The former chairman of the Proud Boys was among four members of the white nationalist and misogynist group convicted on Thursday of seditious conspiracy for planning and carrying out the January 6, 2021 insurrection at the U.S. Capitol. The members now face a maximum prison sentence of 20 years and numerous potential fines.
The U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) proved to a jury in Washington, D.C. that former leader Enrique Tarrio was sufficiently involved in the conspiracy to attack the U.S. Capitol as members of Congress certified the 2020 election, even though he was in a hotel room in Baltimore on the day of the insurrection—having been banned from the nation's Capitol the day before by a judge for burning a Black Lives Matter flag stolen from a church.
Although Tarrio wasn't present on Capitol Hill as thousands of supporters of Republican then-President Donald Trump stormed the Capitol, encrypted messages revealed during the trial showed that the Proud Boys leader wanted a "spectacle" in Washington, D.C. on January 6 and that he said after the attack: "Make no mistake. We did this."
Prosecutors also publicized a document titled "1776 Returns" that they said Tarrio used to map out the planned occupation of Capitol building. The document said the Proud Boys and other far-right, pro-Trump groups including the Oath Keepers would fill federal buildings and at least one news outlet—CNN—"with patriots and communicate our demands."
The document also said the group would maintain control of "crucial buildings in the D.C. area for a set period of time" and would try to get as "many people as possible inside these buildings."
The attack came as Trump and other Republican leaders baselessly claimed that President Joe Biden was not the legitimate winner of the 2020 election, and months after Trump called on the Proud Boys to "stand back and stand by" as he repeatedly suggested fraud would be rampant in the voting process.
"These Proud Boys just convicted of seditious conspiracy against the United States identified President Donald Trump's admonition for them to 'stand back and stand by' as a major motivation for recruitment and action," said Todd Zwillich, deputy Washington, D.C. bureau chief for Vice News.
Along with Tarrio, Proud Boys chapter leaders Ethan Nordean, Joseph Biggs, and Zachary Rehl were convicted of seditious conspiracy.
U.S. District Judge Timothy Kelly asked the jury to continue deliberations over a seditious conspiracy verdict for a fifth member, Dominic Pezzola, who admitted to smashing a Capitol building window with a stolen police shield.
All five members were convicted of other charges including obstruction of an official proceeding and preventing lawmakers and law enforcement agents from carrying out their duties.
Guilty verdicts in seditious conspiracy cases have been rare in the U.S. The Biden administration has successfully prosecuted six members of the Oath Keepers this year for the same crime related to January 6.
Ryan Goodman, former special counsel for the Department of Defense, called the verdict an "enormous victory."
"Important victory for accountability, for historical record, for democracy," Goodman said. "The white supremacist paramilitary group would not have taken these actions without Trump's messaging."
Trump is now seeking the 2024 Republican nomination for president.