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Trump Worked with People Who Allegedly Worked with the Proud Boys to Obstruct the Peaceful Transfer of Power

By my count, at least 14 people are known to have pled guilty to some kind of conspiracy on January 6, with four more cooperating against them. Another four were found guilty of one or more conspiracy in November’s Oath Keeper verdict. Eighteen people, in one way or another have been convicted of conspiring to prevent the peaceful transfer of power on January 6, most by obstructing the vote certification.

Trump played a key part in all those conspiracies.

Ronnie Sandlin, for example, first started planning to go, armed, to DC in response to Trump’s December 19 tweet, posting on December 23 that he planned to “stop the steal and stand behind Trump when he decides to cross the rubicon.” After he watched Trump’s speech on January 6, Sandlin did a live stream where he said, “I think it is time to take the Capitol.” Once he arrived at the Capitol, Sandlin and co-conspirator Nate DeGrave participated in tactically critical assaults on cops in two places, the East door and the door to the Senate gallery. After Sandlin helped him get into the gallery, Josiah Colt then rappelled from the gallery to the Senate floor.

Like Sandlin, Brad Smith started arming himself and planning to come to DC in response to Trump’s December 19 tweet.

The call to action was put out to be in DC on January 6th from the Don himself. The reason is that’s the day pence counts them up and if the entire city is full of trump supporters it will stop the for sure riots from burning down the city at least for awhile.

By December 31, Smith predicted, “Militias will be there and if there’s enough people they may fucking storm the buildings and take out the trash right there.” Smith and his co-conspirator, Marshall Neefe, participated in an assault on cops using an 8′ by 10′ Trump sign. And after the attack he boasted that the mission was successful because “we literally chased them out into hiding. No certification lol.”

Trump played a slightly different role in the Oath Keepers conspiracy. The Oath Keepers — Stewart Rhodes above all — viewed Trump as a means to prevent Biden’s election, because as President he could invoke the Insurrection Act and with it (the Oath Keepers believed) make the militias a legal arm of the state, defending Trump. Rhodes repeatedly called on Trump to invoke the Insurrection Act — on November 9, December 12, December 23, and January 6.

He dictated a note to Trump after January 6 asking him to call on the militias as his army to stop Biden from taking power.

For the most part, none of the channels via which Rhodes tried to speak directly to Trump (including Kellye SoRelle’s attempt to work through Rudy Giuliani’s son) are known to have reached Trump.

One of his attempted interlocutors, though, undoubtedly had access to Trump: Roger Stone, on whose Friends of Stone list Rhodes was sharing his plans for insurrection shortly after the election.

DOJ has exploited at least four phones owned by members of the Friends of Stone list: Rhodes and SoRelle, Owen Shroyer, and Enrique Tarrio. Probably DOJ asked for content from Ali Alexander as well (though he disclaimed having any Signal texts to the January 6 Committee).

While a jury found all the Oath Keepers guilty of obstructing the vote certification, with the key exception of Kelly Meggs (who was also in contact separately with the Proud Boys, Roger Stone, Ali Alexander, and alleged 3 Percenter Jeremy Liggett, who in turn had ties to the MAGA Bus Tour) as well as Jessica Watkins, it found the greater part of their conspiracy either overthrowing the government or interfering with with official duties: not obstructing the vote count. Their larger plan to keep Trump in power used different means than Trump used.

That’s not true of the Proud Boy Leaders, who are three days into their trial.

Not only did the Proud Boys allegedly pursue the same plan that Trump was pursuing — obstructing the vote certification on January 6 — but they were in communication with people who were in communication, and central to, Trump’s plan: most notably, Alex Jones, Ali Alexander, and Roger Stone. They were in communication with people who were in communication with people close to Trump during the attack.

Even their telephony records show that Enrique Tarrio, Joe Biggs, and Ethan Nordean were in contact with Alex Jones and Owen Shroyer during the period.

Records for Enrique Tarrio’s phone show that while the attack on the Capitol was ongoing, he texted with Jones three times and Shroyer five times.124 Ethan Nordean’s phone records reflect that he exchanged 23 text messages with Shroyer between January 4th and 5th, and that he had one call with him on each of those days.125 Records of Joseph Biggs’s communications show that he texted with Shroyer eight times on January 4th and called him at approximately 11:15 a.m. on January 6th, while Biggs and his fellow Proud Boys were marching at and around the Capitol.126

Given the known communication habits of the men, it’s possible there are Signal or Telegram communications that were unavailable to the J6C as well.

Alex Jones and Ali Alexander knew in advance they would lead the mob to the Capitol (the January 6 Report offers an unpersuasive explanation that the request came exclusively from Caroline Wren). Roger Stone had planned to join them, probably until he got cranky about being denied a speaking role on the morning of January 6. Mike Flynn wanted to latch on, as well, until the General got too cold and had to go back to his posh hotel room. “Hell no,” he said, according to Caroline Wren. “It’s freezing.”

Meanwhile, even as Shroyer was in touch with Biggs, Alexander was in touch with Caroline Wren, who remained at the Ellipse, and asked for 5-minute updates on the Trump’s progress to the Capitol (the text in question appears to have come from Wren, but may not have been provided in Alexander’s production).

