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New Charges Filed Against Proud Boys

Elections & Politics Policy Brief #37 | By: Stephen Thomas | June 13, 2022

Header photo taken from: ABC

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Florida Proud Boys leader pleads not guilty to seditious conspiracy in Capitol Riot.

Photo taken from: Click Orlando

Policy Summary

As of this writing, none of the five members of the Proud Boys who received two additional Capitol riot charges June 6 have pleaded guilty. The group faces nine charges in all in connection with the breach of the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021. The case is before the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia.

The riot interrupted the congressional counting of the electoral votes in the 2020 presidential election, which President Joseph R. Biden Jr. and Vice President Kamala D. Harris won—despite Republican lies to the contrary.

The defendants include Henry “Enrique” Tarrio, 38, of Miami, Fla., the former national chairman of the Proud Boys; Ethan Nordean, 31, of Auburn, Wash.; Joseph Biggs, 38, of Ormond Beach, Fla.; Zachary Rehl, 37, of Philadelphia; and Dominic Pezzola, 44, of Rochester, N.Y. All are detained.

The two additional charges include one count of seditious conspiracy and one count of conspiracy to prevent an officer from discharging any duties, according to the Justice Department.

The other seven charges against this fivesome include conspiracy to obstruct official proceedings; obstruction of an official proceeding and aiding and abetting; obstruction of law enforcement during civil disorder and aiding and abetting; destruction of government property and aiding and abetting; and two counts of assaulting, resisting, or impeding certain officers. This list of charges comes directly from the grand jury superseding indictment dated June 6.

A sixth defendant in this group of defendants, Charles Donohoe, 34, of Kernersville, N.C., pleaded guilty April 8 to conspiracy to obstruct an official proceeding and assaulting, resisting or impeding officers, according to a Justice Department news release.

That same news release reads that the Proud Boys describe themselves as a “pro-Western fraternal organization for men who refuse to apologize for creating the modern world, aka Western Chauvinists.”

Policy Analysis

The practical definitions of the two added charges come from a plain reading of the United States Code, which is a compilation of federal statutes passed by Congress and signed by the president. These are statutes, not “regulations,” the latter of which are written by government agencies and do not pass through the legislative process.

This is the unedited federal statute that defines seditious conspiracy (Title 18 U.S. Code Section 2384):

“If two or more persons in any State or Territory, or in any place subject to the jurisdiction of the United States, conspire to overthrow, put down, or to destroy by force the Government of the United States, or to levy war against them, or to oppose by force the authority thereof, or by force to prevent, hinder, or delay the execution of any law of the United States, or by force to seize, take, or possess any property of the United States contrary to the authority thereof, they shall each be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than twenty years, or both.”

The following is the unedited federal statute that defines conspiracy to prevent an officer from discharging any duties. (This is Title 18 U.S. Code Section 372. The title of the offense differs between the indictment and the statute; nevertheless, this is indeed the code number that the indictment identifies.):

“If two or more persons in any State, Territory, Possession, or District conspire to prevent, by force, intimidation, or threat, any person from accepting or holding any office, trust, or place of confidence under the United States, or from discharging any duties thereof, or to induce by like means any officer of the United States to leave the place, where his duties as an officer are required to be performed, or to injure him in his person or property on account of his lawful discharge of the duties of his office, or while engaged in the lawful discharge thereof, or to injure his property so as to molest, interrupt, hinder, or impede him in the discharge of his official duties, each of such persons shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than six years, or both.”


A closer look of what is “sedition” and what it means.

Photo taken from: KNWA

(click or tap to enlargen)

The indictment contains allegations, which federal prosecutors must prove in any cases that go to trial. Prosecutors have a lot of ammunition to work with. If the government can prove some of the facts contained in the indictment, then it has a solid case against these five defendants.

For instance, on the seditious conspiracy charge alone, according to the indictment, prosecutors believe they can show that the defendants conspired to “oppose the lawful transfer of presidential power.” The indictment alleges the fivesome did the following—and this is the tip of the iceberg:

 

  • Used “programmable handheld radios,” encrypted applications, and other means of communication in the “attack,”
  • Mobilized and led the crowd into the Capitol,
  • Dismantled and “stormed past” metal barricades (bypassing and even assaulting law enforcement officers), and
  • Destroyed property, including fencing and a window.

Then, there is the charge of preventing an officer from discharging any duties. On this additional count, the government must show that the defendants conspired to forcibly “induce” members of Congress and law enforcement personnel “to leave the place where their duties as officers were required to be performed.” 

Here, it is obvious that Congress evacuated to safety, in so doing delaying the electoral vote count. Additionally, injury and death were inflicted on law enforcement in the attack. Proving that the defendants were a part of a conspiracy is one thing, but it is a given that the attack resulted in those repercussions.

Keep in mind that the government has a wealth of video footage and witnesses to help make the charges stick, should any of these defendants go to trial. No wonder a sixth defendant who was charged with this group struck a plea deal.

Engagement Resources​

Click or tap on resource URL to visit links where available 

Seditious Conspiracy

Title 18 U.S. Code Section 2384

https://www.law.cornell.edu/uscode/text/18/2384

Conspiracy to Prevent an Officer from Discharging Any Duties

This charge is also known as “Conspiracy to impede or injure officer”

Title 18 U.S. Code Section 372

https://www.law.cornell.edu/uscode/text/18/372

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