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Sunday, June 23, 2024 | Back issues
Courthouse News Service Courthouse News Service

Proud Boys member who inked plea deal testifies in seditious conspiracy trial

Matthew Greene was indicted alongside one of the defendants in the trial but has been cooperating with the government pursuant to a plea.

WASHINGTON (CN) — The first member of the Proud Boys to plead guilty to Capitol riot-related charges testified Wednesday against the leader of the organization, Enrique Tarrio, and four other members indicted in one of the government’s most high-profile cases yet related to the insurrection. 

Matthew Greene, from Syracuse, New York, was named in an indictment alongside two other Proud Boys only days after they joined a mob of far-right extremists who stormed the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021, causing Congress to briefly delay its certification of the 2020 election results.

One of Greene's original co-defendants is standing trial in these proceedings: Dominic Pezzola, a fellow New Yorker who is pictured in charging papers using a riot shield that he stole from the police to break through a glass window of the Capitol building on Jan. 6. Greene meanwhile was accused of being one of the first people to trample down police barriers during the siege, as well as helping to coordinate lodging, communication supplies and clothing with other Proud Boys. 

Testifying as the fifth witness for the government, Greene tried to distance himself on the witness stand from his former group, telling the jury his first communication with the Proud Boys was in December 2020, about one month before prosecutors say the far-right organization plotted a coup to keep the outgoing President Donald Trump in power.  

Attorneys for the Proud Boys who have pleaded not guilty meanwhile tried to separate Greene from their clients, establishing through questioning that the Rochester-based Pezzola was the only defendant who interacted with Greene. 

Not disputing the characterization of his and Pezzola's relationship offered by defense attorney Norm Pattis, Greene said on Wednesday that he “admired” and “looked up to him.” Pattis represents defendant Joe Biggs, a self-described Proud Boys organizer from Ormond Beach, Florida.  

Both men believed a civil war was imminent on Jan. 6, Greene testified, which is why he wanted to be with Pezzola if it started. Prosecutors played videos earlier in the week showing Pezzola making off with the riot shield from police on Jan. 6 and admitting to stealing it.  

Pattis quizzed the witness about his state of mind during on Jan. 6, asking whether he believed Trump’s false claim that the election had been stolen from him. Greene said he did indeed believe the former president’s stolen election claim, but denied that he felt he had a constitutional right to stop Vice President Mike Pence from tallying electoral votes on Jan. 6. 

The defense attorney asked Greene if he thought Trump was encouraging him to go interfere with Congress.

“I feel like some of the words definitely emboldened us,” Greene said, referring to Trump’s statement to the crowd that he would go to the Capitol with them and that people should “fight like hell.” 

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)

Asked if the former president’s words encouraged Greene to take matters into his own hands, the witness repeated that, “looking back, it may have emboldened us.” 

But the defense attorney was not satisfied. He wanted a definitive yes-or-no answer as to whether Trump’s speech emboldened them, and the witness said, “I would say yes.” 

Greene was arrested in Fabius, New York, in March 2021, less than three months after the riot, and he inked a plea deal with the government about a month later.  He was initially charged with conspiracy; obstruction of an official proceeding and aiding abetting; obstruction of law enforcement during civil disorder and aiding and abetting; destruction of government property and aiding and abetting; entering and remaining in a restricted building or grounds; disorderly conduct in a restricted area, as well as disorderly conduct in a restricted area and aiding and abetting. 

U.S. District Judge Timothy Kelly, a Trump appointee, accepted Greene’s guilty plea in December 2021 and is now presiding over the trial of Tarrio, Pezzola and the others.  

Prosecutors said they may lower their sentencing recommendation for Greene to Judge Kelly if Greene provides “substantial” help in their Jan. 6 probe

Carmen Hernandez, who represents Zachary Rehl, former president of the Proud Boys chapter in Philadelphia, asked Greene on Wednesday if he agrees “there’s a little pressure on him to please the prosecutors” with his testimony. 

“I wouldn’t say that,” the witness responded. He also disagreed with the defense attorney’s suggestion that he wants to end up on the right side of prosecutors. Rather, he said he wants to end up on the “right side of God.” 

Greene was initially set to be sentenced by Judge Kelly last March. A new sentencing date has not yet been set.  

Tarrio and the four others currently on trial 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 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.”   

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.  

Follow @EmilyZantowNews
Categories / Criminal, National, Politics, Trials

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