Pride before the fall? Testimony from witnesses in seditious conspiracy trial leaves weaknesses in defense wide open

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The end of the Proud Boys seditious conspiracy trial may be growing closer but the hole the defendants seemingly dug themselves into this week with yet more testimony from their own witnesses has grown larger.

Testimony continued briefly this week with Tarrio’s witness George Meza. Meza is the self-proclaimed rabbi and former third-degree Proud Boy who described Jan. 6 as ‘the most patriotic act” in a century in a gushing, white power-hand-gesture-wielding video post mere days after former President Donald Trump incited a mob to descend on the U.S. Capitol. 

As a witness for Tarrio, Meza was meant to credibly convince jurors that while he was admittedly once part of a rowdy, reactive brotherhood unbound by social mores, it didn’t mean that he or fellow members of the group, including its national leader, were ever part of a violent conspiracy to stop Congress from certifying the election in 2020. 

Their support of Trump was prolific but to hear Meza insist upon it, it was only in a wholesome patriotic fashion, the way that any American might exercise their right to free speech and assembly.

But Meza’s claims collided, in the final hour of his appearance before jurors, with the cold reality of the prosecution’s evidence against the defendants. Impeaching Meza was often done with a sober tone from Assistant U.S. Attorney Jason McCullough. 

When Meza, also known as “Ash Barkoziba,” insisted he had been ousted from the exclusive text channel at the heart of the charges; Tarrio’s so-called “Ministry of Self Defense” or MOSD, by Jan. 3, McCullough presented evidence where Meza’s frantic rantings about the 6th had continued into chats dated Jan. 9. 

“I can’t tell what chat this belongs to,” he said, speaking fast. “It’s hard to believe they would let me back in after they kicked me out…The average Proud Boy didn’t even know this chat existed. I question this statement if I made it at all in this chat.” 

Jan. 6 was “mass hysteria” Meza later told the jury. People were simply “emoting,” he said. He denied having any understanding that police were under extreme duress when he was near the Columbus Doors seconds before they were forced open. He denied attacking the door or being part of the breach there. 

And though suspicions had been raised about the truthfulness of his testimony for a little more than a day, before he left the stand he told one of Tarrio’s attorneys, Nayib Hassan, that he never received instruction from the Proud Boy leader to go to the Capitol. There wasn’t even a discussion about going there, Meza testified. 

Hassan worked to elicit testimony through Meza that seemed intent to portray Tarrio as all flash and no substance, or a showboater who simply enjoyed to “razzle dazzle” the masses or antagonize the media. But objections over the scope and relevance on this count were sustained, leaving an already thin argument more impotent.

Battered by Meza’s testimony, it was followed with a First Amendment heavy defense from fourth-degree Florida Proud Boy Fernando Alonso that was rich in controversy.

Like Meza, Alonso was a member of MOSD and told the jury when he joined the chapter on Dec. 31, 2020, it was his understanding that the local D.C. division of Proud Boys didn’t want “any heat” and the Vice City member learned that other chapters of the extremist group were warned about coming to Washington on Jan. 6. 

Nonetheless, Alonso came on the 5th. 

And when he did, it wasn’t because there was a plan arranged to storm the Capitol, he said. Any suggestion otherwise, Alonso repeated through a gruff, often heavy accent, was “just ludicrous.”

He knew to meet at the Washington Monument, however, having consulted the MOSD chat that day, he testified, but there was “no objective” discussed. Alonso told the jury he didn’t know what was going to happen and when a video of Proud Boys shooing press away from their group as they congregated near the Capitol was played in court this week, Alonso said this wasn’t about hiding conduct. 

It was because Proud Boys didn’t want to be “doxxed” and didn’t want attention on their club. 

Though Alonso testified on direct that the Proud Boys weren’t doing “photo ops” on Jan. 6, another defense witness, Proud Boy Travis Nugent, said that’s exactly how he perceived things. At trial, Alonso insisted Proud Boys were “peacekeepers” on Jan. 6. 

“The objective was we were going to walk towards the Capitol, stop somewhere along the line, and say a prayer. That was the only objective I knew of at that point,” he said.

Tarrio always contacted law enforcement before Proud Boys rallied, he told defense attorney Sabino Jauregui, “as he should.”

But when pressed, he testified that he never saw any messages about that himself, and he admitted to the jury, that while he considered himself a “good friend” of Tarrio who understood the ringleader’s intentions, he also never saw a single private message between Tarrio and Proud Boy elders or leaders like Nordean or Biggs.

 If he had even an inkling that the plan was for Proud Boys to attack the Capitol on Jan. 6 and stop the certification, well, that would have been an affront so severe to Alonso’s sensibilities, he told the jury, “I would have left right there and then.”

Alonso elaborated on how offended he was at the suggestion that Proud Boys would incite violence. They did charity work and hurricane relief. 

It “insulted” him, in fact, that people could think Proud Boys would even ponder the idea of storming the Capitol.

But in court, jurors heard and saw a different side of Alonso.

In an audio clip, he is heard breezing right over the news that a woman (Ashli Babbitt) had been shot inside the Capitol. From the grounds as people around him exclaim, he is heard only asking if then-Vice President Mike Pence had “betrayed” Trump and whether the vote had been certified. 

