A jury has been chosen for the seditious conspiracy trial of former Proud Boys leader Enrique Tarrio and four other members of the far-right extremist group charged with plotting to stop the transfer of presidential power by attacking the U.S. Capitol after the 2020 election.
Jurors are expected to hear attorneys’ opening statements in Washington’s federal court on Wednesday after the panel is sworn in, defence attorney Carmen Hernandez said. It’s one of the most serious cases to emerge from the deadly insurrection that halted Congress’ certification of Joe Biden’s presidential election victory.
Jury selection took 10 days of questioning as many potential jurors expressed negative views about the Proud Boys. The panel ultimately chosen Monday includes seven men and nine women, WUSA-TV reported.
Tarrio and his co-defendants could face up to 20 years behind bars if convicted of seditious conspiracy. Opening statements will begin more than a month after a jury convicted two leaders of another extremist group, the Oath Keepers, of seditious conspiracy for what prosecutors said was a separate plot to stop the transfer of power from then-President Donald Trump, a Republican, to Biden, a Democrat.
The Nov. 29 guilty verdicts for Oath Keepers founder Stewart Rhodes and Florida chapter leader Kelly Meggs were the first seditious conspiracy trial convictions in decades. A trial for four other Oath Keepers charged with seditious conspiracy started earlier this month in Washington.
Tarrio, of Miami, was the national chairman of the Proud Boys when a mob that included several of its members stormed the Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021.
Defense attorneys have said there was never any plan to go into the Capitol or stop Congress’ certification of the vote.
The others on trial – Ethan Nordean, Zachary Rehl, Dominic Pezzola and Joseph Biggs – also are charged with other riot-related crimes besides seditious conspiracy.
Tarrio wasn’t in Washington on Jan. 6. Police had arrested him two days earlier on charges that he vandalized a Black Lives Matter banner at a historic Black church during a December 2020 protest. Tarrio left the nation’s capital on the eve of the riot.
Prosecutors allege that even after his arrest, Tarrio kept command over the Proud Boys who attacked the Capitol on Jan. 6 and cheered on their actions from afar. As rioters stormed the building, he posted “don’t (expletive) leave” on social media, and then later “We did this …”
Nordean, Pezzola, Biggs and Rehl were part of the first wave of rioters to push onto Capitol grounds and charge past police barricades toward the building, according to prosecutors. Pezzola used a riot shield he stole from a Capitol police officer to break a window, allowing the first rioters to enter the building, prosecutors allege.
Nordean, of Auburn, Washington, was a Proud Boys chapter president. Biggs, of Ormond Beach, Florida, was a self-described Proud Boys organizer. Rehl was president of the Proud Boys chapter in Philadelphia. Pezzola was a Proud Boys member from Rochester, New York.