Yesterday (June 6), the Justice Department charged the leader of the Proud Boys, Enrique Tarrio, with seditious conspiracy for his role in the Jan. 6 attack at the U.S. Capitol. Four other members of the far-right extremist group were charged as well.
The other men include Joseph Biggs, Zachary Rehl, Ethan Nordean and Dominic Pezzola.
Sources say these are the most serious consequences the men have faced thus far. Tarrio and his co-defendants previously pleaded not guilty to similar charges.
New documents state that prosecutors believed the five group members worked together to intimidate authorities and Congress, hoping the officials would evacuate the building, so they would be unable to perform their duties of certifying the Electoral College vote.
“They HAVE to certify today! Or it’s invalid,” one person said during a text exchange.
Other text messages shared during the case show that Tarrio engaged in conversations referring to the U.S. Capitol as “The Winter Palace.” This is seemingly a reference pointing to a Russian emperor’s home that was attacked during the Russian Revolution in 1917.
Tarrio’s attorneys claim their client was not present for the Capitol Riots. They remain adamant that the Proud Boy leader left Washington on Jan. 5 after previously being arrested for burning a church’s Black Lives Matter sign in December.
A written statement provided by Rehl’s defense attorney Carmen Hernandez argues that he did not use “force at any time nor encouraged anyone to do so.”
Hernandez continued, “The worst that has been alleged against Mr. Rehl is that he has associated himself with the Proud Boys, a lawful fraternal association as is his right protected by the First Amendment.”
The Justice Department has also recently received three guilty pleas of seditious conspiracy from leaders of the Oath Keepers, who also participated in the Jan. 6 riots.