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Justice Department charges Proud Boys with seditious conspiracy

The five Proud Boys members are set to appear before a federal judge on Thursday, just hours before the House Jan. 6 committee holds a public hearing on primetime national television.

WASHINGTON (CN) — The Department of Justice unsealed a superseding indictment Monday against former Proud Boys leader Enrique Tarrio and four other members of the right-wing extremist group, charging them with seditious conspiracy in connection with the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the U.S. Capitol.

Tarrio, 38, has been incarcerated since he and the four other Proud Boys were indicted in March and charged with conspiracy to obstruct Congress’ certification of the 2020 election, among other charges. But Monday’s superseding indictment adds a seditious conspiracy charge, and it comes as the House Select Committee to Investigate the Jan. 6 Capitol Attack is set to resume public hearings on Thursday. 

Prior to this week’s development, 11 Capitol riot defendants had been charged with seditious conspiracy – all of whom are affiliates of the Oath Keepers, another right-wing extremist group. 

Monday’s 32-page superseding indictment notes that Tarrio and Oath Keepers founder Stewart Rhodes met in an underground garage on the eve of Jan. 6. They are two of the highest-profile people to face Capitol riot charges. 

Although Tarrio did not physically breach the Capitol building where a session to confirm the election results was underway, prosecutors claim he was aware of talks surrounding a plan to breach the building that day, including discussions 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.  

“I’m not playing games,” Tarrio allegedly told the person. 

Also named in the superseding indictment are Ethan Nordean, 31, of Auburn, Washington; Joseph Biggs, 38, of Ormond Beach, Florida; Zachary Rehl, 36, of Philadelphia; and Dominic Pezzola, 44, of Rochester, New York. 

“On Jan. 6, 2021, the 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,” the filing states. 

The new indictment charges them each with one count of seditious conspiracy and one count of conspiracy to prevent an officer from discharging any duties. Each of the defendants are now facing nine charges, and Pezzola is also facing a robbery charge. 

They are set to make their initial appearance on Thursday in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, just hours before the House Jan. 6 committee holds a hearing on national television at 8 p.m. Eastern time. 

Three Oath Keepers’ members who are charged with seditious conspiracy –  Joshua James, Brian Ulrich and William Todd Wilson – have already pleaded guilty.

A seditious conspiracy charge carries a maximum sentence of up to 20 years in prison. 

The Justice Department has so far charged more than 810 people in connection with the Capitol riot. As of last month, about 230 people have pleaded guilty to misdemeanors and 48 have pleaded guilty to felonies.

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