“Going on the 6th is not about fighting lefties. It’s about joining patriots on the Capitol steps and awaiting the outcome of history that affects us all,” Alonso once wrote under the handle “Deplorable51” in a message to fellow Proud Boy Michael Priest, also known as Al Tourna, on Dec. 20. Priest was brought into the Ministry of Self Defense by Tarrio, according to application records for the “ministry.”

When Tourna, who used the handle “AL PB,” told him that Jan. 6 would be the moment people would need to “take DC” and then warned that it “may not be peaceful,” Alonso didn’t shrink away. 

Unlike much trial testimony from other defense witnesses who vowed the Proud Boys focus was grounded in defending the Trump-loving masses from antifa, Alonso told Priest going to the Capitol on Jan. 6 “is not for antifa.” 

They were going “as patriots to stand with normies together united awaiting the outcome… when we are amongst them they feel safer and the purpose is what will happen that day…” he wrote

“It’s not a meet at Harry’s [bar at] 8 p.m. to go hunt antifa,” he added. 

Alonso had attended the Stop the Steal rally in Washington, D.C. in December 2020 with fellow Proud Boys, and on his application form for MOSD, he said he had “provided intel” to members of the extremist group while they were on the ground in D.C. for the Million MAGA March a month earlier. He stayed in Florida for that event.

Proud Boys engaged in violent clashes with counterprotesters after both of those rallies. After the rally in November, a Black woman with long braids brandishing a knife and surrounded by Proud Boys was knocked unconscious by a man who cracked a helmet over the crown of her head prompting her to crumple to the ground immediately.

Prosecutors say Alonso greeted that violence merrily.

“‘Put up the video of that predator bitch,’” Mulroe said in court, quoting Alonso’s texts found in a Miami Proud Boys channel that counted Tarrio as a member.  Alonso denied writing it. 

It didn’t sound like him, he said. 

But Alonso joked about that violent episode and others, Mulroe told presiding U.S. District Judge Timothy Kelly this week as he fought off objections from the defense that this evidence was prejudicial and irrelevant to impeaching one of Tarrio’s few witnesses. But Mulroe convinced Judge Kelly that this show of force, appearing sanctioned by Tarrio, encouraged Alonso to return to the next pro-Trump rally in December and later, to join his fellow Proud Boys in January after Trump’s “wild” invite to Washington. 

Assistant U.S. Attorney Conor Mulroe presented evidence spread out over a series of text messages where Alonso excoriated law enforcement roughly a week before he would officially be invited into the Ministry of Self-Defense by Proud Boy Gilbert Fonticoba, an intimate of Tarrio’s. 

Police in D.C. backed antifa, Alonso wrote on Dec. 23. So too did the FBI. Police had turned their backs on Proud Boys when one of their brothers, Jeremy Bertino, who has already pleaded guilty to seditious conspiracy, was stabbed at the Dec. 12 event.

Weeks later on Jan. 6, when defendant Ethan Nordean spoke to a mass of Proud Boys and others gathered at the Washington Monument with a megaphone, it was he who encouraged them to “back the yellow.” Jurors saw this footage of Nordean invoking the Proud Boys black and yellow “colors” in the same way pro-law enforcement groups may invoke their slogan “back the blue.”

Nordean told the crowd just before 11 a.m. on Jan. 6 that police had let the people who stabbed Proud Boys get away last time. Tarrio had been arrested unfairly just two days before, Nordean wailed. Video footage played for the jury on March 7 showed Nordean passing the bullhorn off to defendant Joseph Biggs next. 

Excitedly speaking to the crowd, Biggs told them it was their “goddamned city” and started chants of “fuck antifa.” But once Biggs would reach the location of what would be the first barrier breach of the day, Alonso testified in court this week that Biggs used the bullhorn again. This time as Proud Boys and non-Proud Boys alike were gathered near the Peace Monument less than 100 yards away from the Capitol, Biggs led chants of “Whose House, Our House” and “1776,” Alonso testified.

Prosecutors contend that Proud Boys relied on “tools” of the alleged conspiracy to pull it off and that included Proud Boys as well as non-members, the  “normies” at the Capitol. In sum, the Justice Department argues Proud Boys believed they could whip the “normies” into a frenzy and this would aid them to breach barricades, subsequently overwhelm law enforcement and get inside the Capitol to stop the certification.

After the Stop the Steal rally just three weeks before the insurrection, positive attitudes toward law enforcement among Proud Boys had dried up, prosecutors allege, and the group’s anger morphed and hardened into a multi-layered paranoia: Trump’s “victory” was stolen. Cops in D.C. had sided with “antifa.” The Democrats and radical left needed to be stopped. 

In a text chat seized off Tarrio’s phone dubbed “Croqueta Wars,” Tarrio and other Florida Proud Boys including Gabriel Garcia, George Meza, Pedro Barrios, and others, shared messages about efforts to keep Trump in power. On Dec. 17, Alonso forwarded a message to the group that laid out a “plan” for Trump to win. He had “dueling electors from 7 state legislatures [and] he has VP Pence as final arbiter of the ballots to accept,” Alonso’s friend “Tim Moore” wrote in the forward. The message was rich in conspiracy theories invoking Julian Assange, Seth Rich, and Sidney Powell’s “Kraken.” 

