Proud Boys trial – live: Prosecutors say group ‘took aim at heart of democracy’ as sedition trial begins

Federal prosecutors say members of the far-right nationalist gang the Proud Boys “took aim at the heart of the democracy” by conspiring to storm the US Capitol on 6 January, 2021.

Opening arguments in US District Court began on Thursday in a trial for five members of the group, including former leader Enrique Tarrio. The five men are charged with seditious conspiracy for their alleged roles in the attack on the US Capitol on 6 January, 2021. If convicted, they could faced up to 20 years in prison.

Federal prosecutors will try to convince a jury that the defendants had conspired to forcefully oppose the lawful transfer of presidential power when a joint session of Congress convened to certify the results of the 2020 presidential election.

The US Department of Justice has argued that the men – including Ethan “Rufio Panman” Nordean, Joe Biggs, Dominic Pezzola and Zachary Rehl – were among the first rioters to break past barriers on the Capitol grounds that day. The House select committee investigating the Capitol attack has made similar findings, writing in its report that the Proud Boys “led the attack, penetrated the Capitol, and led hundreds of others inside.”

Key Points

  • Federal prosecutor says Proud Boys ‘took aim at heart of democracy'

  • The problems with the Proud Boys lawyers, (briefly) explained

  • Who are the Proud Boys?

  • Why five Proud Boys members are on trial

  • Judge allows prosecutors to use Trump’s ‘stand back and stand by’ remark as evidence

Federal prosecutor says Proud Boys ‘took aim at heart of democracy'

16:36 , Alex Woodward

In opening remarks, Assistant US Attorney Jason McCullough said members of the Proud Boys “took aim at the heart of our democracy” on January 6, as members breached the halls of Congress after months of discussing an alleged attack.

“They did not stand back. They did not stand by,” he said, referencing Donald Trump’s remarks to the group in a presidential debate in September of 2020.

“They mobilised,” he said.

“The transfer of power from Donald Trump to Joe Biden was stopped at the hand of these defendants,” Mr McCullough added. “And before they realised how much trouble they were in, they celebrated their group’s accomplishments.“

He added that former leader Enrique Tarrio told members “make no mistake, we did this” as federal prosecutors previewed various text messages used as evidence to prosecute the defendants.

Judge and jury return to the courtroom

16:23 , Alex Woodward

US District Judge Timothy Kelly and jurors have returned to the courtroom to begin opening arguments.

Assistant US Attorney Jason McCullough will deliver arguments on behalf of the government’s case against the five Proud Boys on trial for seditious conspiracy.

Photos: Maps of the Capitol and police signage brought into federal court for Proud Boys trial

15:50 , Alex Woodward

A map of the US Capitol and and signage used to keep people off the grounds were photographed being carried into federal court on Thursday as prosecutors prepared to deliver opening statements in the seditious conspiracy trial against five members of the far-right nationalist gang the Proud Boys.

 (Getty Images)
(Getty Images)
 (Getty Images)
(Getty Images)

Jury has entered courtroom and opening arguments from federal prosecutors to begin shortly

15:34 , Alex Woodward

Jurors have been sworn in after entering US District Court before opening arguments from prosecutors with the US Department of Justice.

“I know this is a process that has taken some time and involved a lot of waiting around for you all,” Judge Timothy Kelly told the jury.

The Independent’s Graig Graziosi is in Washington DC for the proceedings.

The problems with the Proud Boys lawyers, (briefly) explained

14:51 , Alex Woodward

Among the issues delaying opening arguments in the high-profile Proud Boys trial involves lawyers for defendant Joseph Biggs.

One of his attorneys, Dan Hull, had previously represented Enrique Tarrio in his interactions with the House select committee investigating the attack on the US Capitol. He also was set to represent another Proud Boy, Jeremy Bertino, who pleaded guilty to seditious conspiracy in October.

Now, Bertino is expected to be a key government witness in this trial.

