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Trial of Proud Boys charged with seditious conspiracy starts

December 20, 2022

A judge began questioning potential jurors in the seditious conspiracy case against former leaders of the Proud Boys charged in the attack on the US Capitol.

 Enrique Tarrio and the Proud Boys demonstrate near Freedom Plaza in November 2020
Enrique Tarrio is charged with planning and directing fellow Proud Boys during the attack on the US CapitolImage: Chris Tuite/ZUMAPRESS.com/picture alliance

Five leaders of the right-wing extremist Proud Boys went on trial in the United States on Monday facing seditious conspiracy charges.

The group's former national chairman, Enrique Tarrio, and four of his subordinates, Dominic Pezzola, Joseph Biggs, Ethan Nordean, and Zachary Rehl, were accused of trying to stop the certification by Congress of Joe Biden's presidential election victory over Donald Trump.

On Monday jury selection for the trial in a DC federal court started. The process could take up to six weeks.

Defense worried about January 6 decision

Defense attorneys pushed to postpone jury selection in the high-profile case until after the new year due to the coverage around the US House committee's decision to refer criminal charges against Trump to the Justice Department.

Norm Pattis, an attorney for Proud Boy Joseph Biggs, told the judge, "We don't want to be picking the jury in this highly confusing and combustible environment."

US District Judge Timothy Kelly told the first group of potential jurors, "The former president is not on trial here today," when they were called into the courtroom.

On Monday, Kelly individually questioned 17 prospective jurors on Monday and disqualified some of them based on concerns about their impartiality, including a man who expressed concerns about his safety if he was picked.

Jury selection is scheduled to resume on Tuesday.

What's the state's case

Prosecutors allege that Tarrio kept command over the Proud Boys who attacked the Capitol and cheered on their actions from afar.

As rioters stormed the building, he posted, "Don't (expletive) leave'' on social media, and then later "We did this...''

Nordean, Pezzola, Biggs and Rehl were part of the first wave of rioters to push onto Capitol grounds and charge past police barricades toward the building, according to prosecutors.

Defense attorneys have denied that the Proud Boys leaders planned or led an attack on the Capitol.

More than 900 people have been arrested in connection with the storming of Congress by Trump supporters, but only a handful have been charged with seditious conspiracy, which carries a sentence of up to 20 years in prison.

Two leaders of another far-right group, the Oath Keepers, were found guilty of seditious conspiracy last month, including the founder, Stewart Rhodes.

lo/ar (AP, AFP)