The communication between Proud Boys and Jones in real time is critical because once the riot police showed up and slowed the attack, the Proud Boy leaders pulled up, effectively waiting until Jones appeared. And after Jones did appear, he told the mob following him that Trump was coming to give another speech — something Alexander, and so almost certainly Jones — knew to be false because Wren had told Alexander. Nevertheless, Jones led his mob to the East steps, riled them up with a 1776 chant, and left them there, where they were soon joined by the Oath Keepers (led by Kelly Meggs, who also was in touch with Alexander) and Joe Biggs and some other Proud Boys (including one who had been directing traffic). That collective mob breached the East door of the Capitol, opening a second major front on the Capitol and adding to the invasion of the Senate chamber.

There are rioters who were sentenced to two months in jail because they followed Alex Jones credulously to the top of those steps and joined the mob storming the Capitol.

And it wasn’t just Jones and Alexander who were in touch with Trump’s handlers.

Mark Meadows was, per Cassidy Hutchinson, in communication with Stone about his plans for January 6, at a time when Stone still planned to march to the Capitol with Jones and Alexander.

LIZ CHENEY: Thank you, Mr. Chairman. Before we turn to what Ms. Hutchinson saw and heard in the White House during the violent attack on the Capitol on January 6th, let’s discuss certain communications White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows had on January 5th. President Trump’s associate, Roger Stone, attended rallies during the afternoon and the evening of January 5th in Washington, DC On January 5th and 6th, Mr. Stone was photographed with multiple members of the Oath Keepers who were allegedly serving as his security detail.

As we now know, multiple members of that organization have been charged with or pled guilty to crimes associated with January 6th. Mr. Stone has invoked his Fifth Amendment privilege against self-incrimination before this committee. General Michael Flynn has also taken the Fifth before this committee. Mr. Stone previously had been convicted of other federal crimes unrelated to January 6th.

General Flynn had pleaded guilty to a felony charge, also predating and unrelated to January 6th. President Trump pardoned General Flynn just weeks after the Presidential election, and in July of 2020, he commuted the sentence Roger Stone was to serve.

The night before January 6th, President Trump instructed his Chief of Staff Mark Meadows to contact both Roger Stone and Michael Flynn regarding what would play out the next day. Ms. Hutchinson, Is it your understanding that President Trump asked Mark Meadows to speak with Roger Stone and General Flynn on January 5th?

CASSIDY HUTCHINSON: That’s correct. That is my understanding.

LIZ CHENEY: And Ms. Hutchinson, is it your understanding that Mr. Meadows called Mr. Stone on the 5th?

CASSIDY HUTCHINSON: I’m under the impression that Mr. Meadows did complete both a call to Mr. Stone and General Flynn the evening of the 5th.

In an earlier interview, when she was still represented by Stefan Passantino, she had attributed the idea for this call to Peter Navarro or a Navarro staffer; the Navarro staffer who had let Mike Flynn into the White House on December 18, Garrett Ziegler, was another White House contact of Ali Alexander’s, in addition to Wren.

All this matters because of the way conspiracy law works, as laid out in the bullet points from Elizabeth de la Vega that I always rely on.

CONSPIRACY LAW – EIGHT THINGS YOU NEED TO KNOW.

One: Co-conspirators don’t have to explicitly agree to conspire & there doesn’t need to be a written agreement; in fact, they almost never explicitly agree to conspire & it would be nuts to have a written agreement!

Two: Conspiracies can have more than one object- i.e. conspiracy to defraud U.S. and to obstruct justice. The object is the goal. Members could have completely different reasons (motives) for wanting to achieve that goal.

Three: All co-conspirators have to agree on at least one object of the conspiracy.

Four: Co-conspirators can use multiple means to carry out the conspiracy, i.e., releasing stolen emails, collaborating on fraudulent social media ops, laundering campaign contributions.

Five: Co-conspirators don’t have to know precisely what the others are doing, and, in large conspiracies, they rarely do.

Six: Once someone is found to have knowingly joined a conspiracy, he/she is responsible for all acts of other co-conspirators.

Seven: Statements of any co-conspirator made to further the conspiracy may be introduced into evidence against any other co-conspirator.

Eight: Overt Acts taken in furtherance of a conspiracy need not be illegal. A POTUS’ public statement that “Russia is a hoax,” e.g., might not be illegal (or even make any sense), but it could be an overt act in furtherance of a conspiracy to obstruct justice.

Co-conspirators don’t all have to meet in a room together and agree to enter a conspiracy. That can happen (and did, in the Oath Keepers’ case) via a series of communications which networks everyone.

The demonstrative exhibit prosecutors used in the Oath Keeper trials showed how the various communications channels included everyone, even if some members of the conspiracy only interacted with a limited group of other co-conspirators.

I circled Rhodes and SoRelle in pink to show that even in the Oath Keeper trial, prosecutors treated the Friends of Stone list part of the communications infrastructure of the conspiracy.

Here’s what the larger conspiracy looks like, reflecting  the known communications between Rhodes, Meggs, Tarrio, Biggs, and Nordean and Jones and Stone, and the known communications between Jones and Stone and Alexander with Trump or his handlers, like Meadows, Wren, and Ziegler by way of Navarro.

The numbers and letters in parentheses come from one or another of the indictments charging conspiracy. As you can see, Trump’s known actions map onto the known, charged overt acts of various conspiracies to obstruct the vote count like a mirror.