Another lawyer for Mr Biggs, Norm Pattis, had previously defended conspiracy theorist Alex Jones in a defamation case brought by parents of victims of the Sandy Hook Elementary School massacre.

He was effectively barred from this trial after he was suspended from practising law in his home state for six months.

Mr Pattis previously called his client’s case a “righteous fight” when he joined in June. Justice Department attorneys have tried to keep him out of the Proud Boys trial.

“Defendant Biggs has a right to choose his counsel, but that right is not unbounded,” attorneys for the Justice Department wrote in a filing on 9 January. “Just as a defendant has no Sixth Amendment right to ‘choose’ a counsel he cannot afford, a defendant has no right to ‘choose’ a counsel that does not have a license to practice law.”

Mr Pattis had offered to withdraw from the case but Judge Timothy Kelly has paused the idea while conflicts of interest issues are sorted out with Mr Biggs’s other attorney.

Not even a ‘zombie apocalypse’ will stop Proud Boys from moving forward with trial

14:30 , Alex Woodward

Before opening arguments have started, the Proud Boys trial has been mired in issues surrounding the jury selection, admissable evidence, and conflicts and other problems with defense attorneys, who include an attorney for Alex Jones who was suspended from practicising law in his home state, complicating the trial defense.

An attorney for Ethan Nordean, one of five Proud Boys on trial for seditious conspiracy charges related to the January 6 insurrection, wrote in a filing that Mr Nordean “wants the court to clearly understand his position: he has not moved, nor will he move, for a trial continuance.”

“Nordean has been detained pretrial for nearly two years, since April 2021,” he added in the filing on 10 January. “There is no circumstance that would prompt Nordean to move for, or consent to, a trial continuance, up to and including a zombie apocalypse.”

Rioter who assaulted cops at Capitol gets five years in prison

14:00 , Alisha Rahaman Sarkar

A Tennessee man who authorities say came to Washington ahead of the 6 January 2021 riot prepared for violence in a car full of weapons and assaulted officers who were trying to defend the Capitol was sentenced in December to more than five years behind bars.

Ronald Sandlin, 35, of Millington, Tennessee, pleaded guilty in September to conspiracy to obstruct an official proceeding and assaulting, resisting, or impeding officers.

Two other men were separately each sentenced to four years in prison for their actions connected to the riot.

Rioter who assaulted cops at Capitol gets 5 years in prison

Who are the Proud Boys?

13:00 , Alisha Rahaman Sarkar

The violent mob of Donald Trump supporters who stormed the US Capitol building on 6 January in a bid to stop Congress from certifying Democrat Joe Biden’s election win included members of a number of far-right fringe groups, notably QAnon and the Proud Boys.

The outgoing president was explicitly invited to condemn both collectives during the election campaign and declined to so, apparently reluctant to risk even the votes of dangerous extremists.

The former is a cult-like group that believes a covert operative is working at the heart of government to root out Satanic pedophiles running the Democratic Party, a mutation of the earlier “Pizzagate” conspiracy theory, and is a relatively recent phenomenon but the latter is somewhat more established.

Read more here.

Who are the Proud Boys, the hate group Trump told to ‘stand by’?

Secret Service flagged White House visit by Proud Boys leader

12:00 , Alisha Rahaman Sarkar

Transcripts of depositions released by the House January 6 select committee show the Secret Service notified White House leaders after Proud Boys leader Enrique Tarrio was admitted onto the 18-acre complex for a tour.

Mr Tarrio, who is currently on trial for seditious conspiracy related to his group’s alleged role in the worst attack on the Capitol since 1814, attended a tour of the executive mansion on 12 December 2020, the same day he vandalised a Black Lives Matter sign by setting it ablaze after stealing it from a Black church.

At the time, his status as chairman of the pro-Trump extremist group was widely known, and a House January 6 committee transcript of an interview with ex-White House deputy chief of staff Tony Ornato shows his entry onto the White House grounds was noted and relayed to agents on then-president Donald Trump’s protective detail by the Secret Service Protective Intelligence Division.

