© 2023
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00
0:00
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations
U.S. House Speaker McCarthy removed in historic vote

Jury deliberates in seditious conspiracy trial against Proud Boys members

MELISSA BLOCK, HOST:

Jury deliberations are underway in the case against Enrique Tarrio and four other members of the Proud Boys group. The landmark seditious conspiracy trial has focused on the defendants' actions before and after the siege on the U.S. Capitol on January 6, 2021. NPR justice correspondent Carrie Johnson has been covering the case in federal court here in Washington and joins us now. Hey, Carrie.

CARRIE JOHNSON, BYLINE: Hey, Melissa.

BLOCK: This case has been going on for months. It started back in December this week. How did prosecutors sum up their case?

JOHNSON: Yeah, prosecutors say these Proud Boys were thirsting for violence - that Enrique Tarrio and the other four defendants saw themselves as kind of a fighting force for then-President Donald Trump and that they entered into an agreement to stop certification of the 2020 presidential election by any means necessary, including force. The DOJ reminded jurors about the defendants' own words in chat messages and videos and podcasts, including a message from Tarrio himself after the storming of the Capitol that said, quote, "make no mistake, we did this."

BLOCK: So that's the prosecution's summation. What about lawyers for the defendant, Enrique Tarrio?

JOHNSON: Yeah, his lawyer, Nayib Hassan, pointed out that Tarrio was actually in Baltimore on January 6 because he'd been arrested for other charges and had been banished from D.C. by a judge. Tarrio's lawyer says this case is really all about one person, and that's Donald Trump. He told the jury, it's Trump's words, Trump's anger, Trump's motivations that caused what happened on January 6, and Trump telling the crowd to fight like hell that day caused what happened next. Tarrio's lawyer says prosecutors are using Tarrio as a scapegoat because they can't or don't want to bring charges against the former president, Trump.

BLOCK: Well, now the case is in the hands of the jury. They began deliberations this morning, and it sounds like they have a ton of evidence and testimony to weigh.

JOHNSON: So much evidence, so much testimony - half a million chat messages, testimony from FBI agents and police officers who were on the front lines on January 6. Two of the defendants took the witness stand, too - kind of a risky move. One is Zach Rehl, who led the Philadelphia chapter of the Proud Boys. The other is Dominic Pezzola. You may remember him because he famously broke a window in the Capitol using a police shield he grabbed that day. And this is a seditious conspiracy case - one of the most important to come from January 6. In a similar trial last year involving the Oath Keepers group, that jury took more than a week to reach a verdict.

BLOCK: OK. And as you say, it's one of the most serious cases stemming from that uprising. Will you expect a lot more to come from the Justice Department?

JOHNSON: Absolutely. The U.S. attorney here in Washington has told the court to expect possibly a thousand more cases against rioters who broke the law on January 6. That's about double the number of cases we have now, and that's going to keep prosecutors and defense lawyers and judges busy for years to come.

BLOCK: OK. And separately, what about the role of former President Donald Trump and his inner circle? Where does that part of the investigation stand?

JOHNSON: Yeah, sure. Here in this federal courthouse, down the block from the Capitol, the grand juries have been really active. Things are happening behind closed doors, but we have some clues. They've heard testimony from lawyers in the Trump White House, people close to the former vice president. Mike Pence himself was subpoenaed. Special counsel Jack Smith is leading that investigation. No public charges there yet.

BLOCK: OK. NPR's Carrie Johnson. Carrie, thanks so much.

JOHNSON: My pleasure. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Carrie Johnson is a justice correspondent for the Washington Desk.