In the transcript from Alonso’s testimony, during a sidebar with Judge Kelly, Nordean’s defense attorney Nick Smith objected to the introduction of evidence indicating Michael Priest had something a “little less complex in mind” than the theories Alonso forwarded to the Croqueta Wars chat.

While Smith argued it was irrelevant, Mulroe managed to convince Judge Kelly to let in Alonso’s exchange in the next sequence. Priest, as a member of the Ministry of Self-Defense and “tool” of the conspiracy—something Kelly agreed with during the sidebar—was fed up. 

“Unleash the Kraken. Trust the plan. Blah. Blah. Blah. When do we start stacking bodies on the White House lawn?” Priest wrote. 

“Jan. 7,” Alonso replied. 

When Priest told him they would stack the bodies of “RINOs,” or “Republicans in Name Only” first and make Democrats watch, Alonso affirmed in court this week that he said “yes.” But it was just “locker room talk, if you will,” he said. 

In the Ministry of Self-Defense chat on Jan. 3, a day before Tarrio would be arrested and three days before the insurrection, Gabriel Garcia shared a message with MOSD members. It was a blog post from the Hal Turner Radio Show promoting the false claim that a “1776 flag” was flying over the White House that night. But the image wasn’t new. Trump White House deputy chief of staff Dan Scavino posted an image of a colonial-era flag over the White House in June 2019 though that image was doctored too.

But Garcia seemed to believe it was realand so did others in the Ministry like one Proud Boy identified in chats only as “BrotherHunter Jake Phillps.” When Phillips asked whether the “normies and ‘other’ attendees” were going to “push thru police lines and storm the capitol buildings,” and invoked the violence that unfolded in D.C. on December, Alonso replied: “cue in the music… let the bodies hit the floor, let the bodies hit the floor.” 

On direct, Alonso told Jauregui the “bodies” were “regular people” not the police. The police, he said, were going to make people hit the floor at the Capitol. On cross, he told Mulroe it was just a song. It was just locker room talk. It was all just a joke. 

Norm Pattis, for Biggs, argued during a bench conference that Alonso’s comments were protected under the First Amendment and “no more prohibited than saying you’re going to line up capitalists against the wall and shoot them.” 

At the end of his testimony on Tarrio’s behalf, Fernando Alonso said under oath that as far as overtaking the U.S. government was concerned or storming the Capitol, he had no part in it or wanted no part in it. It was a reprehensible suggestion. That was behavior that wouldn’t make him proud. 

Yet, Mulroe pointed out to him, he sat in court today with a yellow shirt bearing the Proud Boys laurel on its chest, hiding just beneath his fleece. And he didn’t seem insulted when Priest talked about storming the Capitol. No one else seemed put off by the suggestion in MOSD either, that Alonso could recall. And though he had claimed he knew Tarrio’s intent, he wasn’t ever a witness to meetings or calls or chats that Tarrio may have had with elders, leaders, or even local police in advance of a Proud Boys official event. 

There was no indication one way or the other to Alonso, Mulroe elicited, that Tarrio had even told local police Proud Boys would plan to meet at the Monument on the morning of the 6th. And he certainly had ample opportunity: Tarrio was arrested on the 4th and ordered by law enforcement to stay out of Washington after his release on the 5th. 

Yet, Mulroe elicited, there was no indication that law enforcement was hipped to the Ministry of Self-Defense’s plan to gather at the Monument with what Alonso said was at least 100 men.

Alonso never went into the Capitol on Jan. 6. He never went with the defendants or anyone else that day to hear Trump, their man of the hour, speak at the Ellipse. When people were breaching the Capitol, he told the jury he thought it would be “too extreme” for anyone to go inside or past police lines. Police could shoot them, he testified.  Alonso, like other Proud Boys on Jan. 6, carried a radio but like other members, he claimed “there was no communication” on it. He downplayed evidence of him railing over Proud Boy Eddie Block’s decision to circulate  footage from Jan. 6 just a week after the insurrection. The wheelchair-bound Block, he told Mulroe, was doxxing them. 

“Crip or not,” Alonso wrote in a Proud Boy chat. “Snitches get stitches.” He added later: “That fuck needs to be duct taped to the National Mall, his scooter placed at the top of it.” 

Congress went into recess on Jan. 6 ultimately stopping the certification for several hours after the mob had rushed past police barriers, subsumed the Capitol steps, tunnels, archways, and inaugural scaffolding before streaming through broken windows or doors like the 20,000-pound Columbus Doors that were ripped from their hinges. 

Tarrio, it appears now, is unlikely to testify on his own behalf. 

Following suboptimal testimony from Tarrio’s witnesses this week, defendant Ethan Nordean squeezed in witness testimony from an FBI confidential human source and Proud Boy who appeared in court using only his middle name, “Ehren.” 

Unfortunately for the defense, “Ehren,” testified under cross-examination that he was not at the Capitol on Jan. 6 as an FBI informant in any meaningful sense. He was there, he affirmed, as a member of the Proud Boys. Though the spelling of his name was not reported into the record, “Ehren” would appear to be the individual that Jan. 6 internet sleuths have identified as “TrackSuitPB.”

