Jury convicts Proud Boys members of seditious conspiracy in US Capitol attack

Lengthy court case results in rare conviction for far-right group members for their role in January 6 insurrection

Supporters of then-US president Donald Trump climb through a window during the Capitol riot in Washington on January 6, 2021.  Reuters
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A US jury on Thursday convicted four members of the far-right Proud Boys group, including its former leader, of seditious conspiracy, finding they plotted to attack the US Capitol during the January 6, 2021, insurrection.

The convictions, which came after a trial lasting nearly four months, handed another victory to the US Justice Department as it pursues criminal charges against more than 1,000 people who took part in the Capitol rampage.

Several members of another far-right militia group, the Oath Keepers, were convicted in earlier trials.

In addition to Proud Boys leader Enrique Tarrio, members Ethan Nordean, Joseph Biggs and Zachary Rehl were convicted of seditious conspiracy under a Civil War-era law. The charge can carry up to 20 years in prison.

The jury did not reach a verdict on seditious conspiracy or conspiracy to obstruct an official proceeding for Dominic Pezzola, the only defendant in the case who did not play a leadership role in the organisation.

More than 500 people have pleaded guilty to charges brought by the Justice Department related to the Capitol riot — carried out by supporters of then-president Donald Trump — and about 80 others have been convicted. These included Oath Keepers founder Stewart Rhodes and several of the group's members.

The trial of the Proud Boys members was the longest of any of those arising from the Capitol attack, with the 12-member jury in a federal court in Washington hearing about 50 days of evidence since January.

During closing arguments on Monday, prosecutor Conor Mulroe told jurors that the Proud Boys viewed themselves as a “fighting force lined up behind Donald Trump and ready to commit violence on his behalf” to overturn his 2020 election defeat.

Prosecutors told the jury that Tarrio and the other defendants, some of whom led state chapters, purchased military gear for the attack and urged members of the self-described “western chauvinist group” to descend on Washington.

Of the five members charged, all but Tarrio entered the Capitol during the attack, with prosecutors saying they were among the first to charge past barricades erected to protect the building.

Proud Boys — in pictures

Tarrio was not in Washington that day, but prosecutors said he helped direct the attack from Baltimore, Maryland, after he was ordered by a judge to stay out of Washington following his January 4 arrest for burning a Black Lives Matter banner at a church.

The rampage occurred on the day when Congress was voting on formally certifying Mr Biden's victory in the November 2020 election, with rioters attacking police with a variety of weapons.

Shortly before the riot, Mr Trump gave an incendiary speech to supporters, urging them to go to the Capitol and “fight like hell” and repeating his false claims that the election was stolen from him through widespread voting fraud.

Five people including a police officer died during or shortly after the riot, and more than 140 police officers were injured.

Reuters contributed to this report

Updated: May 05, 2023, 6:41 AM