Earlier this month, a jury in the District of Columbia returned guilty verdicts on multiple felonies against five members of the Proud Boys, finding four of the defendants guilty of seditious conspiracy for their actions before and during the breach of the U.S. Capitol on January 6, 2021. Two of the convicted leaders are from Florida.
According to the evidence at trial, in the months leading up to January 6th, the defendants plotted to oppose by force the lawful transfer of presidential power, and to prevent the Members of Congress, and the federal law enforcement officers who protect them, from discharging their duties.
Henry “Enrique” Tarrio, of Miami, Florida, the former national chairman of the Proud Boys; Ethan Nordean, of Auburn, Washington; Joseph Biggs, of Ormond Beach, Florida; and Zachary Rehl, of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, were found guilty of seditious conspiracy and conspiracy to obstruct an official proceeding. The four defendants and co-defendant Dominic Pezzola, of Rochester, New York, were also found guilty of obstruction of an official proceeding, conspiracy to prevent Members of Congress and federal law enforcement officers from discharging their duties, civil disorder, and destruction of government property. Pezzola was also found guilty of assaulting, resisting, or impeding certain officers and robbery involving government property.
“Today, the Justice Department secured the conviction of four leaders of the Proud Boys for seditious conspiracy related to the January 6th attack on the Capitol,” said Attorney General Merrick Garland. “In addition, those defendants and a fifth member of the Proud Boys were all convicted of felonies including obstructing Congress’s certification of the 2020 presidential election results and conspiring to prevent Congress and federal officers from discharging their duties. The evidence presented at trial detailed the extent of the violence at the Capitol on January 6th and the central role these defendants played in setting into motion the unlawful events of that day. The Department has secured more than 600 convictions for a wide range of criminal conduct on January 6th, as well as in the days and weeks leading up to the attack. And we have now secured the convictions of leaders of both the Proud Boys and the Oath Keepers for seditious conspiracy – specifically conspiring to oppose by force the lawful transfer of presidential power. The Justice Department will never stop working to defend the democracy to which all Americans are entitled.”
“This case is a crucial step to hold criminally accountable those who attempted to undermine the peaceful transfer of power on January 6, 2021,” said FBI Director Christopher Wray. “The FBI will uphold the rights of all Americans to participate in peaceful First Amendment protected activities, but we are just as committed to holding criminally responsible those who engage in violence to undermine the workings of our democracy. I am grateful for the hard work of the many FBI agents, analysts, and other staff who have worked tirelessly to investigate the criminal acts committed that day.”
According to the evidence, the Proud Boys describe themselves as members of a “pro-Western fraternal organization for men who refuse to apologize for creating the modern world, aka Western Chauvinists.” Through at least Jan. 6, 2021, Tarrio was the national chairman of the organization. According to officials, Proud Boys played a significant and often violent role in Washington, D.C. rallies in November and December 2020. During a rally in Washington, D.C. on Dec. 12, 2020, Tarrio set a stolen Black Lives Matter banner on fire. During that same rally, cooperating defendant Jeremy Bertino, who has also pleaded guilty to seditious conspiracy, was stabbed.
In the aftermath, Tarrio created a special chapter of the Proud Boys known as the “Ministry of Self Defense.” Beginning after Dec. 19, 2020, Tarrio and his co-defendants, all of whom were leaders or members of the Ministry of Self Defense, conspired to prevent, hinder and delay the certification of the Electoral College vote, and to oppose by force the authority of the government of the United States. On Jan. 6, 2021, the defendants directed, mobilized, and led a group of Proud Boys and other members of the crowd onto the Capitol grounds, leading to dismantling of metal barricades, destruction of property, breaching of the Capitol building, and assaults on law enforcement. During and after the attack, Tarrio and his co-defendants claimed credit for what had happened on social media and in an encrypted chat room.
A sixth defendant, Charles Donohoe, of Kernersville, North Carolina, pleaded guilty on April 8, 2022, to conspiracy to obstruct an official proceeding and assaulting, resisting, or impeding officers.
“Hundreds have already been held accountable for their conduct on January 6, 2021, and this verdict holds some of the most prominent members of the Proud Boys accountable for their role in trying to prevent the certification of the 2020 Presidential election,” said U.S. Attorney Matthew M. Graves for the District of Columbia. “The government’s evidence at trial demonstrated the crucial role that these men and their followers played in breaking through the multiple security lines that protected the Capitol on January 6, 2021. Their crimes, and the crimes of other members of the mob that descended on the Capitol, struck at the very heart of our democracy. We are incredibly appreciative of the jury which carefully considered all of the evidence, after attentively listening to evidence and arguments for nearly four months.”
“This trial pulled back the curtain on a premeditated violent attempt to prevent the peaceful transition of power in America,” said Assistant Attorney General Matthew G. Olsen of the Justice Department’s National Security Division. “The seriousness of today’s convictions bring accountability to defendants who attacked our democracy on January 6.”
“The defendants threatened the bedrock of our democracy: the peaceful transfer of power,” said Assistant Attorney General Kenneth A. Polite, Jr. of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division. “Today’s verdict demonstrates the Department’s commitment to protecting our institutions of government and holding those who seek to attack them accountable.”
The FBI Washington Field Office investigated the case. The charges in the investigation are the result of significant cooperation between agents and staff across numerous FBI Field Offices and law enforcement agencies.
The U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Columbia, the Justice Department’s National Security Division’s Counterterrorism Section and Criminal Division’s Organized Crime and Gang Section prosecuted the case.
In the 27 months since Jan. 6, 2021, more than 1,000 individuals have been arrested in nearly all 50 states for crimes related to the breach of the U.S. Capitol, including more than 320 individuals charged with assaulting or impeding law enforcement. The investigation remains ongoing.