In video footage, jurors could see how “Ehren” entered the Capitol carrying zip tie cuffs he said he acquired incidentally as a memento of sorts. At another point, he appears in capitol CCTV  footage flanked by Kansas City Proud Boys like William “Billy” Chrestman, Chris Kuehne, and others, as he helps place a podium under an interior electric gate to keep it from closing while others set chairs in the way. Police are seen working over and over to drop the barrier as rioters advanced.

Poking holes in the defense’s direct and indirect suggestions over these many weeks of trial that the FBI was responsible for guiding the violence of Jan. 6, “Ehren” admitted he wasn’t instructed by the bureau to obstruct the gate. Or enter the Capitol. Or impede police. In hindsight, he admitted, he shouldn’t have helped prop open gates police were trying to lower at all.

While he testified, evidence was also presented to strongly support the government’s claim that he was playing up the “informing” he offered to the FBI. 

“Ehren” texted his handler on Jan. 6 at 1:02 p.m. ET just as barriers were overrun: “Pb did not do it, nor inspire. The crowd did as a herd mentality. Not organized. Barriers down at capital [sic] building crowd surged forward, almost to the building now.” 

During his interviews with the FBI in the summer of 2021, he claimed he was standing 100 people back from the front of the first breach. In court, however, footage showed him more like 20 or 30 people back. He was also close to defendant Zachary Rehl at one point as Rehl filmed from the fore of the crowd.

FBI Agent Nicole Miller testified earlier in the trial that in this particular clip shot by Rehl, she was able to identify the Philadelphia chapter president’s voice screaming “Fuck them! Storm the Capitol” moments before Proud Boy William “Billy” Chrestman is seen scrambling over snow fencing and outnumbered police start to run backward. “Ehren” told the jury he followed Chrestman. The crowd’s chants of “fight for Trump” reverberated as they ran closer to the Capitol. There were hundreds of people behind them, he affirmed. 

When he approached the terrace of the Capitol, he said in court that he saw people topple barricades. 

And yet, he told his handler that the Proud Boys didn’t inspire the breaches.

“Ehren” said he had sent his text vouching for the Proud Boys to his handler earlier than the handler received it but bad cell service caused his message to go through on delay. His testimony around the timing of the message changed over two interviews with the FBI and diverged again once he appeared in court this last week. 

“Ehren” told Nordean’s attorney on direct that his handler urged him: if he saw a crime committed and was asked to talk about it, he was to be truthful with the bureau. 

On cross, he testified under oath that the FBI never “embedded him” with the Proud Boys. He was tasked to report on “antifa” or leftist violence, then a focus for Trump’s Attorney General Bill Barr. “Ehren” was never part of MOSD or the Boots on Ground chat created just for Jan. 6. He said it was his local chapter president who told him to go to the Washington Monument on the 6th and not to wear Proud Boy colors. He never saw messages from Bertino or Tarrio suggesting otherwise but it would seem that information was passed down to him nonetheless.  When he arrived that morning, it was clear, he testified, that Nordean was in charge. 

Proud Boys were to blend in, he said, making themselves identifiable only to each other by slapping a piece of orange tape on their shoulder or arm. Antifa would infiltrate the crowds on the 6th, they believed, “Ehren” testified, and the orange tape allowed so-called Proud Boys brothers to identify each other.

Adding further ammunition to the prosecution’s “tools” argument, “Ehren” also said that Three Percenter Robert Geiswein approached him that morning and asked to march with the Proud Boys to the Capitol. “Ehren” said he told Geiswein he could stick around for a bit but once his brothers started to get on the move, he would have to go his own way.

On redirect by Dominic Pezzola’s attorney Roger Roots, “Ehren” said “Geiswein “didn’t listen very well about staying back once we met with other Proud Boys.”

Indeed, Geiswein would be spotted shoulder-to-shoulder with Pezzola on Jan. 6 just outside of the Senate Chamber. 

 As for “Ehren,” he wouldn’t leave the Capitol until after police told him a woman had been shot. Prior to that moment, he said, he didn’t attempt to de-escalate the situation because he figured if there was an “emergency situation” he “might be asked about it” by his handler. But this testimony ran up against video footage of “Ehren” also pumping his fist in the air in celebration after breaching. 

He rather sheepishly conceded that, in the moment, it all seemed “funny” and “exciting.” 

Witnesses for defendant Zachary Rehl didn’t fare much better this week, save for the largely innocuous testimony of Rehl’s wife, Amanda. Cutting a sympathetic figure, her voice was gentle as she testified and admitted to Rehl’s attorney, Carmen Hernandez, that she was nervous. They married after Rehl graduated from Temple University; she told jurors how three of her uncles were policemen and his father and grandfather were policemen, too. Jurors saw pictures of Zachary’s father and grandfather in their uniforms, including one photo of a young Rehl in tow. They also saw a photo of her child with Zachary, a cherubic-looking little girl of maybe two or three years old. 

On Jan. 6, her husband, she said, left out for D.C. with Isaiah Giddings, Brian Healion, and Freedom Vy. She didn’t come. On the witness stand, Amanda Rehl said she couldn’t distinguish her husband’s voice in the video he shot from the first breach at the Peace Circle. She could hear someone say “Fuck them! Storm the Capitol” but if it was her husband’s, she couldn’t say. 

