Proud Boys leader Enrique Tarrio convicted: What is a seditious plot?

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Enrique Tarrio, former leader of the far-right gang Proud Boyshas been sentenced to 22 years in prison for his role in orchestrating the United States Riot at the Capitol of January 6, 2021 in response to Donald Trumpelectoral defeat.

Tarrio and three other members of the group were convicted of seditious conspiracy and obstructing formal proceedings in federal court in Washington DC on May 4 following a landmark four-month trial.

U.S. District Judge Timothy Kelly called Tarrio the “ultimate leader” of the conspiracy during a lengthy sentencing hearing on Tuesday before handing him the heaviest prison sentence to date of any case related to the conspiracy. insurrection – although it is still far from the required 33 years. by the prosecution.

In a sentencing memo he was described as a “naturally charismatic leader, wise propagandist and famous president” of the Proud Boys, who had used his influence to “organize and execute the conspiracy to forcibly stop the democratic and peaceful transfer of power” and worked “to inflame and radicalize countless numbers of supporters, promoting political violence “.

Tarrio, of Miami, Florida, issued a statement in court asking for clemency, saying he was “ashamed” of the events of that day and vowing to leave politics behind. His mother and sister joined in his pleadings with the judge.

Four other members of the group were convicted last week for their roles in the attack. Ethan Nordeen was sentenced to 18 years in prison; Joe Biggs was sentenced to 17 years in prison; Zachary Rehl was sentenced to 15 years in prison; And Dominique Pezzola – the only co-defendant among them who was not convicted of a seditious conspiracy – was sentenced to 10 years in prison.

Nordean’s sentence bound him to Oath Keepers founder Stewart Rhodes for what is now the second-longest sentence handed down so far among the hundreds of people convicted in connection with the Capitol riot.

Jeremy Joseph Bertino, a former leader of North Carolina’s Proud Boys, was the first member of the extremist group to plead guilty to seditious conspiracy in October 2022.

The verdict against Tarrio marked the first successful conviction on the seditious conspiracy charge against a Jan. 6 defendant who was not physically present at the Capitol that day.

Tarrio had been barred from entering Washington that day after being arrested for burning a Black Lives Matter banner outside a church during a post-election riot a few weeks earlier. Instead, he watched the attack unfold on television from a hotel room in Baltimore, Maryland.

So, what is a seditious plot?

Seditious conspiracy is a rarely used federal charge that dates back to American Civil War.

It was initially passed to stop any southerners who might continue to fight the US government after Robert E Lee’s troops surrendered to Union General Ulysses S Grant in 1865.

The charge can be difficult to prove, especially in cases where an alleged conspiracy fails.

In order to win a seditious conspiracy case, prosecutors must prove that two or more people conspired to “overthrow, overthrow, or forcibly destroy” or wage war against the U.S. government, or that they conspired to use force. force to oppose the American government. government authority or to block the execution of any law.

Enrique Tarrio, former president of the Proud Boys, at a rally in Portland, Oregon, in August 2019.


For example, in the Proud Boys case, Tarrio and his co-defendants were accused of conspiring to block Mr. Trump’s transfer of power to Joe Biden. The indictment alleges that they conspired to forcibly oppose the authority of the federal government and to use force to prevent the execution of laws related to the transfer of power.

To succeed at trial, it was not enough to show that the defendants advocated the use of force: prosecutors had to show that they had conspired to use force.

Who has already been convicted of this charge?

In recent history, cases of sedition have been rare.

The convictions of Oath Keepers Rhodes and Kelly Meggs were the first guilty verdicts for seditious conspiracy in decades.

Prior to this trial, the last time the Justice Department tried such a case was in 2010, in connection with an alleged plot in Michigan by members of the Hutaree militia to incite an uprising against the government.

A judge ordered acquittal on sedition conspiracy charges in a 2012 trial, saying prosecutors relied too heavily on hateful diatribes protected by the First Amendment and failed, as required, to prove that the The accused never had detailed plans for a rebellion.

Lawyer William Swor, who represented Hutaree militia leader David Stone, said prosecutors in the case failed to prove that members of the group were “doing more than just talking” and “actively considering to oppose the government.

The judge said Stone’s “rants demonstrate nothing more than his own hatred – perhaps even his desire to fight or kill – law enforcement; it is not the same as a seditious plot”.

Before that, the last successful prosecution in a seditious conspiracy trial was in 1995, when Egyptian cleric Sheikh Omar Abdel-Rahman and nine followers were convicted of plotting to bomb the UN, an FBI building, two tunnels and a bridge connecting New York. York and New Jersey.

Abdel-Rahman, known as the “Blind Sheikh,” argued on appeal that he was never involved in planning actual attacks and that his hostile rhetoric was protected by free speech. He died in federal prison in 2017.

Prosecutors also won convictions for seditious conspiracy in another 1954 storming of the U.S. Capitol, now largely forgotten. Four Puerto Rican pro-independence activists rushed into the building and opened fire on the House floor, injuring several representatives.

Most recently, Oscar Lopez Rivera, former leader of a Puerto Rican independence group who orchestrated a bombing campaign that left dozens dead or maimed in New York, Chicago, Washington and Puerto Rico in the 1970s and in the early 1980s, spent 35 years in prison for seditious conspiracy before Barack Obama commuted his sentence in 2017.

In 1988, jurors in Fort Smith, Arkansas, acquitted white supremacists accused of seditious conspiracy. The defendants were accused of plotting to overthrow the federal government and establish an all-white nation in the Pacific Northwest and of conspiring to kill a federal judge and an FBI agent.

Additional reporting by agencies.

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