U.S. prosecutors charged the group’s leaders with “inciting a conspiracy” to prevent a peaceful transfer of power.
U.S. Attorneys and defense attorneys for the far-right Proud Boys have delivered closing arguments in a trial seeking to determine whether the group’s leaders were involved in what it called the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the U.S. Capitol And the power to commit seditious plots in plots to disrupt peaceful transfers.
Defense teams on Tuesday accused the Proud Boys leader of being used as a scapegoat for former President Donald Trump, who egged on supporters after his 2020 election defeat, including telling those gathered at the Capitol to “fight like hell” to riot during the election previous speech
By contrast, then-Proud Boys leader Enrique Tarrio was not in Washington, D.C., that day, defense attorney Nayib Hassan said, for allegedly defacing Black Lives Matter. Banned from the capital after being arrested for displaying the “Life” banner.
“It was the words of Donald Trump. It was his motivation. It was his anger that led to what happened on January 6th in your beautiful and amazing city,” Hassan told jurors in federal court in Washington, DC. “This is not Enrique Tarrio. They want to use Enrique Tarrio as a scapegoat for Donald J. Trump and the establishment.”
The statements came a day after U.S. prosecutors delivered their final arguments in the case, saying the “Proud Boys” were “thirsty for violence and organized their actions” before the attack on the U.S. Capitol.
“These defendants see themselves as Donald Trump’s army and are working to keep their preferred leader in power no matter what the law or the courts say about it,” said U.S. Attorney Conor Mulroe .
The case is the first major trial involving the leader of the far-right “Proud Boys,” a neo-fascist group that calls itself “Western chauvinists” and remains a force in mainstream Republican circles.
Miami resident Tarrio is working with Ethan Nordean, Joseph Biggs, Zachary Rehl and Dominic Pezzola ), who prosecutors have identified as the group’s top lieutenants.
The men could face up to 20 years in prison if convicted of inciting conspiracy, a charge that is rarely used and difficult to prove. Jurors could begin their deliberations as early as Tuesday.
Defense attorneys argued that prosecutors offered no evidence that the Proud Boys conspired or planned to attack the Capitol. They tried to paint the far-right group as a club that used violence against anti-fascist activists only in self-defense.
Nicholas Smith, an attorney for former Proud Boys chapter leader Nordean, said Monday that prosecutors had based their case on “misleading and innuendo.”
Meanwhile, before, during and after the Capitol riots, the government’s case rests on a wealth of information that Proud Boys leaders and members exchanged privately in encrypted chats — and posted publicly on social media.
Prosecutor Mulroe argued that conspiracy could be an unspoken veil of “mutual understanding, achieved through winks and nods”.
The trial comes after the US Justice Department has already convicted the founders and members of another far-right group, Oath Keepers, of seditious conspiracy.
So far, more than 1,000 people have been charged in connection with the attack on the US Capitol.