Testimony from Rehl’s next witness, former West Virginia Proud Boy chapter president Jeff Finley followed. 

Finley was easygoing on the stand with responses neatly tailored on direct. He pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor charge of entering restricted grounds in last April and was sentenced to 75 days. Finley’s first reporting to prison was delayed so he could appear at the trial on Rehl’s behalf. 

Though not a member of MOSD, he was part of the Boots on the Ground chat using the handle “El Jefe.” Finley was often in close proximity to Biggs and the co-defendants on Jan. 6 including at the west terrace where some of the worst fighting of the day occurred. He couldn’t recall whether any police officers asked him not to come inside the capitol that day, however, and he couldn’t identify any of the  Proud Boys Rehl had brought to DC from Philly when Hernandez asked. 

But, he testified succinctly, “no,” he didn’t do anything that day to stop legislators from certifying the election. He was in and out in 10 minutes, he said. 

Finley was a fourth-degree Proud Boy deeply invested in the club—he has a tattoo etched across his chest declaring him a “West Virginia Proud Boy” jurors learned. And in the run-up to the insurrection, prosecutors brought out texts and video showing Finley looking to Nordean as the leader. In his guilty plea, he said as much to investigators and from the witness stand, Finley testified that while Proud Boys marched on the Capitol, it was Biggs, Nordean, and Charles “ Yut Yut Cowabunga” Donohoe, who would sometimes break off from the group for chats he was not privy to. Rehl, Biggs, and Donohoe did the same, he testified. 

Donohoe pleaded guilty to conspiracy to obstruct an official proceeding a year ago this week. 

Finley told the jury he never saw any of the defendants throw projectiles at police and didn’t hear any conversations that led him to believe a plan to stop the certification was in place. He presented Jan. 6 as an opportunity he seized on to “make my voice heard” about potential discrepancies in the 2020 election. 

Yet, prosecutors presented pages of text messages to the jury where Finley urged Proud Boys to delete their communications. Some of the messages showed Finley was furious with Eddie Block for filming, just like Alonso had been. In the weeks after the attack, Finley steadily discouraged Proud Boys from saving information or from having mementos, like challenge coins commemorating Jan. 6, mocked up.

“It would just place you in D.C. give more ammo against you,” he wrote on Jan. 12.

 He deleted his own socials after the 6th but not before making a podcast appearance where he told the interviewer he didn’t know a single Proud Boy who was remotely close to being in the Capitol on Jan. 6. 

“But you were a Proud Boy and you went in with Rehl and three other Philadelphia Proud Boys?” prosecutor Nadia Moore asked Finley in court on March 30. 

He did, he admitted, but in the podcast, the host wasn’t a member of law enforcement so he was in no way obligated to tell the truth. 

When the trial resumes starting Monday, it is expected that defendant Joe Biggs will start to come into focus as his attorneys, Norm Pattis and Dan Hull, make their case. Dominic Pezzola’s attorneys Steven Metcalf and Roger Roots shouldn’t be far behind. While it seemed that Biggs would likely take the stand earlier in the trial, after grueling days for the defense without any immediately obvious pay-off, that likelihood now seems low.

It may behoove Pezzola to try his luck or admit to charges that will be the hardest for him to beat because of compelling video evidence compiled by prosecutors, including video footage of him smashing open a window and allegedly stealing a police riot shield. In the first Oath Keepers case, which in many ways is quite similar to this one, defendant Jessica Watkins admitted to jurors that she impeded officers. In the end, her remorse from the stand may have helped her. She was convicted for impeding officers during a civil disorder (and conspiracy and obstruction) but she evaded a destruction of property charge despite being in the thick of a quite brutal push into the Capitol. She also was not convicted of seditious conspiracy. 

The light is now visible at the end of the tunnel in this three-month-long trial and this week, parties are expected to hash out jury instructions. If there are any Hail Mary moves to be made by the remaining defendants, the window to make them is inching closed.

39 replies
  1. LeftsidePortland says:

    Now THAT is how it’s done! Once again, excellent reporting and write-up, Brandi. Thank you thank you.

  2. P J Evans says:

    Those people in the photos look so much like “normal tourists” – not. They’re clearly not tourists, in their camo and helmets and flak vests.

    • Raven Eye says:

      Adding to that…After working in DC for over 25 years (spread over 40 year), not only do I know how tourists LOOK — I know how they ACT. You can just tell. Those people weren’t tourists.

      • P J Evans says:

        I’ve been told the one thing I need to do is go by the Library of Congress before it opens to admire the doors.

  3. John Paul Jones says:

    Excellent reporting. I’ve been following daily, but it’s really great to have these summations, because I easily miss some of the nuances of the testimony. It’s amazing that the prosecution is able to marshal such a huge amount of detailed evidence and build it into a compelling narrative. Thank you so much for doing this.

    BTW, following it day-by-day, I did indeed notice that the defense witnesses were being destroyed on cross thanks in no small amount to your clear reporting.

  4. Yankee in TX says:

    How appropriate for these PB’s to be in front of a painting of John C. “Positive Benefit” Calhoun! Calhoun couldn’t find enough support for his revolution in the Nullification Crisis in 1832.

