After nine weeks of testimony from multiple government witnesses, including FBI agents, the Justice Department finally concluded its case-in-chief in the Proud Boys’ seditious conspiracy trial on Monday.
Five Proud Boys, including the group’s leader, Enrique Tarrio, are accused of conspiring to “oppose the lawful transfer of presidential power by force” on January 6, 2021. It is Attorney General Merrick Garland’s most consequential case related to January 6; convictions will help build a similar case against Donald Trump largely based on his infamous “stand back and stand by” remark to the Proud Boys during an October 2020 presidential debate.
Most of the evidence is nothing more than inflammatory, braggadocious chatter in group texts; Tarrio wasn’t even present at the Capitol on January 6. Another defendant, Ethan Nordean, can be seen on surveillance video walking through an open door as Capitol police stood nearby.
Similar to other so-called “militia” groups tied to January 6, no one brought weapons to the Capitol that day; no one was charged with assaulting police officers or lawmakers. A key piece of evidence that prosecutors claimed was a road map for the “attack” on the Capitol wasn’t produced by any Proud Boy but by a former intelligence asset who himself sent the plan to Tarrio through a third party.
The document represented just one more instance of how a government agent helped shape the government’s narrative that the Proud Boys plotted in advance to carry out an “insurrection” on January 6. In fact, much like the FBI-engineered plan to “kidnap” Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer in 2020, court proceedings confirm that FBI assets might outnumber criminal defendants.
At least 10 and possibly up to 15 FBI informants were embedded in the group months before and continuing after the events of January 6. Informants participated in numerous group chats, cozied up to leadership, and even accompanied the Proud Boys to Washington.
One known informant, according to a September 2021 New York Times report, was involved in the first breach of Capitol grounds and entered the building that afternoon.
But prosecutors and Judge Timothy Kelly have tried their best to prevent the public from learning the full scope of the FBI’s involvement. The docket is littered with sealed hearings and filings; prosecutors presented to the defense team heavily redacted reports related to FBI informants just before the trial began.
“Everything has been done under cover,” one defense attorney recently complained in court. A consortium of major news corporations also knocked Kelly this week for holding “sealed hearings and exclud[ing] the press and public from attending proceedings in this high-profile case.”
Kelly also took the highly unusual and prejudicial step of requiring the defense to “pre-clear” questions with prosecutors before asking a witness about the use of informants—but information is slowly trickling as the defense finally gets their turn.
For the second time this month, Kelly suspended the trial on Wednesday after prosecutors confessed that a key witness for the defense, who was scheduled to testify on Thursday, had worked as an FBI informant during the entire investigation. Although prosecutors have known for months that the defense might call this person as a witness, they waited until the last minute to tell defense attorneys, who were blindsided by the news….