Andrew Feinberg has more.

Secret Service flagged White House visit by Proud Boys leader ahead of Jan 6

Defence lawyer cries juror discrimination at Proud Boys trial

11:00 , Alisha Rahaman Sarkar

A defence lawyer for one of the Proud Boys members is crying discrimination, claiming that several potential jurors at the trial were rejected by prosecutors because they were white and Republican.

Nicholas Smith, attorney for Ethan Nordean — who is facing more than a dozen charges — challenged the government’s use of peremptory challenges in the jury selection process.

The lawyer argued that the prosecution’s decision to cut multiple “white, male Republican[s],” as well as a Roman Catholic priest, from the panel amounted to discrimination, according to Law and Crime.

“None of these jurors expressed any sympathy for rioters or Donald Trump,” Mr Smith said, adding: “There is no possible explanation that I can think of for cutting these jurors except for prohibited characteristics.”

US district judge Timothy Kelly ruled that removing the priest from the pool wasn’t discrimination since it was done because of a concern about his professional experience and the claims about white or male jurors didn’t hold weight as both demographic groups are still represented on the panel.

Prosecutors allowed to use Trump’s ‘stand back and stand by’ remark

10:00 , Alisha Rahaman Sarkar

A federal judge ruled Wednesday that prosecutors can use video of former president Donald Trump telling the Proud Boys to “stand back and stand by” in the trial against five members of the far-right group.

District judge Timothy Kelly said that the former president’s comments showed “an additional motive to advocate for Mr Trump (and) engage in the charged conspiracy” to keep him in power, according to CNN.

Earlier in 2020 during a presidential debate, Mr Trump was asked if he would condemn white supremacists and militia groups. Then Democratic candidate Joe Biden mentioned the Proud Boys.

“Proud Boys – stand back and stand by,” Mr Trump responded.

Jury finalised after 10 days to hear sedition trial

09:00 , Alisha Rahaman Sarkar

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 group charged with plotting to stop the transfer of presidential power.

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.

Jurors are expected to hear attorneys’ opening statements in Washington’s federal court after the panel is sworn in.

Read more here.

Jury chosen to hear Proud Boys Jan. 6 sedition trial

Why five Proud Boys are on trial two years after January 6

08:00 , Alisha Rahaman Sarkar

Two days before the attack on the US Capitol, the now-former chairman of the far-right nationalist Proud Boys gang was arrested in Washington DC moments after stepping off a plane from Miami.

Enrique Tarrio was wanted by police after he admitted to tearing down and burning a Black Lives Matter flag outside a historically Black church in the nation’s capital during December riots connected to a protest supporting Donald Trump’s bogus claims that the 2020 presidential election was stolen from him.

On 6 January 2021, Tarrio watched the insurrection unfold from a hotel in Baltimore. Two years later, he is among five members of the self-described “Western chauvinist” gang charged with seditious conspiracy in connection with the mob’s assault.

After jurors found two members of the far-right militia group the Oath Keepers guilty of seditious conspiracy against the government in November, federal prosecutors are now hoping to convict another high-profile group of rioters connected to the January 6 assault.

Alex Woodward reports.

‘Burn that city to ash’: Why five Proud Boys are on trial two years after January 6

Five Proud Boys members to go on trial today

07:02 , Alisha Rahaman Sarkar

Five members of the far-right nationalist Proud Boys group charged with seditious conspiracy will go on trial today.

The defendants are former group leader Enrique Tarrio, members Ethan “Rufio Panman” Nordean, Joe Biggs, Dominic Pezzola and Zachary Rehl.

The US justice department has argued that the men were among the first rioters to break past barriers on the Capitol grounds before 1pm.

In addition to seditious conspiracy related to the , they have been charged with eight other crimes including obstructing law enforcement and destruction of government property.

The men face up to 20 years in prison if convicted.

06:00 , Alisha Rahaman Sarkar

Welcome to The Independent’s live coverage of the trial of five members of the far-right group Proud Boys.