The top leaders of the far-right Proud Boys group have been charged with seditious conspiracy for plotting to storm the U.S. Capitol in order to obstruct the certification of Joe Biden’s election win over Donald Trump on January 6, 2021.
The Justice Department charged the head of the group, Enrique Tarrio, as well as four other leaders, escalating the criminal case against the extremist group.
They mark the most aggressive charges that the Justice Department has brought against the Proud Boys so far. They are also the first allegations made by prosecutors that the group tried to oppose the presidential transfer of power by force.
These charges are in addition to previous charges of obstructing a congressional proceeding. Seditious conspiracy requires federal prosecutors to show that at least two people agreed to use force to overthrow the government or to interfere with the execution of a U.S. law.
It’s a major development in the criminal investigation into the deadly Capitol attack.
The 33-page indictment was unsealed in Washington DC on Monday. In it, the Department of Justice said the leader Tarrio and his co-defendants used encrypted messaging apps for months in order to stop Biden’s certification by force.
Named alongside Tarrio are Joseph Biggs, Ethan Nordean, Zachary Rehl, and Dominic Pezzola.
The new charges against the leadership come only days before the parallel congressional inquiry into Jan. 6 is scheduled to begin televised hearings that are expected to examine Trump’s personal culpability in the insurrection.
The justice department earlier this year filed identical charges against top members of another far-right group, the Oath Keepers, including against its founder Stewart Rhodes, over the same Jan. 6 attack.
When the justice department added the seditious conspiracy charges this week, it appeared to indicate that it had learned new information in recent weeks about the Proud Boys’ plan ahead of the Jan. 6 attack as a result of several significant developments. One member of the Proud Boys, Charles Donoghue, pleaded guilty in April and took a plea deal to cooperate with criminal investigations into the group.