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Jurors shown how Proud Boys motivated recruits with violence

Defense lawyers for members of the far-right militia had fought unsuccessfully to keep a fiery recruitment video out of evidence.

WASHINGTON (CN) — "Smash Antifa." "Loyalty to my president." These were just two of the messages included in a recruitment video that the leader of the Proud Boys posted to Parler, a social-networking website whose lack of content moderation has drawn support from users who find themselves blocked on mainstream sites like Twitter.

Posted in throes of division over the 2020 election, the recruitment video contains multiple scenes of violence, including hand-to-hand combat and the deployment of spray canisters. Other scenes show people marching and the detritus of buildings consumed by fires.

FBI Special Agent Kate Camiliere, who has been testifying for the government all week, told the jury Wednesday that the video goes to the glorification of violence that culminated on Jan. 6, 2021, with a deadly riot at the U.S. Capitol. Proud Boys leader Enrique Tarrio and four members of his group have been on trial since mid-January for seditious conspiracy related to the riot.

Camiliere, who works in the FBI counterterrorism division in Washington, acknowledged that Tarrio’s decision to post the video is protected speech under the First Amendment. But the government witness noted that it reflects the “culture of violence” surrounding the Proud Boys group that is touted by its members, including the defendants, through some of their posts on Parler.

Tarrio can be seen in the background of one scene in which an unidentified person says, “Stand against domestic terrorism.”

Shortly after the video went live, Camiliere said Tarrio discussed “maintaining the culture” in another post on Parler.

The recruitment video almost did not get admitted into evidence after defense counsel for one of Tarrio's co-defendants, Ethan Nordean, complained that the violent scenes it depicted occurred in 2018 during a rally by the Proud Boys chapter in Auburn, Washington.

U.S. District Judge Timothy Kelly ruled in favor of the government, finding that the video could be admitted as evidence of Tarrio’s state of mind at the time he posted it on Parler. Kelly, a Trump appointee, added a caveat to his ruling that barred prosecutors from telling the jury Nordean is in the video.

Proceedings on Wednesday also included testimony from FBI Special Agent Elizabeth DeAngelo, the government’s sixth witness. Direct examination of DeAngelo is expected to continue Wednesday.

Standing trial alongside Tarrio and Nordean are self-described Proud Boys organizer Joseph Biggs, of Ormond Beach, Florida; Zachary Rehl, former president of the Proud Boys chapter in Philadelphia; and Dominic Pezzola, a member of the 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. Pezzola faces a robbery charge. All have pleaded not guilty.

Elsewhere in the Washington federal courthouse on Wednesday, jury selection began in the government’s third Capitol riot-related conspiracy case against members of the Oath Keepers. The far-right group founded by Stewart Rhodes has already seen two seditious conspiracy trials of its members end in guilty verdicts. Rhodes faces up to 60 years in prison after his conviction.

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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