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Jury convicts 4 Proud Boys members for US Capitol attack

May 4, 2023

Jurors have convicted four members of the far-right Proud Boys of seditious conspiracy for their role in the 2021 attack on the US Capitol.

Enrique Tarrio, leader of far-right group the Proud Boys
Enrique Tarrio wasn't in Washington on January 6, 2021, but prosecutors said he organized and directed the attack by Proud Boys who stormed the Capitol that dayImage: Carol Guzy/ZUMA Wire/imago images

A jury in Washington DC on Thursday convicted four members of the far-right Proud Boys militia group, including its former leader Enrique Tarrio, of seditious conspiracy.

They were found guilty of a plot to attack the US Capitol on January 6, 2021, in a failed bid to block Congress from certifying President Joe Biden's election victory. Conviction on the charge can carry up to 20 years in prison.

Tarrio, behind bars since his March 2022 arrest, didn't appear to show any emotion as the verdict was read. He hugged one of his lawyers and shook the hand of the other before leaving the courtroom.

Why is this victory important for US Justice Department?

The convictions 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 arising from the Capitol rampage by supporters of Republican then-President Donald Trump.

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

Securing the conviction of Tarrio, a high-profile leader who wasn't at the riot itself, could embolden the Justice Department as a special counsel investigates Trump — including key aspects of the January 6 insurrection.

Why was Tarrio found guilty?

Tarrio wasn't in Washington on January 6, because he had been arrested two days earlier in a separate case and ordered out of the capital city. But prosecutors said he organized and directed the attack by Proud Boys who stormed the Capitol that day.

The backbone of the government's case was hundreds of messages exchanged by Proud Boys in the days leading up to January 6. The correspondence shows the far-right extremist group peddling Trump's false claims of a stolen election and trading fears over what would happen when Biden took office.

As Proud Boys swarmed the Capitol, Tarrio cheered them on from afar, writing on social media: "Do what must be done." In a Proud Boys encrypted group chat later that day someone asked what they should do next. Tarrio responded: "Do it again."

What did defense lawyers say?

Prosecutors told jurors the group viewed itself as "Trump's army" and was prepared for "all-out war" to stop Biden from becoming president.

Defense lawyers denied there was any plot to attack the Capitol or stop Congress' certification of Biden's win. A lawyer for Tarrio sought to push the blame onto Trump, arguing the former president incited the pro-Trump mob's attack when he urged the crowd near the White House to "fight like hell."

More than 500 people have pleaded guilty to charges brought by the Justice Department related to the Capitol riot and about 80 others have been convicted during trials.

dh/rs (AP, AFP, Reuters)