Obviously, the pink part of this table has not been charged (yet). And it may not be unless prosecutors win guilty verdicts in the Proud Boys case. It also may not be if the obstruction charge gets narrowed on appeal.

For reasons I laid out here, the Proud Boys trial is far more complex than the Oath Keepers trial. And in the Proud Boys trial, like the Oath Keepers trial, prosecutors don’t have a clear map showing that the plan was to occupy the Capitol; instead they have testimony that Biggs and Nordean kept consulting, and everyone took orders from them, and those orders had the effect of sending cells of Proud Boys off to breach parts of the building. So it is not at all certain that prosecutors will win convictions of the men — Tarrio, Biggs, and Nordean — who were working with people who were working with Trump and his handlers.

But this is one of the means via which DOJ has been working to hold Trump accountable since just months after the attack (I first laid this out in July 2021, long before most commentators understood how DOJ was using obstruction).

Even with the disorganized conspiracy (Sandlin and friends), prosecutors have carefully shown how the men took Trump’s December 19 tweet as an explicit instruction, took instructions from a WildProtest flyer put out by Ali Alexander, believed Trump had ordered them to march to the Capitol. There are hundreds more rioters who took Trump’s December 19 tweet as an instruction, though in the case of Sandlin and his co-conspirators, they took steps that were critical to the occupation of the Capitol and the Senate chamber in response.

But with the Proud Boys, to an extent thus far only seen with Oath Keeper Kelly Meggs, the communication ties, via a two step network, to Trump’s own actions and directions. And with the Proud Boys, that coordination builds off years-long relationships, particularly between Biggs and Jones and Stone, and through them, to Trump.

Everyone was working towards the same goal: to prevent Congress from certifying Joe Biden’s victory. There were, in various places, explicit agreements made. There were, as with Trump’s Stand Back and Stand By comment that prosecutors used to kick off this trial, more implicit agreements as well.

And DOJ is now at the point where it is beginning to show how those agreements, explicit and implicit, all worked together to make the assault on the Capitol successful.

Conspiracy guilty verdicts

Oath Keepers Stewart Rhodes, Kelly Meggs, Jessica Watkins, Kenneth Harrelson, Kelly Meggs, Mark Grods, Caleb Berry, James Dolan, Joshua James, Brian Ulrich, Todd Wilson (11 conspiracy verdicts)

Proud Boys Matthew Greene, Charles Donohoe, Jeremy Bertino, with Isaiah Giddings, Louis Colon, and James Stewart cooperating (3 known conspiracy verdicts)

Disorganized Militia Ronnie Sandlin, Nate DeGrave, with Josiah Colt cooperating (2 conspiracy verdicts)

“Patriots” Marshall Neefe and Charles Smith (2 conspiracy verdicts)

If the Former President Gets Top Billing in a Sedition Trial But You Didn’t Bother to Notice …

There’s a weird passage in a column that Charlie Pierce published today, announcing that,

[M]y patience with Attorney General Merrick Garland and his dilatory pursuit of the former president* and the various thieves and yahoos under his employ is now exhausted.

… Because Garland has …

let the investigation into the crimes of Donald Trump go on long enough that the forces of public reaction could gather sufficient strength to muddy the evidence and deaden the outrage.

It’s this passage: Charlie claims that the “announcement” of a subpoena, which he attributes to Jack Smith, got lost amid the news of the investigation into the classified documents found in President Biden’s possession.

This was a distressing week, a week in which it seemed that a lot of criminal consequence was slipping away. Again. That’s probably unfair, considering Jack Smith, the special counsel Garland put in charge of the investigations into the previous administration*, unloaded a blast of canister fire, dropping subpoenas on people associated with almost every dubious enterprise conducted between 2017 and 2020, even the post-election grift in which the former president* fleeced the rubes for his purported probe into “voting irregularities,” an enterprise with the credibility of OJ Simpson’s search for the real killers. That’s genuine momentum—except that the announcement was lost in the hurly-burly of the Biden documents.

There was no announcement.

What Charlie treats as an “announcement” is a WaPo story, on which Mar-a-Lago Court Reporter Josh Dawsey is the first byline and Devlin Barrett is the second, describing a subpoena sent out on December 9, just three weeks and a Thanksgiving holiday after Jack Smith was appointed and over a month before the story itself. Charlie considers the subpoena “a blast of canister fire,” and hails the “genuine momentum,” but complains that “the announcement was lost in the hurly-burly of the Biden documents.”

Charlie doesn’t consider that this paragraph is itself an admission on his part that stuff can go on — stuff that he considers really impressive — and he might not find out about it for over a month. He says that about a story that describes that, “the Jan. 6 grand jury had accelerated its activities in recent weeks, bringing in a rapid-fire series of witnesses, both high and low level,” but doesn’t describe who those witnesses are (and whose testimony, with the exception of about seven people — Rudy Giuliani, Stephen Miller, Dan Scavino, William Russell, Beau Harrison, and the two Pats, Philbin and Cipollone, has not otherwise been reported). He says that of a story that linked an earlier WaPo story, dated September 16 and so describing developments that preceded Jack Smith’s arrival by two months, that described dozens of subpoenas requesting communications with more than 100 people.

Dozens of subpoenas issued last week show that the Justice Department is seeking vast amounts of information, and communications with more than 100 people, as part of its sprawling inquiry into the origins, fundraising and motives of the effort to block Joe Biden from being certified as president in early 2021.