    Another famous picture shows an insurrectionist carrying the Confederate battle flag past Calhoun’s picture. Blasphemy!!

    And why the F is Calhoun’s picture in front of Steny Hoyer’s office? As he provided the alleged intellectual support for slavery and secession, he and his picture should consigned to the dustbin of history.

    • Desidero says:

      Those Confederate “insurrectionists” chose to leave as states via their elected representatives, creating a surrogate constitutional government of their own, not by disrupting Lincoln’s transfer to power.
      Had the north not decided to hold on to property in the middle of southern ports (not just Sumter), the secession would have possibly (likely?) been bloodless and relatively painless, with Constitution & Union intact, just smaller.
      It would be useful for people 160 years later to learn to distinguish the anathema of slavery from the relative human right of free political/governmental association (ironically as pronounced in our own Declaration of Independence), even peaceful secession (Sri Lanka, Slovakia, Slovenia…) and the struggles to rightfully secede (Ukraine, East Timor, Taiwan, Algeria…).
      Not that the Proud Boys have any real conception of moral rights and peaceful change, leading a tiny minority to violently disrupt our government and Constitution, with a dictator and quasi-military rule in the wings.

      • Yankee in TX says:

        What complete and utter twaddle! Lincoln was elected to be the president of the entire country. He hadn’t even taken his oath of office before the Gulf Squadron seceded. Their Ordinances of Secession make clear that the only reason was slavery and the Republicans objections to it, even though the Republicans had all pledged that they would not touch slavery in the states where it already existed. These elected representatives of the South did not poll their African-American residents, whether free or enslaved.

        To suggest that Ukraine (independent since 1989) “seceded” from the Russian Empire is a strong tell as to where your sympathies lie!

        • Rayne says:

          LOL I just went and checked Desidero’s IP address (formerly “Desider”). Not in the US. You can expect a different perspective of contemporary European/Eurasian history than that of Americans or Ukrainians.

        • jsrtheta says:

          Too right. Lincoln knew that secession was not allowable under the Constitution and could not be allowed. Preservation of the union was the driving force behind the war.

        • Desidero says:

          How is suggesting Ukraine is basically seceding from the oppressive Soviet/Russian sphere objectionable or bad? They had a Russian puppet as leader til 2014. Russia unilaterally stole say 20% of it’s land. It’s not like Ukraine was totally free and independent until it fought this war – even now it’s still iffy, tho looking pretty good.
          And back in 1860, divorces of any sort were highly frowned upon. I don’t get where ppl in 2023 cheer an “eternal” union as an unquestionably good thing. Tina Turner doesn’t think so.
          Ed just finished highlighting the Declaration & “Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, –That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it”, with “destructive” replaced by a simpler “they just don’t want it anymore”. But that’s hardly justification for a tiny minority to disband that government for an unwilling majority, a la Jan6.
          Yes, it took East Europe 40 years to get rid of the Soviet yoke, Ukraine longer (and still not finished). The right of people to decide for their own independence should be obvious – slaves, Southerners, Texans (except how they seceded from Mexico as gastarbeiers), Californians if they get sick of everyone else, and so on. Nothing wrong with Maine joining Canada – their business and human right, if done properly, i.e. not trampling the rights of everyone else.

          • Rayne says:

            There’s a process here in the U.S. to resolving problems between states and the federated U.S. — it’s democracy. Advocating secession outside that process is sedition, and it’s also a topic of known Russian influence operations intent on fragmenting U.S. political power.

            You’re also moving away from the topic of the Proud Boys’ trial and have already expended nearly 400 words across two comments.

            Focus on the post’s topic and stop with the Russian influence operation.

            • Desidero says:

              Quebec’s voted on secession w/o blowing up their Constitution or their country.
              It’s important to know which parts of Jan6 were sedition & why, vs attacking free speech. (No, I’m not Russian nor an asset, thanks.)
              Yelling “secession” (if peaceful) is not sedition, & will not be a PB charge. Yelling “1776” as a sign to take up arms & storm the Capitol, overthrow the gov & attack representatives (and encouraging the normies to join in) *is* sedition, and that’s much of the prosecution’s focus, both to find the PBs guilty of more than just vandalism, and to set up accountability in later trials for higher-ups who knowingly engaged unwitting 3rd parties in their schemes.

              • Rayne says:

                Your second word is “voted.” Do you even understand what democracy is and how it works?

                Or is that the entire point, that you personally don’t give a shit about democracy and the consent of the governed versus mob rule?

    • FiestyBlueBird says:

      Historian Stephen Berry was prompted, in part, to write this piece published in The Nation Magazine, by seeing one of those images of the Confederate Flag carried in the Capitol on January 6 with Calhoun’s portrait in the background. Pretty long essay. And pretty good, I thought.

      • John Paul Jones says:

        Thanks for the link. Really interesting essay. It kind of chimes with what I have been thinking for a while, I mean about the modern-day version of the “slave power,” as it was called, and about how its heart is still in the ex-Confederate states, mostly.

  5. harpie says:

    THANKS so much, Brandi for this great detailed summary of a very jam-packed week at court!
    As others have noted, I, too have been glued to your tweets, whenever possible.

