Proud Boys, Antifa has no central governing body. It is considered an umbrella description, rather, for the far-left-leaning militant groups that resist neo-Nazis and white supremacists at demonstrations and other events.

Dubrowksi did not deny that he saw many patriotic messages among the Proud Boys chats. He balked, however, when Jauregui suggested that Antifa was the exclusive target of violent talk in the Proud Boys' chats.

“I can’t say exclusively,” the agent said. “There was a lot of violent talk directed toward law enforcement, but I will agree that a lot of violent talk was directed toward Antifa.” 

Tarrio’s attorney also attempted to raise doubts about the government’s evidence, questioning whether certain messages are missing in certain exhibits. At one point, Jaraguei accused the agent of contaminating the evidence by chunking it together. Dubrowksi rejected that characterization, telling the lawyer that the evidence was pulled together in one evidence set because the government would otherwise have been showing the jury hundreds of thousands of messages. 

Judge Kelly is expected to issue a ruling regarding the sanction request on Wednesday and prosecutors are expected to put Dubrowski back on the stand. 

A Metropolitan Police Department officer testified about Tarrio’s Jan. 4 arrest earlier in the trial, but the court barred prosecutors from telling the jury what crime Tarrio had committed. After the insurrection, Tarrio pleaded guilty to burning a flag for a Black Lives Matter group on Dec. 12, 2020. He was given a given a five-month sentence while awaiting trial on seditious conspiracy.

Standing trial alongside Tarrio are Ethan Nordean, a Proud Boys chapter president from Auburn, Washington; Joseph Biggs, of Ormond Beach, Florida, who acted as the umbrella group's sergeant-at-arms; Zachary Rehl, former president of the Proud Boys chapter in Philadelphia; and Dominic Pezzola, a Proud Boys member from Rochester, New York.  

The indictment states the five defendants “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.”  

Tarrio and the others each face 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. They could face up to 20 years in prison if convicted of the top charge.  

Categories:Criminal, Law, Trials

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