The Proud Boys Are on Trial for Jan. 6. Here’s What You Need to Know.

Five Proud Boys are facing up to 20 years in prison on seditious conspiracy charges for their roles in planning the Capitol riot on Jan. 6, 2021.
Leaders of the Proud Boys, a right-wing pro-Trump group, Enrique Tarrio (R) and Joe Biggs (L) salute each other as the Proud boys members gather with their allies in a rally called âEnd Domestic Terrorism against Antifa in Portland, Oregon on September 26, 2020. (Photo by John Rudoff / Anadolu Agency via Getty Images)

In the coming weeks, federal prosecutors will argue that five prominent members of the Proud Boys were key players in a plot to prevent the peaceful transition of power by rallying a violent mob to storm the Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021—almost exactly two years ago.

Their defense attorneys, however, argue the group couldn’t possibly have masterminded a plan to overthrow the government and just wanted to “party with plenty of beer and babes.”


The group’s former “chairman” Enrique Tarrio is among those facing seditious conspiracy charges, along with Proud Boy organizers Joseph Biggs of Florida, Zachary Rehl of Pennsylvania, and Ethan Nordean of Washington. Dominic Pezzola, aka “Spazzo,” a lower-ranking Proud Boy from Rochester, New York, is also accused of enabling the first breach of the Capitol by smashing a window using a police riot shield. 

If convicted, the defendants could end up getting 20 years in prison. 

Lawyers defending the Proud Boys have so far argued that the riot was nothing more than a spontaneous eruption of anger and that the group lacks the necessary organizing abilities or intelligence to have planned any sort of nefarious scheme. 

When Tarrio was deposed by the House Select Committee tasked with investigating the Capitol riot, for example, he and attorney John Daniel Hull IV (who is also representing Biggs) sought to portray the Proud Boys as just a bunch of ditzy dudes. 

“We’re so bad at organizing, and we’re so—excuse my language—stupid sometimes that, like, we can’t even coordinate to, like, put our radios in sync,” Tarrio said. He also described the Proud Boys as a bunch of “decentralized drunks.” In the same deposition, Hull described the Proud Boys, who have been known for violent street brawls, intimidating minorities, and storming the Capitol, as a “goofy group of people who have political ideas.” 


Seditious conspiracy, which involves more than two people trying to “overthrow” the government, is a rare felony—and even more rarely proven. But in November, a federal jury found Oath Keeper founder Stewart Rhodes and Florida Oath Keeper leader Kelly Meggs guilty of that exact crime, casting a grim shadow over the Proud Boys’ ongoing trial. 

Tarrio wasn’t in D.C. on Jan. 6, 2021. He was arrested two days earlier on his way into the nation’s capital, for vandalizing property belonging to a historically Black church during a Stop the Steal rally in Dec. 2020. 

During the arrest, police discovered high-capacity magazines on him, which are banned under local gun laws. He was held in jail overnight and then ordered by a judge to stay away from the city. Before he left, however,, he met Rhodes and others in an underground parking garage. The meeting was captured on video by a documentary crew, but the conversation between the two men is inaudible. 

Other information about Tarrio and his co-defendants communications ahead of Jan. 6, 2021 has trickled out in motions during this case, and in the report published last month by the Jan. 6 House Select Committee.

According to private Telegram chats cited by the Committee, Tarrio told a special group of Proud Boys called the “Ministry of Self Defense,” formed in December 20202, that the events of Jan. 6 would be “centered around the Capitol” one week before the riot. 


Two senior Proud Boys—Charles Donohoe and Jeremy Bertino—have already pleaded guilty to seditious conspiracy charges and may be called to testify against members of the gang. They were both privy to the so-called Ministry of Self Defense chats, prosecutors say. 

Defense lawyers in the Proud Boys’ case have zeroed in on one particular potential witness, whose testimony they believe could help exonerate their clients: D.C. police Lt. Shane Lamond. That officer, from the intelligence branch, was put on leave a year ago during an investigation into allegedly improper contact with Tarrio. 

Tarrio’s lawyers claim that Lamond’s testimony will demonstrate how Proud Boy leadership communicated with police ahead of events in D.C., including Jan. 6. They argue the fact that Tarrio was talking to a police lieutenant about Jan. 6 proves that there was no conspiracy to overthrow the government afoot. 

“The Proud Boys respected law enforcement,” one of his lawyers, Sabino Jauregui, wrote in a motion last week. “Tarrio informed Lamond of the Proud Boys Jan. 6 plans.” Those plans, according to Jauregui, were as follows: “Tarrio planned to speak at the rally; they planned to protest the results of the election and later that night they planned to party with plenty of beer and babes.”

But federal prosecutors have warned Lamond that he could face charges of obstruction of justice if he does testify, because they are investigating his relationship to Tarrio. As a result, Lamond has said that he would invoke the Fifth Amendment if called to the stand, the New York Times reported last month, citing his lawyer. Tarrio’s lawyers say that prosecutors’ warnings are a bullying technique (which prosecutors deny) and say that the government should offer immunity to Lamond in exchange for his testimony. 

Seating a jury for the trial has posed a major challenge, according to The Washington Post. Many prospective jurors from D.C. had heard of the notorious far-right street-fighting gang and made no bones about what they thought of them, describing them as “white supremacists” who “conquer through fear and terror.” 

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