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Proud Boys trial moves forward as Jan. 6 panel prepares report

A US trial is set to move forward against five members of the far-right group known as the Proud Boys, and the group’s former leader, Enrique Tarrio, among those who face seditious conspiracy charges for their role in the attack on the US Capitol. United States in Washington, DC, on January 6, 2021.

US District Judge Timothy Kelly said jury selection would continue Monday after he rejected a defense request to delay the start of the trial, which coincides with the final public hearing of a congressional committee investigating the attack.

Defense attorneys argued that the January 6 Committee’s findings, produced on behalf of the US House of Representatives, would undermine the process.

“We don’t want to select the jury in this highly confusing and combustible environment,” attorney Norm Pattis, who represents Proud Boys member Joseph Biggs, told the judge.

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Tarrio, Biggs, Ethan Nordean, Zachary Rehl and Dominic Pezzola are charged with seditious conspiracy and other charges related to the January 6 attack.

Kelly said she would remind jurors to avoid media coverage that could result in bias during the process, but said jury selection, a process that can take several days, would move forward immediately.

The trial has drawn attention to the role far-right armed groups played in the 2021 attack on the United States Capitol. During the attack, supporters of former US President Donald Trump tried to prevent the certification of the 2020 election results by violently storming the building that houses the US legislature.

Tarrio, the former national president of the Proud Boys, was not present on the day of the attack, but prosecutors alleged that he was a key figure in a conspiracy to use violence to prevent the peaceful transfer of power.

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In its indictment, the US Department of Justice accused Tarrio of helping to organize a new chapter of the Proud Boys called the Ministry of Self Defense. This new chapter, prosecutors said, worked to plan the events of January 6 by raising funds to travel to Washington, DC and gathering supplies such as paramilitary equipment.

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The indictment also included messages between Tarrio and other Proud Boys leaders. In the days leading up to the attack on the Capitol, Tarrio reportedly told his followers on social media: “Let’s bring in this new year with one word in mind…Rebellion.” And when Trump supporters entered the Capitol on January 6, Tarrio made two consecutive posts saying “Make no mistake” and “We did this,” according to the indictment.

Tarrio and his four co-defendants could face up to 20 years in prison if convicted of sedition.

The Proud Boys trial is the latest in a series of trials against key figures involved in the January 6 attack. In late November, a jury found Stewart Rhodes, the leader of another far-right group known as the Oath Keepers, guilty of seditious conspiracy in connection with the attack on the Capitol.

The conviction of Rhodes, who faces up to 20 years in prison while awaiting sentencing, was seen as a significant victory for the government as it brings charges against participants in the insurrection.

Tarrio is probably the most high-profile figure facing jurors for his role in the attack on the Capitol, and his trial is expected to last at least six weeks.

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Meanwhile, the committee on January 6 voted unanimously to recommend criminal charges against former President Trump during its last public session on Monday, accusing him of “inciting” the insurrection. Before the attack on the Capitol, Trump made repeated claims, without evidence, that the 2020 election was rigged.

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The congressional committee does not have the power to bring criminal charges itself, but it can recommend that the Justice Department do so. The panel subpoenaed Trump in October, asking him to appear before the committee to answer questions about January 6 and requesting documents related to communications with far-right groups.

Trump has refused to appear before the committee, which is expected to finish its work before the Republican Party seizes control of the US House of Representatives early in the new year.

Trump has said he will seek the presidency again in 2024.

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