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Trial of Proud Boys leader Enrique Tarrio opens with jury selection

The seditious conspiracy trial is the third of its kind for far-right militia members who led an uprising at the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021.

WASHINGTON (CN) — Jury selection began Monday for five members of the Proud Boys group, including their leader, Enrique Tarrio, who are charged with seditious conspiracy in connection with the Jan. 6, 2021, Capitol attack.

The high-profile trial comes as the House committee investigating the insurrection is expected to vote on criminal referrals this afternoon with the partial release of its final report.

Prosecutors do not allege that Tarrio, 38, was part of the mob that broke into the Capitol on Jan. 6, prompting the evacuation of the government building as both houses of Congress were holding a ceremony to to confirm the results of the 2020 election. They do say, however, that he was aware of talks surrounding a plan to breach the building that day, including discussions about occupying buildings within the Capitol complex.  

Tarrio's is the third seditious conspiracy trial related to the Capitol riot, coming three weeks Stewart Rhodes, the leader of a separate far-right group called the Oath Keepers, was convicted of the rare charge in what was the first trial.

On the eve of Jan. 6, according to Tarrio's indictment, Tarrio and Rhodes met in an underground garage.

Tarrio is on trial alongside 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,” according to the indictment. 

The 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 face nine charges, and Pezzola is also facing a robbery charge. All five defendants have pleaded not guilty.

Prosecutors say Tarrio communicated with an unnamed person on Dec. 30 about a nine-page document titled “1776 Returns,” containing plans to occupy “crucial buildings” in Washington with “as many people as possible” to “show our politicians We the People” are in charge. 

When Tarrio's unnamed associate said that “the revolution is [more] important than anything,” Tarrio is quoted in his indictment as having replied: “That’s what every waking moment consists of ... I’m not playing games.”

A seditious conspiracy charge carries a maximum sentence of up to 20 years in prison and it requires prosecutors to prove to the jury that an actual agreement — to oppose the U.S. government by force — existed between each of the accused Proud Boys’ members. The conspiracy is alleged to have run between December 2020 through January 2021.

Jury selection is expected to last up to a week.

In the same Washington federal courthouse, another four members of the Oath Keepers are being tried separately for seditious conspiracy.

To date, the government has charged more than 880 people in connection with the Capitol riot. As of Nov. 6, about 337 people have pleaded guilty to misdemeanors and about 110 have pleaded guilty to felonies. Approximately 173 people have been sentenced to prison time.

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