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Tarrio and 3 Proud Boys associates convicted of seditious conspiracy

Jurors began deliberating last Wednesday after a trial over the Jan. 6, 2021, insurrection that lasted over three months with dozens of witnesses.

(CN) — Enrique Tarrio and three lieutenants of his far-right Proud Boys group are guilty of seditious conspiracy, a federal jury ruled Thursday, finding that each worked to overthrow the U.S. government after former President Donald Trump lost the 2020 election.

It's a charge that carries a prison sentence of up to 20 years for Tarrio and his co-defendants Ethan Nordean, Joseph Biggs and Zachary Rehl. Jurors are still divided on the sedition charge for fifth defendant, Dominic Pezzola. U.S. District Judge Timothy Kelly instructed the jurors to keep deliberating before they give up on a unanimous verdict for Pezzola.

The start of the Proud Boys trial in January marked the third in three months for leaders of the deadly riot that broke out on Jan. 6, 2021. In the two prior trials, the Justice Department secured the convictions of Stewart Rhodes, who led another extremist group called the Oath Keepers, and a score of its members. New charges against people who joined the attempted insurrection meanwhile continue being filed in Washington.

While the lengthy trial of Tarrio and his co-defendants has been underway, a third group of Oath Keepers were convicted of conspiracy and obstruction charges. And just this week, authorities arrested a former FBI supervisory agent who was caught on a security camera video inside the Capitol on Jan. 6.

In addition to sedition in this trial, Tarrio was convicted of obstruction and two conspiracy charges. He was previously given a five-month prison sentence after pleading guilty to burning a Black Lives Matter flag at a December 2020 rally.

Having been arrested for the flag-burning offense two days before the Jan. 6 riot, Tarrio faced a court order that barred his presence in Washington on the day that his group laid siege to the Capitol building.

Tarrio still faced an assault charge stemming from Pezzola's use of a police officer's riot shield during the melee, but the jury acquitted him on that count Thursday.

In addition to testimony from dozens of witnesses, including former members of the extremist group now cooperating with prosecutors, the government offered extensive access to the chat history between the defendants on the encrypted messaging application Telegram.

The group were exultant during the first presidential debate of the 2020 election when Trump spoke to them by name, famously advising, "Proud Boys, stand back and stand by," after the debate moderator from Fox News asked Trump to condemn white supremacists. 

In the lead-up to Jan. 6, the Proud Boys were known for descending on left-wing protests as counter-protesters and battling with their ideological opponents in the streets.

Prosecutors showed Tarrio encouraged violence on Jan. 6 from afar, urging members via Telegram to occupy “crucial buildings” with “as many people as possible” to “show our politicians We the People” are in charge.  

“Don’t fucking leave," he wrote at 2:38 p.m., the same time that a mob of right-wing extremists had breached security at the U.S. Capitol and caused Congress to temporarily abandon its official proceedings, namely a ceremony certifying that Trump had lost his reelection bid.

“Proud Of My Boys and my country," came the next message from Tarrio, about four minutes later.

Tarrio and his co-defendants began mounting their defense in March, denying that they plotted an insurrection and pinning blame on Trump for inciting the violence. They pointed in particular to a speech Trump gave before the riot where he encouraged his supporters to "fight like hell."

Rhodes and the Oath Keepers convicted of seditious conspiracy will be sentenced later this month

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