That’s the investigation, still under Garland, that Charlie calls “dilatory.”

And Charlie says that the same week that a third January 6 sedition trial kicked off by showing Donald Trump’s call on the men standing trial for sedition to “Stand Back and Stand By.”

As Charlie’s statement admits, his is partly a complaint about the press, which was focused on Biden’s legal discomforts rather than more important things, like Trump’s attempted coup.

Of course, Charlie is part of the press.

And Charlie, part of the press, made no mention of Trump’s prominence in DOJ’s Proud Boys opening argument. Charlie wants a compelling trial the likes of the Nuremberg Trials, yet the most important January 6 trial to date tied Trump’s actions directly to the overt acts in this alleged sedition conspiracy, and Charlie made no mention of the fact that Trump’s comments were presented as evidence in a sedition trial.

A huge part of Charlie’s complaint is about the evidence that he can see.

[Nuremburg Prosecutor Robert Jackson] wanted the rule of law to do more than simply demonstrate its strength. He wanted that strength used, firmly and relentlessly, in the pursuit of justice. Garland may be doing the same thing, but there’s damn little evidence of it, and this week, everything seemed to be running in the opposite direction.

It’s not actually clear whether Charlie even knows that Trump’s incitement of the Proud Boys played a central role in the opening argument of a sedition trial, though dozens of reporters covered it, a number in real time. Many of those reporters are exhausted, though exhausted not so much about their perceptions of Garland, but because they’ve given up evenings and weekends for two years to make sure these events get covered.

If the former President gets top billing in a sedition trial but you didn’t bother to notice, does it count as evidence about DOJ investigations?

My January 6 anniversary post last year was about how unknowable January 6 is, particularly for anyone not working full time to know it.

To have something that poses such an obvious risk to American democracy remain so unknowable, so mysterious — to not be able to make sense of the mob that threatens democracy — makes it far more terrifying.

In recent weeks, those of us doing that full time have learned still more about how vast it all is — and how many tools the January 6 Committee withheld from prosecutors six months after the prosecutors had urgent need of them.

In those same recent weeks, two years into this thing, I’ve come to new realizations about how complex this is: it’s not just an investigation into a former President protected by Executive Privilege and at least six people protected by the Speech and Debate clause, but it’s also an investigation in which at least 26 key witnesses or subjects are lawyers protected by Attorney-Client Privilege. I’ve developed new theories about how DOJ — the same AUSAs who’ve been working 24/7 on this case for two years, before and after Jack Smith got involved — aspires to chisel away at those unprecedented protections. I’ve also increasingly seen gaps, both in PACER dockets and subpoenas, where investigative subjects used to be, gaps which sometimes suggest progress that DOJ needs to protect, progress that even those of us following full time might only confirm four months after the fact and only if we happen to be listening in real time when a lawyer blurts something out he shouldn’t have.

Charlie says this was a distressing week.

This was a distressing week, a week in which it seemed that a lot of criminal consequence was slipping away.

It was a distressing week for me, too, in part for the same reasons as it was for everyone else: watching the members of Congress who participated in an insurrection launch their efforts to muddle the truth again, watching the same insurrectionists encourage a coup attempt in Brazil, losing sleep over whether American democracy can be saved.

But it was distressing for another reason: because so many really smart people I respect — and I include Charlie among them — have responded to the unknowability of January 6 not by attempting to grab ahold of something to ensure their own meanderings remain grounded in evidence, but instead by making authoritative assertions about evidence that are, instead, confessions that great swaths of this investigation are proceeding without them noticing.

One major reason we’re all so distressed is because truth is under assault — because Jim Jordan intends to spend the next two years turning Trump’s crimes into victimhood, just as he spent the entirety of Trump’s presidency doing.

But making authoritative claims about evidence without knowledge of the evidence only makes his job easier, in part because it stoops to his level, in part because it magnifies the anxiety.

You don’t respond to an assault on truth by permitting yourself to fill the vacuum created by the unknowability of January 6 with claims that themselves do not present the truth, that ignore key pieces of evidence that — while public — may have gone unnoticed.

Charlie Pierce wants trials the likes of the Nuremberg Trials, which were so powerful because the architects of an authoritarian conspiracy were tied to the events that took place at the crime scenes. And DOJ took a key step in doing that week — a key step in an effort that has been obviously in the works for 18 months, an effort that started on January 4, 2021, when Enrique Tarrio’s phone was seized (his phone, which ties the Proud Boys to other organizers, took over a year to exploit), and took another step on January 7, 2021, when the first Proud Boy who would plead guilty to obstruction was arrested.

And yet Charlie Pierce has seen no evidence of that.

Update: I’ve fixed the January 7 detail: that was a reference to Nicholas Ochs, who was arrested when he arrived back in Hawaii. He and Nicholas DeCarlo were charged with conspiring with each other to obstruct January 6, and they did plan together. But both pled to obstruction, not conspiracy. They were both sentenced to 4 years in prison.

Witnessing the Proud Boys

As I laid out here, defense attorneys in the Proud Boy leaders case have recently claimed that the government is pressuring potential defense witnesses to dissuade them from testifying.

