A US prosecutor on Monday said leaders of the Proud Boys were “thirsting for violence and organizing for action” ahead of the Jan. 6, 2021 attack on the US Capitol, as the criminal trial of five members of the far-right group neared its conclusion.
Assistant US Attorney Conor Mulroe told a jury in a closing argument that the Proud Boys viewed themselves as a “fighting force” for former President Donald Trump and were “ready to commit violence on his behalf” in order to overturn his 2020 election defeat.
“For these defendants, politics was no longer something for the debating floor or the voting booth,” Mulroe said. “To them, politics meant actual physical combat.”
Former Proud Boys chairman Henry "Enrique" Tarrio and four co-defendants – Ethan Nordean, Joseph Biggs, Zachary Rehl and Dominic Pezzola - are charged with seditious conspiracy and other felonies for what prosecutors described as a plot to use violence to disrupt the transfer of presidential power.
What happened at the Capital?
Prosecutors say the group played a leading role in the Jan. 6 riot, when thousands of Trump supporters attacked the Capitol in an effort to prevent Congress from certifying Democratic President Joe Biden's victory over Trump.
Five people died and more than 140 police officers were injured. More than 1,000 people have been charged so far.
During the four-month trial, jurors were shown internal messages from Proud Boys leaders discussing civil war and physically attacking left-wing protesters and police.
Mulroe told the jury that the defendants did not have to have a specific plan to attack the Capitol to be guilty of seditious conspiracy, a rarely invoked charge that carries a penalty of up to 20 year in prison. He said jurors only needed to conclude that they acted on a common goal of disrupting Congress.
Lawyers for the defendants have argued that there was no plan to attack the Capitol and have accused prosecutors of cherry-picking messages in an attempt to argue there was a broad conspiracy. Two defendants, Rehl and Pezzola, testified in their own defense during the trial.
Lawyers for the defendants are expected to begin their closing arguments later on Monday.
Prosecutors said Tarrio helped to direct the attack from Baltimore, while Pezzola enabled rioters to enter the Capitol by using a police shield to smash a window.