The Justice Department on Monday charged former Proud Boys chief Henry “Enrique” Tarrio and four other leaders of the far-right group with seditious conspiracy in relation to the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the Capitol.
The new charges are the most serious the department has brought in its escalating criminal case against the Proud Boys for their alleged role in the events of Jan. 6, when a mob of supporters of former president Donald Trump stormed the Capitol while Congress met to certify the results of the 2020 election.
In a 10-count superseding indictment returned Monday, Tarrio and his existing co-defendants — Dominic Pezzola, of Rochester, N.Y., Ethan Nordean, of Seattle, Joe Biggs, of Ormond Beach, Fla., and Zachary Rehl, of Philadelphia — are accused of coordinating the group’s travel to Washington and around the Capitol on Jan. 6.
The group has also been charged with conspiring to obstruct the Electoral College certification and directing and mobilizing the crowd that stormed the Capitol grounds, leading to assaults on law enforcement, destruction of property and forcing the evacuations of lawmakers inside.
Though Tarrio, who was national chairman of the Proud Boys at the time of the riot, was not in Washington on Jan. 6, prosecutors accused him of playing a direct role in guiding the group’s movements from nearby Maryland. Members of the Proud Boys were among the first in the pro-Trump mob to clash with police at critical points outside the Capitol. Authorities have accused Pezzola, one of Tarrio’s co-defendants in the case, of using a stolen police riot shield to break through the first window of the building that was breached.
Monday’s superseding indictment marks only the second time federal prosecutors have leveled the historically rare seditious conspiracy charges in connection to the Jan. 6 attack. The first was against the leaders of another extremist group: the Oath Keepers. In January, Oath Keepers founder and leader Stewart Rhodes was charged with seditious conspiracy along with 10 associates, three of whom have since pleaded guilty and are cooperating with the Justice Department’s investigation.
The Proud Boys’ seditious conspiracy charges come just days before the House select committee investigating Jan. 6 is planning to kick off a series of public hearings to present the findings of its probe of the attack on the Capitol. Among the themes the panel is expected to focus on during those public hearings is evidence of apparent coordination between the Oath Keepers and Proud Boys, whose members have been separately accused of orchestrating the violent attack.