Punk rock singer testifies on Proud Boys' behalf at sedition trial

FILE PHOTO: Proud Boys leader Enrique Tarrio is released from jail in Washington
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By Sarah N. Lynch

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - A former singer for the punk rock band The Misfits testified on behalf of five far-right Proud Boys members on Monday that he was asked to perform for them on the afternoon of Jan. 6, 2021, evidence their lawyers said shows they had no intention to attack the Capitol that day.

Michale Graves, lead singer of the Misfits from 1995 to 2000, acknowledged that members of the Proud Boys may have been guilty of trespassing on Capitol grounds. But he said he did not believe they had any intention of targeting Congress.

"I know for a fact there was not some elaborate plan to take over the Capitol that day on Jan 6,” he told the 12-member jury at the Proud Boys trial.

It was the first day of defense testimony following 40 days of government evidence and testimony in the longest-running Jan. 6 trial to date.

The U.S. Justice Department has charged the five with the rarely prosecuted crime of seditious conspiracy in the assault by Trump supporters on the Capitol to prevent lawmakers from certifying Trump's November 2020 election loss to Joe Biden.

Graves said one of the five, Ethan Nordean, had invited him to play a concert at a home the Proud Boys had rented in Washington. The concert ultimately never happened, but defense lawyers hope Graves' testimony will help prove their clients had no intention of attacking the Capitol.

Graves said the group believed a concert would "keep people off the streets, and keep people out of trouble."

"We wanted to keep everybody safe," said Graves. In a Reuters interview in March 2021 he said he and his manager later “ghosted” his Proud Boy friends on Jan. 6 and left Washington as chaos engulfed the Capitol.

The Proud Boys former leader, Henry "Enrique" Tarrio, and fellow members Nordean, Joseph Biggs, Dominic Pezzola and Zachary Rehl are accused of plotting to use force to block Congress from certifying Biden's election win.

The government accuses Tarrio and four other group members, some of whom led state chapters, of purchasing paramilitary gear for the attack and urging members of the self-described "Western chauvinist group" to descend on Washington.

Prosecutors say Tarrio directed the attack from Baltimore because he had been ordered to stay out of Washington after being arrested on Jan. 4 for burning a Black Lives Matter banner at a historic African American church in December 2020.

Travis Nugent, meanwhile, a Proud Boys member who traveled to Washington on Jan. 6, told the jury on Monday he had no knowledge of a plan to storm the Capitol, and when members of the group crossed the police barricades to the building, their actions "felt spontaneous," he said.

(Reporting by Sarah N. Lynch; Editing by Howard Goller)