    And KUDO’s to emptywheel contributors for helping fund Brandi’s work until the end of the trial!

  6. TimothyB says:

    Thank you, Brandi! I read the live tweets, and enjoy the drama, but I get more sense of what is going on from these summaries.

  7. Ginevra diBenci says:

    Brandi, your superb reporting made me curious about Proud Boy “degrees”; for anyone else looking for a brief primer on the requisites, Insider has a book review that details each one:

    I might be confused about the “chapter” you refer to regarding Alonso’s membership starting in December 2020. If the chapter was MOSD, that makes sense. But if it was his original PB chapter, I’m curious how he became a fourth-degree PB so fast (two weeks), given the requirements and Alonso’s self-professed moderation in all things.

    I’ve been following your trial coverage on the edge of my chair! Thank you for the clarity and all the vivid nuance.

  8. Savage Librarian says:

    Excellent photo selections, Brandi, and your vivid narrative is greatly appreciated. Before you know it, we’ll be eagerly awaiting the jury’s verdicts. Then, hopefully, not too long afterwards we might see some hints about what else might be happening with J6 relative to Jack Smith.

  9. timbozone says:

    Thanks for the easily digestible summary of the defense witness testimony! I followed along on several days of the tweets but this puts it all into much better perspective.

  10. harpie says:

    Today’s Twitter THREADs start here:
    [See Brandi’s beautiful “moment of zen” photo!]
    7:38 AM · Apr 3, 2023

    Welcome to Day 49 of the Proud Boys seditious conspiracy trial. My report linked below will catch you up. Today’s photo is our moment of zen before we begin another week and inch ever closer to the end of the trial and the start of jury deliberations. Live tweets start at 9AM ET.
    8:29 AM · Apr 3, 2023

    It’s Apr 3 and Day 49 of the Proud Boys trial. I’ll be live-tweeting here and on Lawfare: [link]. Don’t want to jinx anything, but it’s looking like maybe we’ll finish evidence this week. /1

  11. harpie says:

    1:47 PM Brandi:

    The image of Sabino Jauregui and Nayib Hassan pressing both of their heads together to listen in on one phone during a sidebar is going to be with me for a long time.

    1:51 PM: There’s a sidebar now, but it is sealed.

    I should note, AUSA Ballantine is here today. She tends to only show up when there’s classified or otherwise sensitive information; like with informant testimony sought out by the defense…

    So, while I am only speculating here, perhaps the reason for the sealed sidebar has something to do with the prospective defense testimony from two MPD officers – they may have had contact with MPD Lt. Shane Lamond […]

    9:20 AM · Mar 22, 2023 More on Shane Lamond]

    2:28 PM Roughly 30 minutes later, courtroom is still sealed. That means the jury stays waiting.

    2:39 PM This is a group of attorneys, and a judge, to be totally honest, who once they start on a single issue, can spin off into numerous other issues in a matter of minutes. I hope whatever is being sealed actually deserves to be sealed and time isn’t getting away from the judge

    It’s 3:02 PM, and still nothing to report, I guess.

    • harpie says:

      1:46 PM Parloff:

      Norm Pattis (Biggs): we interviewed the two police officers and we’ll meet one more tomorrow. We may seek relief, but we’ll [talk it out among the team & get back to you tomorrow].

      Judge: i need to speak to the parties about something under seal.
      sidebar /51

      1:54 PM [Even tho there was white noise before, now they’ve entirely unplugged the screens & audio here in the media room, too. The white noise is actually louder down here in the media room than in the courtroom, but the lawyers don’t seem to trust that it’s sufficient.] /53

      Marcy to Parloff:
      1:56 PM · Apr 3, 2023

      Meaning this seal is somehow more sensitive than all the rest? Is Ballantine involved?

    • harpie says:

      3:36 PM Brandi:

      All right – we are now unsealed. Roots for Dominic Pezzola is talking right away.

      Don’t know where we are picking up but we’re going to jump right in…Kelly is telling Roots “I take your pt but this is an instruction given to every jury in this courthouse.”
      Pattis wants there to be an option for jury nullification.

      I do think there is an implicitly recognized right in our law to nullify, Pattis says, adding that he joins with Roots. Hernandez (For Rehl) joins.

      Jauregui, for Tarrio, raises his mic, but doesn’t say anything, but it seems he is joining motion for jury nullification

      Patts says a 2nd circuit decision, 2-1, directed the court not to give permission to argue nullification, but I note the one dissent, he says.
      Kelly: It’s a long shot, but Ill look at it.

      Kenerson: Here in DC circuit, a case from 2020 notes we have already decided as much w/regard to trial proceedings, in partic. we’ve held that 6A provides no right to jury nullification. That’s binding to DC circuit – this circuit has decided there’s no right to j. nullification.

      Roots: Its not jury nullification, the jury must acquit if govt doesn’t present its case…
      Kelly: I don’t see the daylight between that and nullification.

      Kenerson cites Wilkerson: “a jury has no more right to find a guilty defendant not guilty than it has to find a not guilty defendant guilty”

    • harpie says:

      3:49 PM Brandi:

      Kelly moves through about pages of draft jury instructions lawyers all have before them – no objections. On 7th pg, Kelly notes there’s a reference to accomplice’s testimony.