Proud Boy defense attorneys are alleging that prosecutors are pressuring their defense witnesses with threats of prosecution. One person about whom their making the claim — about MPD lieutenant Shane Lamond, who has been suspended since last February under investigation that he helped the Proud Boys — their complaints are not credible. About others — including a female witness who might either be journalist Amy Harris, who spent a lot of time with Tarrio after he was released and to whom he said a lot of obvious self-exonerating statements, or Eryka Gemma, the woman who gave Tarrio a plan about The Winter Palace — defense attorneys claim they can provide sworn statements that prosecutors interviewed a witness without her attorney present. (I don’t trust either side in this case, so we shall see what actually gets filed.)

That is, as with the Oath Keeper trial, defendants are claiming that prosecutors are making witnesses unavailable with threats of prosecution (and as with the Oath Keeper trial, only some of those claims are credible).

The original complaint was aired in Enrique Tarrio’s bid to get his indictment thrown out unless DOJ immunizes Lieutenant Shane Lamond, an MPD cop whom Tarrio would alert to Proud Boy plans in advance. Tarrio submitted an updated motion to dismiss after the contentious December 2 hearing where this was aired, in which he argued that because the discovery he got didn’t show evidence of Lamond committing a crime, the government’s recent warning to Lamond that he’s at risk for an obstruction charge must be no more than an attempt to dissuade him from testifying in Tarrio’s defense.

During the past two years, the investigation, including the production of millions of pages of discovery, countless phone records and data dumps, thousands of hours of videos, and imbedded CHS informants, there has been no clear evidence of Lamond engaging in any illegal activity. The government was informed by the defense months ago of their intention to call Lamond to testify. At no point was Lamond in danger of being prosecuted, until now. On the eve of trial, the government contacted counsel for Lamond and informed him that Lamond’s actions might be considered obstruction of justice into Tarrio’s investigation and he may be prosecuted. Waiting until now is a tactical decision by the government to prevent Tarrio from exercising his constitutional right to present a defense. Knowing that Lamond’s testimony would exonerate Tarrio at trial and depriving Tarrio of his constitutional right is impermissible.

Preventing Lamond from testifying by holding an ostensible continuing investigation over his head violates Tarrio’s Sixth Amendment right to compulsory process of witnesses who would testify in his defense. If the government declines to immunize Lt Lamond, then the indictment against Tarrio should be dismissed.

But even in Tarrio’s description of his contacts with Lamond, the exchange sounds as much like a cover story as anything else.

Tarrio informed Lamond of the Proud Boys January 6 plans; to wit: they would not be wearing colors to protect themselves from being attacked and stabbed by Antifa as they had been on two previous occasions; they planned to be present to watch Trump’s speech; Tarrio planned to speak at the rally; they planned to protest the results of the election, and later that night they planned to party with plenty of beer and babes.

The Proud Boys eschewed colors to blend in, not for protection. There’s no evidence they ever planned to attend Trump’s speech (indeed, their choice to skip it is one detail that undermines all their excuses).

This particular challenge is highly unlikely to work. Lamond was suspended in February (not coincidentally shortly after FBI fully exploited Tarrio’s phone and even before Tarrio himself was charged), which wouldn’t have happened without fairly damning evidence. And back when the suspension was first disclosed, Tarrio made light of the contacts.

But Tarrio also said that during marches, Lamond would tell him the location of counterdemonstrators. Tarrio said that was so his group could avoid conflict, though after one violent night of demonstrations, police accused the Proud Boys of roaming the city looking for and instigating fights, targeting people they believed identified as antifa, or antifascists.

“He was just a liaison officer for when we held rallies,” Tarrio said of Lamond. He denied their relationship extended beyond that and said he is not a confidential informant for anyone on the D.C. police force.

“They’re just trying to get anybody at this point,” Tarrio said of investigators. “I only told him, ‘We’re coming into town and we’re going to hold this protest.’ That’s as far as the relationship went.”

Tarrio has been pursuing this line of defense since August, with little traction. Nothing is new about this scrutiny of Lamond, so the claim DOJ only recently floated some legal jeopardy doesn’t hold up.

Nevertheless, there have been several additional filings explaining the basis for the claims that the government was trying to make defense witnesses unavailable. In response to prosecutors’ observation at the hearing that Nordean was making allegations without backup, for example, Nordean’s attorneys submitted a “notice” of witness intimidation that provided few new details (though did submit the 302 for that specific witness to Judge Tim Kelly).

On December 2, counsel added there was evidence that after one such witness informed the government that she did not agree with the government’s claim that Nordean and others had conspired to attack the Capitol or use violence on January 6, a government prosecutor only then announced—in the same November 2021 interview—that the witness would be prosecuted for an offense. Shortly thereafter, counsel continued, an agent called this witness to advise that the prosecutor’s charging threat was inflated. In response, AUSA Erik Kenerson stated in the December 2 hearing that the notion that the “[g]overnment has somehow pressured witnesses, threatened witnesses, gone to witnesses when they were represented by counsel without counsel present, all of that is just categorically false.” The government added, “there has been nothing that the Government — that — has done that would warrant putting John Does on a witness list.”

The filing provided an excuse to reveal the identity of and submit a declaration from the witness, Adrienna DiCioccio, which would otherwise be sealed. She described how, in a November 2021, she told FBI Agents and prosecutors that she didn’t think Nordean and others were planning for violence on January 5.

