Enrique Tarrio, the former chairman of the Proud Boys, and four other representatives of the far-right group were charged with seditious conspiracy on Monday for their roles in the crashing of the Capitol on Jan. 6, last year, and one of the most serious criminal charges decided to bring in the Justice Department’s spacious investigation into the assault.
A revised accusation charging sedition was released in Federal District Court in Washington. The men had already been accused in March of plotting to impede the ratification of the 2020 presidential election, which was held on Jan. 6, 2021, throughout a joint session of Congress.
This is the 2nd visit a far-right organization has been accused of seditious conspiracy in connection with the case on Jan. 6. Stewart Rhodes, the founder, and leader of the far-right Oath Keepers militia was arrested and jailed with the same felony in January, along with ten others.
Authorities must show that at least two people consented to use force to remove governmental power or postpone the implementation of a U.S. law, an allegation that can be hard to prove and carries special legal weight as well as political undertones. It carries a maximum prison sentence of 20 years.
The new accusations were not immediately clear, but the indictment highlighted the Proud Boys’ pivotal involvement in the plan to prevent President Donald J. Trump’s loss and “reject the lawful transition of presidential power by force” by invading the Capitol.
2 persons familiar with the committee’s intentions said on Monday that the organization and its operations around the Capitol will be key to the story being stitched together by the House committee probing the attack and Mr. Trump’s attempts to reverse the election results.
The panel plans to provide live evidence from Nick Quested, a British documentarian who was photographing the group with its authorization throughout the violence, and Caroline Edwards, a Capitol Police officer who was hurt, according to footage of the incident, by a rioter who had been in a conversation seconds earlier with one of the Proud Boys indiscriminately.
Mr. Quested was also there with a camera crew a day before the attack, when Mr. Tarrio met with a small group of pro-Trump activists, including Mr. Rhodes of the Oath Keepers, in an underground parking garage near the Capitol.
Mr. Quested and his team were with Mr. Tarrio in Baltimore late on Jan. 6, documenting him as he replied in real time to news of the riot. Ms. Edwards, a well-respected Capitol Police officer, is reported to have been the first officer to be wounded in the incident, suffering a headache.
On Monday, Ms. Edwards did not respond to requests for comment. “Capitol Police officers have had an exceptionally difficult year,” she wrote in an email to The New York Times in December, “but I’ve seen more resiliency inside the agency than I ever imagined imaginable.”
The amended accusation contains little new information, mostly rehashing existing accounts from previous charge documents. One of them described how Joseph Biggs, one of the suspects charged with seditious conspiracy, had a brief exchange with a man in the crowd minutes before the disturbance began, after which he moved alone to a barrier outside the Capitol and faced the police.
Ryan Samsel has been accused of assaulting officers at the barricade in what is largely regarded as the riot’s turning moment, with a videotape showing him assaulting Officer Edwards. Mr. Biggs has stated that he did not incite Mr. Samsel.
There have been various events in the weeks after Mr. Tarrio’s arrest and the last accusation against him and his co-defendants — Mr. Biggs, Ethan Nordean, Zachary Rehl, and Dominic Pezzola — that may have supplied detectives with a better picture of the Proud Boys’ planning and activities on the ground on Jan. 6.
Charles Donohoe, another Proud Boy lieutenant indicted in the same case as the men, pled guilty in April and is working with the government’s investigation into the group.
Federal agents investigated the residences — and confiscated the phones — of three other high-ranking Proud Boys designated as unindicted co-conspirators in the case around the time of Mr. Tarrio’s detention. Jeremy Bertino, Aaron Wolkind, and John C. Stewart, however, have not been charged.
When Mr. Rhodes, the Oath Keepers’ leader, and ten of his subordinates were accused of seditious conspiracy in January, prosecutors claimed they were involved in a plot to forcefully stop the lawful transfer of presidential power by sending men into the Capitol on Jan. 6 and forming a highly armed “quick reaction force” outside of Washington that was ready to rush to the assistance of their fellow countrymen inside.
Prosecutors must prove that violence was used to overthrow a government or impede the enforcement of federal law in order to charge someone with seditious conspiracy.
Mr. Tarrio, unlike Mr. Rhodes, was not in Washington on January 6. After being accused of destroying a Black Lives Matter flag at a church during a spasm of rioting that preceded a separate pro-Trump gathering in December, a local judge had forced him to leave the area two days earlier.
Despite the fact that Mr. Tarrio was not charged with “personally participating in the breaching of the Capitol,” federal prosecutors allege that he “directed the preparatory preparation and remained in touch with other leaders of the Proud Boys” during the siege of the building.
Prosecutors have alleged, for example, that Mr. Tarrio gave orders well before assaulting group members to abandon their trademark black-and-yellow polo shirts at home and appear in Washington “incognito.”
Prosecutors say Mr. Tarrio also assisted in the formation of a “command and control” on a private Telegram group chat called the Ministry of Self Defense. Mr. Tarrio appears to be taking financing for the Proud Boys’ role in the riot at the Capitol as it unfolded. “We did it,” he wrote on the Telegram group conversation at one point.
Mr. Tarrio’s and the other men’s lawyers have consistently stated that there is no proof that they planned to attack the Capitol ahead of time. The Proud Boys were only attempting to protect themselves against leftist activists with whom they had tussled at previous events in Washington, according to the lawyers, by establishing up the group chat and adopting other measures including procuring safety gear.
Nonetheless, authorities said that one of Mr. Tarrio’s girlfriends sent him a paper titled “1776 Returns” a week before the Capitol attack, which contained a comprehensive plan to surveil and storm government facilities around the Capitol on Jan. 6 — but not the Capitol itself. According to people acquainted with the paper, the girlfriend texted Mr. Tarrio about the intentions in the letter, comparing them to the assault of the Winter Palace in St. Petersburg, which sparked the Russian Revolution in 1917.
Prosecutors highlighted what seems to be a newly discovered text discussion between Mr. Tarrio and Mr. Bertino on the evening of Jan. 6, after the attack on the Capitol had ended. Mr. Bertino, a famous North Carolina Proud Boy member, had been wounded at a pro-Trump event earlier in December and, like Mr. Tarrio, was not in Washington on Jan. 6.
Mr. Bertino mentioned “1776” at one point, prompting Mr. Tarrio to respond minutes later, “The Winter Palace.”
“Did we just impact history?” Mr. Bertino wondered later.
“Let’s see how this plays out,” Mr. Tarrio replied.
“They HAVE to approve today!” said Mr. Bertino. It’s either that or it’s not valid.”