      Kelly put this in brackets because Judge Amit Mehta called it participant testimony in at least one of the Oath Keeper cases. The accomplice instruction is teed up as if its the govt who is involved, but Mehta’s version was more neutral, so that’s why Kelly suggested it here

      Kenerson: we think the court’s treatment of this as judge Mehta did as well, makes sense for reasons the court laid out. it captures what the red book version of accomplice testimony was trying to get at

      For Greene and Bertino, jury will have plea agreement instruction…
      Nick Smith for Ethan Nordean and Carmen Hernandez for Zachary Rehl are fighting this language…

      Kelly: To extent this applies to your witnesses, the govt did have an op. to cross them and say here’s why we think they are bias. Maybe that means we don’t really need this instruction after all or you take out a line that tells juror to be cautious when considering these stmts

  12. Greenhouse says:

    Poor Malcolm should be turning in is grave seeing that deutchbag mofo misappropriate his image.

  13. Ebenezer Scrooge says:

    I’m NOT a trial lawyer, but I can’t understand the defense’s conduct in this case. Their theory is comprehensible: “We were just all-American tourists occasionally exercising our First Amendment rights and never a seditious thought entered our minds.” But putting on witnesses in support of this theory seems daft to me.

    It would make more sense for the defense to argue that the government has not proven its case: i.e., “beyond a reasonable doubt” regarding a state of mind requires a confession–or in the case of a conspiracy, a written contract. This is legal bullshit. But it may be more jury-friendly to demand an impossible standard of proof from the government than to present a ludicrous rebuttal case.

    Do any trial lawyers on this thread have something to say about this?

  14. harpie says:

    Here’s the start of Brandi’s THREAD for today:
    5:18 AM · Apr 4, 2023

    Welcome from Washington to Day 50(!) of the Proud Boys seditious conspiracy trial. Live coverage begins at 9 am ET. We continue today with witness testimony for Proud Boy defendant Zach Rehl, and we are on the verge of hearing from witnesses for Infowars darling and PB Joe Biggs. […]

    Parloff will not be there.

  15. harpie says:

    I haven’t been following this morning [but will try to catch up].
    Here’s a THREAD Capitol Hunters posted in response to Brandi at:

    10:39 AM

    […] Pattis: After 2016 election, he [BIGGS] began to work as online personality for InfoWars, his employment ended in 2017.
    In 2018, Biggs moved from Austin to Florida.
    He has 5 y/o daughter
    11:02 AM · Apr 4, 2023

    In the Proud Boys trial, Norm Pattis is doubling down on the obvious lie that his client Joe Biggs was not hired by Alex Jones til after the 2016 election. But Biggs was famously an InfoWars reporter in 2014. He ‘reported’ from Ferguson. Journalists on this beat knew him! 1/

    Biggs has scrubbed some of his bios but his InfoWars history is a matter of the public record. His writings are archived! And Biggs was back in Ferguson in 2015 with a bodyguard of Oath Keepers; he told the Guardian he was reporting for InfoWars! 2/ [screenshot][link]

  16. harpie says:

    Here’s the beginning of Brandi’s THREAD for today:
    5:30 AM · Apr 5, 2023

    May Peace (Monument) be with you this morning as we enter Day 51 of the Proud Boys seditious conspiracy trial. It ended with a sealed hearing yesterday that stretched for over an hour. Proceedings resume today at 9 am ET. I will have live coverage for @emptywheel. Join me?!

    Missing @rparloff today again as he tends to family issues. Let’s all wish him well, please. Looking forward to his return.

    Yesterday was productive, with several witnesses for defendant Zachary Rehl taking the stand. Then, things came to a screeching halt when Judge Kelly agreed to hold a sealed hearing following the presentation of a lengthy Proud Boys video conference to jurors.

    Today, we are expecting some evidence to be presented to the jury but before that happens, I understand there is to be a charging conference held this morning where parties will hash out proposed instructions for jurors. Then, the jury will come in at 11AM.

    We are so very close to the end of this marathon trial and so much evidence has been presented in the last 51 days. Before yesterday, we were still on track to close things out within the next 2 weeks. How far afield the sealed matter threw us from this — we may soon find out. […]

    THANK YOU, Brandi, for continuing to slog through for us with such tenacity and great insight!

    • Ginevra diBenci says:

      Yes, thank you Brandi, and thank you harpie for keeping us in the loop. I will keep coming back here to find out what’s happening, since the prospect of Biggs has me drooling with anticipation. (Sorry, dog person here.)

      I kept waiting last night for some mention of *this* trial on the TV news, but that was in vain. This one has such material importance to everything they’re talking about in hypothetical terms regarding Trump, yet no one touched on it. That’s why I come here, and why I’m so very grateful to you tag team trial tribunes!

  17. harpie says:

    Here’s the beginning of Brandi’s THREAD for today:
    5:48 AM · Apr 6, 2023

    It is Day 52 of the Proud Boys seditious conspiracy trial and proceedings start at 9 AM ET. Today’s opening photo features the Confederate fighting Navy Admiral David Farragut and since the end of trial is near, I’ll quote him: “Damn the torpedoes! Full speed ahead!” […]


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