During this second interview, the agents and prosecutors asked for my recollections about the evening of January 5 in the Airbnb residence where Ethan and others were gathered. I do not recall the specific words I used, but I informed the interviewers generally that I disagreed with the suggestion that Ethan and the others in his group were planning violence or an attack on the Capitol on January 6. I generally informed the agents and prosecutors that, as someone involved in planning peaceful events with the Proud Boys in the past, I disagreed with their suggestion that Ethan and others in the Airbnb were planning violence the following day in D.C.

But as to the substance of Nordean’s complaint — that the government was trying to pressure her not to testify by hanging criminal prosecution over her head — even DiCioccio’s filing undermined that, to say nothing of details provided in the government’s response. Most importantly, a transcript excerpt from an earlier interview shows she was warned of potential criminal exposure in a September 2021 interview, before she provided the testimony that — Nordean claims — led prosecutors to raise the specter of prosecution.

Ms. DiCioccio was interviewed twice: once in September 2021, and once in November 2021. It is the second interview that Nordean references and that is largely the subject of Ms. DiCioccio’s declaration. The transcript of Ms. DiCioccio’s first interview, which was produced to the defense in June 2022, belies any claim that the government only informed her of her potential criminal liability after “she did not agree with the government’s claim that Nordean and others had conspired to attack the Capitol or use violence on January 6,” as Nordean contends. Id. The below quote is from page 202 of the transcript of the first interview:

MS. DiCIOCCIO: Okay, because you guys were mentioning, you know, earlier, the other person cooperated very well with everything. You know, turned themselves in. I know you guys have things to go over, but, what am I looking at, at the moment? Should I be really scared? Should I be –

[AUSA]2 : The investigation is ongoing. Decisions are still being made. I mean, there are criminal charges that are out there, potentially, and maybe even likely. But it all depends on what we’re looking at (indiscernible).

MS. DiCIOCCIO: Okay.

[AUSA]: Again, I would say, let’s keep the lines of communication open.

MS. DiCIOCCIO: Yeah.

[AUSA]: So that we can have those types of conversations when it’s time to pull those types of triggers.

MS. DiCIOCCIO: Okay.

In other words, Ms. DiCioccio was informed in September 2021, well before the interview during which Nordean claims she was threatened with charges for refusing to tell the government what it wanted to hear, that she “potentially, maybe even likely” faced criminal charges. This was not news to her: video evidence of her offense conduct captures her saying, “Are we all gonna get arrested?” as she entered the Capitol building. After the first interview, Ms. DiCioccio agreed to voluntarily meet with prosecutors and agents again in November. As noted above, Ms. DiCioccio’s declaration is inaccurate, and the government submits that the FD-302 submitted by counsel describes an unremarkable interaction between prosecutors, FBI agents, and a potential cooperating witness.

2 The AUSA who participated in this interview was not any government counsel of record in this case.

The government response also shows that, not only did Nordean’s attorneys not submit anything to substantiate the allegation that the government met with DiCioccio without her retained counsel present, they provided her with information on how to get one.

Ms. DiCioccio’s declaration does not substantiate Nordean’s inflammatory accusations. For example, contrary to counsel for Nordean’s representations at the December 2, 2022, hearing, Ms. DiCioccio does not assert in her declaration that she had counsel who was not present during the interview. See Dec. 2, 2022, Hr’g Tr. at 58; 579-1. Nor does she say, as defense counsel asserts, that she had an attorney at the time of the interview. The FD-302 instead memorialized that the prosecutor suggested Ms. DiCioccio seek counsel and went so far as to provide her with a form to help her obtain a court-appointed one. In other words, rather than seeking to circumvent Ms. DiCioccio’s access to counsel (as Nordean wrongly asserted), the government affirmatively facilitated it.

There’s nothing all that compelling about the fact that a witness who breached the Capitol might be at legal exposure herself. While snide, the government suggests that DiCioccio was just upset because of her own criminal exposure (criminal exposure that, over a year later, has yet to be charged).

It is not surprising that the subject of a criminal investigation may be upset after being questioned about her conduct that led to that investigation. But any unease on Ms. DiCioccio’s part was not caused by impropriety by the government. It was instead caused by her own criminal conduct on January 6, 2021, and the fact that she may have to reckon with that conduct.

And again, all this happened long before any talk of trial witnesses.

One part of Zach Rehl’s parallel complaint might have more merit though (or is, at a minimum, of some interest procedurally).

It was filed — as was Nordean’s “notice” — on December 9, a week after the contentious hearing. But that would also put it more than a week after Rehl co-traveler Isaiah Giddings’ plea deal, in which he described that he didn’t even know the vote certification was happening on January 6 but he followed Rehl along obediently. There were a number of things in Giddings’ statement of offense that implicate Rehl, including that Rehl believed “someone had to do something” about the purportedly stolen election and that Rehl tried to find some bear spray in the middle of the riot. But as Rehl attorney Carmen Hernandez notes in the filing, Giddings did not admit to a plan to obstruct the vote certification.

Despite an inordinately lengthy Statement of Offense for a misdemeanor and multiple mentions of Mr. Rehl, there is no assertion that Mr. Rehl had a plan to interfere with Congress by force or corruptly.

Much of the rest of Hernandez’ filing requests either that Kelly immunize Giddings’ two co-defendants, Brian Healion and Freedom Vy (whom she doesn’t name), or sever Rehl from his own co-defendants and delay trial until after Healion and Vy’s case is resolved, making them available as witnesses.

