Opening statements in federal court would come just more than two years after Proud Boys members stormed the Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021, as part of what prosecutors say was a desperate plot to keep Democrat Joe Biden out of the White House after he defeated President Donald Trump in the 2020 election.
It’s the first major trial to begin since the House committee investigating the insurrection urged the department to bring criminal charges against former President Donald Trump and associates who were behind his efforts to overturn his 2020 election loss.
While the criminal referral has no real legal standing, it adds to political pressure already on Attorney General Merrick Garland and Jack Smith, the special counsel he appointed who is conducting an investigation into Jan. 6 and Trump’s actions.
Tensions bubbled over at times as jury selection slowed to a crawl and defense lawyers complained that too many potential jurors were biased against the Proud Boys. Defense attorneys challenged jurors who expressed support for causes such as Black Lives Matter, saying that could indicate prejudice against the Proud Boys.
Tarrio’s lawyers have not said whether he will take the stand in his defense.
Tarrio’s co-defendants are Ethan Nordean of Auburn, Washington, who was a Proud Boys chapter president; Joseph Biggs of Ormond Beach, Florida, a self-described Proud Boys organizer; Zachary Rehl, who president of the Proud Boys chapter in Philadelphia; and Dominic Pezzola, a Proud Boy member from Rochester, New York.
Prosecutors are expected to tell jurors that as the Proud Boys’ anger over the election grew, they also began to turn against police over Tarrio’s arrest and over the failure to bring charges in the stabbing of another Proud Boy during clashes the month before the riot.
Communications cited in court papers show the Proud Boys discussing storming the Capitol in the days before the riot. On Jan. 3, someone suggested in a group chat that the “main operating theater” be in front of the Capitol. “I didn’t hear this voice note until now, you want to storm the Capitol,” Tarrio said the next day in the same chat.
Tarrio’s lieutenants were part of the first wave of rioters to push onto Capitol grounds and charge past police barricades toward the building, according to prosecutors. Pezzola used a riot shield he stole from a Capitol Police officer to break a window, allowing the first rioters to enter the building, prosecutors allege.
Prosecutors say Tarrio cheered on the actions of the Proud Boys on the ground as he watched from afar.
“Do what must be done. #WeThePeople.” he wrote on social media as the riot unfolded. “Don’t (expletive) leave,” Tarrio wrote in another post.
Richer reported from Boston.
For full coverage of the Capitol riot, go to https://www.apnews.com/capitol-siege
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