The leader of the Proud Boys, the Cuban-American Enrique Tarrío and three other members of that far-right group were found guilty this Thursday of planning and participating in the assault on the United States Capitol in January 2021, a desperate attempt to keep the then President Donald Trump in power after losing the 2020 election to Joe Biden. A fifth member of the group was also charged, but the judge decided to decide on his fate soon in order to study other documents.
A Washington DC jury found them guilty of “seditious conspiracy” after hearing from large numbers of witnesses for more than three months. It was one of the most serious cases derived from the assault on the Capitol, which interrupted the work of the two chambers and forced senators and congressmen to seek refuge in safe places.
This case and its outcome constitute an important milestone for the Department of Justice, which has obtained convictions for “seditious conspiracy” against the leaders of two major extremist groups, accused of preventing Biden from assuming the presidency. They face a penalty of up to 20 years in prison.
Jailed since his arrest in March 2022, Tarrío showed no emotion at the time the verdict was announced. He hugged one of his lawyers and shook hands with the other before leaving court.
The verdict follows a trial that lasted more than twice as long as anticipated, and was plagued by disputes, requests for an annulment and reports that government informants were in the group.
The ruling against Tarrío, a far-right activist who was not present during the assault but who communicated with co-religionists during the attack, could buoy the Justice Department as a special counsel investigates Trump.
In recent weeks, special counsel Jack Smith has sought the testimony of several people close to Trump. Among them is former Vice President Mike Pence, who testified before a grand jury last week, likely giving investigators a personal account of conversations with the president and of events leading up to the insurrection.
Tarrío was one of the main targets of what has become one of the Justice Department’s largest investigations. He led the neo-fascist group, notorious for its street fights against activists from leftist organizations.