At this level, this is just tactical. DOJ seems to be delaying a bunch of the Proud Boy cases until after the Proud Boy leader trial, but for reasons that arise from managing a larger conspiracy. Healion and Vy are only differently situated from DiCioccio in that they’ve already been charged, but they’re both genuinely implicated themselves.

Of more interest is Hernandez’ complaint about Jeff Finley (again, she doesn’t name him), the last co-traveler with Rehl the day of the attack. As she describes, Finley pled guilty last April, but his July sentencing was continued until February, putting it, like the Philly area Rehl co-travelers, after the trial.

One of the witnesses noted above entered a guilty plea to a misdemeanor on April 6, 2022.3 The statement of facts entered in the case shows that the witness does not implicate Mr. Rehl in any attempt to interfere with Congress by force or corruptly. Sentencing in the case was originally 4 scheduled for July 19, 2022. At the request of AUSA Jason McCullough, the July sentencing was vacated. Sentencing is now to be scheduled on February, 13, 2023 or a later date, after Mr. Rehl’s 5 trial is completed. Because a defendant retains a right to assert a claim to remain silent under the 6 Fifth Amendment until after sentencing isimposed, Mitchell v. United States, 526 U.S. 314 (1999), that witness is now unavailable to Mr. Rehl. By delaying the sentencing of this witness until after Mr. Rehl’s trial has concluded, the government has placed that witness outside Mr. Rehl’s Sixth Amendment right to compulsory process and has impeded Mr. Rehl’s right to present a complete defense.

As with Giddings’ statement of offense, Hernandez judges that Finley’s doesn’t support the charges against Rehl, though it does incriminate him. Plus, there is at least one additional Finley proffer that was provided to the Proud Boy leaders by last May. But given other discovery deadlines, Hernandez should know by now if such a proffer was expected to result in trial testimony (in which case, she would have no problem obtaining his testimony as a government witness).

This, too, is tactical (and an effort to preserve all this for appeal). But I find it curious that Finley also objected to testifying under subpoena.

Undersigned counsel has spoken to counsel for each of the three witnesses. All three have 2 indicated that if subpoenaed to testify, their clients would assert their Fifth Amendment rights to remain silent in light of the posture of their own cases. The delays that have made these witnesses unavailable are attributable to government conduct.

That doesn’t seem to accord with being a voluntary, cooperative witness for DOJ. It would suggest that he may still face vulnerability even in spite of his plea agreement, such as if DOJ discovered something he said in a proffer was not true.

The Proud Boys, far more even than the Oath Keepers, had ties to a great number of people who have their own exposure for January 6. And unlike the Oath Keepers, rather than flipping their way up to the leaders, DOJ seems to be starting with this leader conspiracy, with the likelihood of follow-on charges for others after the fact (in fact, Stewart Rhodes’ very good attorneys, James Bright and Phil Linder, just replaced John Pierce as Joe Biggs’ co-traveler Paul Rae’s defense attorneys). That’s an unusual way of prosecuting a complex conspiracy (though as I’ve written, the Proud Boy leaders may also be a necessary step before prosecuting those between them and Trump). But at least partly as a result, that means there are a great number of Proud Boys and associates out there, potentially friendly witnesses, but also defendants themselves.

And that, the Proud Boy leaders claim, amounts to an unconstitutional deprivation of defense witnesses

Update: Here’s the government response to Rehl (it cites another complaint from Nordean). In the section on Finley, DOJ says sometimes the government finds inculpatory video after someone pleads guilty.

The government notes – without suggesting that this is true in Mr. Finley’s case – that the January 6 investigation is replete with instances where a defendant has entered a plea of guilty only to have the government or counsel identify additional instances of criminal conduct by the defendant through diligent review of videos. Thus for many defendants, even those who have been sentenced, it is possible that defense counsel may believe that their client continues to have a legitimate Fifth Amendment privilege.

“We Have a Plan. I’m with Rufio” … But the Government Does Not

There was a big hole in the middle of the Oath Keepers prosecution that likely was a big part of the reason jurors didn’t convict on more of the conspiracy charges. Just after 2:30PM the day of the attack, field leader Michael Greene called Stewart Rhodes. A minute later, Kelly Meggs called Rhodes, who conferenced Meggs into the ongoing call with Greene.

Altogether, the three men were on the phone together for 1 minute 37 seconds, and Rhodes and Greene were on the call for several minutes afterward. The call immediately precedes the First Stack busting into the Capitol, and happens at the same time that Joshua James and others are racing to the Capitol on their golf cart.

By context, it appears to be the moment where Rhodes decided to use the attack on the Capitol to advance his plan to decapitate the government. But for all the cooperating witnesses DOJ flipped in the Oath Keeper case, they never got any of these three to cooperate, and so never were able to prove what was said on the call. On the stand, Rhodes made up some bullshit about difficulties connecting.

While by context it seems to be the moment that these three leaders made a decision on operationalizing their plan, which they then directed others to implement. But absent a cooperating witness from that call, they didn’t have that proof.

And so they got limited conspiracy convictions.

There’s a similar big hole in the middle of the Proud Boys case, one — a status conference just made clear — may be even more fatal for the government’s case. In the time on the evening on January 5 when everyone was trying to figure out what to do given the arrest of Enrique Tarrio, Ethan Nordean and Joe Biggs were temporarily AWOL.

