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Proud Boys grill documentarian who tailed them through riot

The filmmaker sparred with defense counsel about his failure to see who actually pulled down Capitol building barricades on Jan. 6, 2021.

WASHINGTON (CN) — A documentarian who filmed Proud Boys leader Enrique Tarrio and other members of the far-right group at the Jan. 6, 2021, Capitol riot, as well as in the months leading up to it, testified Friday about his interactions with the group.

Called to the witness stand as the government’s fourth witness, Nick Quested told the jury about various film clips recorded by him, or members of Gold Crest Films, that were given to the government for its Jan. 6 investigation. Quested said he became interested in the Proud Boys for work on a documentary regarding division in America.

A core theory in the government’s case against Tarrio and four members of the Proud Boys is that they incited the riot as part of an attempt to stop the transfer of power to Democrat Joe Biden from the outgoing Republican President Donald Trump.

Cross-examining the witness Friday, defense attorney David Smith asked Quested several questions about video clips of initial breaches of police fence barriers outside the Capitol on the morning of Jan. 6.

In one video, a man identified by defense counsel as Ryan Samsel can be seen walking in front of a crowd that included Smith's client, Ethan Nordean, and Nordean's co-defendant Joseph Biggs. Nordean, who goes by the alias Rufio Panman is a Proud Boys chapter president from Auburn, Washington, while Biggs, of Ormond Beach, Florida, described himself as a Proud Boys organizer. The footage shows the crowd walk toward a police line at the Peace Circle Monument, near the Capitol building, where lawmakers were holding a ceremony to certify Biden’s 2020 election victory.

Quested agreed with Smith that he identified Samsel at the time as one of the instigators at the Peace Circle. Pulling up another video in which Samsel can be seen talking to Biggs, Smith asked if Quested heard Biggs instruct Samsel to approach any police barriers.

Quested said he recorded the video clip in question and denied hearing any such conversation. The witness agreed it was feasible that Samsel just wanted to talk to Biggs because he is an internet personality with a prolific presence on Alex Jones’ "Infowars."

Charging papers in the federal case against members of the Proud Boys includes a still that shows the first people to enter the Capitol building on Jan. 6, 2021. Defendant Dominic Pezzola is encircled at right, using a riot shield to break an exterior window. (Justice Department via Courthouse News)

The defense attorney then asked about another video clip in which a barrier fence was breached and asked if it was defendant Nordean who initially pulled the fence down. Quested said he could not see whether Nordean pulled the fence down based on the video clip, but that he had no knowledge of Nordean moving the fence.

Smith pushed the witness to say whether it would suggest an act of violence if Nordean touched the fence.

“Not necessarily,” Quested said. “He may have been trying to stabilize himself, like I was [at one point].”

Quested is expected to resume testifying on Monday.

U.S. District Judge Timothy Kelly is presiding over the Proud Boys trial riot. Standing trial alongside Tarrio, Nordean and Biggs are 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

A seditious conspiracy charge carries a maximum sentence of 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. 

Elsewhere in the federal courthouse, a jury continued deliberations in the trial of four members of a similar far-right group, the Oath Keepers, who are being tried for Capitol riot-related seditious conspiracy. In December, two members of the Oath Keepers were convicted of the rare charge.  

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