In a trial to determine whether right-wing group Proud Boys’ leaders engaged in a seditious conspiracy by allegedly planning an attack on the US Capitol on January 6, 2021, US prosecutors and defense attorneys have presented their closing arguments.
The attack reportedly aimed to disrupt the peaceful transfer of power following the 2020 election.
The defense team argued earlier this week that the Proud Boys leaders were scapegoats for former President Donald Trump, who encouraged his supporters after losing the 2020 election.
Defense lawyer Nayib Hassan highlighted that Enrique Tarrio, the then-leader of the Proud Boys, was not present in Washington, DC, on that day. Tarrio had been banned from the capital after being arrested on charges of defacing a Black Lives Matter banner.
‘It was Donal Trump’s words’ – Defense lawyer
Hassan told jurors, “It was Donald Trump’s words. It was his motivation. It was his anger that caused what occurred on January 6th in your beautiful and amazing city. It was not Enrique Tarrio. They want to use Enrique Tarrio as a scapegoat for Donald J. Trump and those in power.”
US prosecutors delivered their closing statements a day prior, asserting that the Proud Boys were “thirsting for violence and organizing for action” before the Capitol was stormed.
Prosecutor Conor Mulroe explained, “These defendants saw themselves as Donald Trump’s army, fighting to keep their preferred leader in power no matter what the law or the courts had to say about it.”
This trial marks the first significant legal proceeding involving leaders of the far-right Proud Boys, a group of self-proclaimed “Western chauvinists” that continues to maintain a strong influence.
Leaders could face up to 20 years in prison
On trial with Tarrio are Ethan Nordean, Joseph Biggs, Zachary Rehl, and Dominic Pezzola, whom prosecutors identified as the group’s top lieutenants. If convicted of seditious conspiracy – a rarely used and challenging-to-prove charge – the men could face up to 20 years in prison.
Defense attorneys argued that no evidence of a conspiracy or plan for the Proud Boys to attack the Capitol has been presented by prosecutors. They portrayed the far-right group as a club that engaged in violence only for self-defense against antifascist activists.
Prosecution’s case built on ‘misdirection and innuendo’
On Monday, Nicholas Smith, attorney for ex-Proud Boys chapter leader Nordean, claimed that the prosecution’s case was built on “misdirection and innuendo.”
The government’s case, however, relies on a wealth of messages exchanged privately in encrypted chats and posted publicly on social media by Proud Boys leaders and members before, during, and after the Capitol riot.
Prosecutor Mulroe posited that a conspiracy could be an unspoken, implicit “mutual understanding, reached with a wink and a nod.”
This trial follows the US Department of Justice’s successful convictions for seditious conspiracy against the founder and members of another far-right group, the Oath Keepers.
Over 1,000 individuals have been charged in connection with the storming of the US Capitol.
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