When Biggs reappeared, he described “meeting w[i]th a lot of guys” and that “We have a plan. I’m with rufio,” that is, Nordean.

To this day, even those of use who’ve followed the case closely don’t even know with whom Biggs and Nordean met, much less what the plan was.

And that’s a problem because every Proud Boy witness, even senior prosecution cooperating witnesses Jeremy Bertino and Charles Donohoe, will testify that they knew of no plan to attack the Capitol in advance of January 6.

Absent that, DOJ will point to the plan to meet at the Washington Monument, the ways the Proud Boy plan deviated from the norm (including ditching Proud Boy colors to blend in), the orderly marching, the choice not to show up at Trump’s speech at all and instead to go to the Capitol and rile up a mob of normies.

They’ll put cooperating witness Matthew Greene on the stand to explain that he understood they were crowding the Capitol to pressure Pence.

They’ll presumably put their latest cooperating witness, Isaiah Giddings, on the stand to admit that, “before January 6, Giddings did not know that Congress would be certifying the election results in the Capitol building on January 6,” but that in advance of the attack, “leaders, including Rehl, Biggs, and “Rufio,” would meet separately from the larger group.” Giddings will testify that after the attack, “Rehl, and the other Proud Boys were laughing and celebrating what they had done; namely, stopping the certification proceeding.”

They’ll point to comments afterwards, taking credit for it all.

Tarrio asserted to the Proud Boys “Elders” who had approved his formation of the MOSD, “Make no mistake. We did this.” Similarly, Bertino told Tarrio “You know we made this happen,” and “I’m so proud of my country today,” to which Tarrio replied, “I know.” The next day, Rehl similarly told an MOSD chat group that he was “proud as fuck what we accomplished,”

There is far, far more evidence in the actions the Proud Boys took that day that they did have a plan and succeeded in implementing it beyond their wildest dreams. But they don’t have that plan.

And two likely developments will likely make proving they had a plan more difficult.

First, Proud Boy defense attorneys are alleging that prosecutors are pressuring their defense witnesses with threats of prosecution. One person about whom their making the claim — about MPD lieutenant Shane Lamond, who has been suspended since last February under investigation that he helped the Proud Boys — their complaints are not credible. About others — including a female witness who might either be journalist Amy Harris, who spent a lot of time with Tarrio after he was released and to whom he said a lot of obvious self-exonerating statements, or Eryka Gemma, the woman who gave Tarrio a plan about The Winter Palace — defense attorneys claim they can provide sworn statements that prosecutors interviewed a witness without her attorney present. (I don’t trust either side in this case, so we shall see what actually gets filed.)

That is, as with the Oath Keeper trial, defendants are claiming that prosecutors are making witnesses unavailable with threats of prosecution (and as with the Oath Keeper trial, only some of those claims are credible).

More damaging still for their case, an exchange at the end of a status hearing today suggested that Judge Tim Kelly is likely to prohibit the government from arguing that the Proud Boys were using other rioters are “tools” in their conspiracy (I wrote about this dispute here). That’s sound legally; the government argument doesn’t fit into existing conspiracy law. But it will make it difficult, if not impossible, for prosecutors to prove sedition, which requires the use of force. It is true that key Proud Boys expressed a goal to rile up the “normies” who would then carry out the violence on January 6. It’s even true that probably dozens of rioters said they were following the Proud Boys — but the prosecution here has shown no hint they would call those “normies” as witnesses. It is true that Ryan Samsel — the guy who kicked off the entire riot — had an exchange with Joe Biggs right before the attack. But DOJ never got Samsel to cooperate.

There’s a lot of evidence that the Proud Boys orchestrated the riot and conspired with others in doing so. But it seems likely that prosecutors have the same kind of evidentiary holes, including a potentially fatal one where the plan they finalized on January 5 is, that the Oath Keeper prosecutors did.

Update: On a late re-read, I realized I left out a key caveat on the issue of a plan: People do acknowledge there was a plan. That plan included meeting at the Washington Monument instead of at Trump’s speech, for example. The question is whether it included the attack on the Capitol (the language I’ve added, in bold).

Skull and Bones: The Proud Boys’ Non-Conspiratorial Secret Society?

The morning of January 5, according to the government sentencing memo for him, Proud Boy Nicholas Ochs texted Ethan Nordean to say that, in light of the arrest of Enrique Tarrio the day before, he and Nordean were, “senior leadership in DC till Enrique is sprung.”

Following Tarrio’s arrest, Ochs messaged Nordean the morning of January 5. He said, “I guess we’re senior leadership in DC till Enrique is sprung. I’ll be in today or tonight. Lemmie know anything relevant.” Nordean replied, “Ok will do,” and they traded cell phone numbers.

Och’s own sentencing memo addresses that comment, but doesn’t explain it.

[T]he government relies extensively on a single message by Mr. Ochs, where he offhandedly referred to himself as a leader, Dkt. 94, pg. 9, and a tasteless message in which Mr. Ochs states he is “pro-violence,” id., at 4, the government is unable to point to a single actual instance wherein Mr. Ochs actually performed the duties of a leader or acted out in violence during the January 6th riots.

He doesn’t explain what became of the message, if anything (there’s no mention of any calls between Ochs and Nordean, and Nordean’s phone was not operational during the riot).

At least on the surface, it looks like Nordean blew Ochs off.

Instead, and before that comment, Ochs makes a very strained comment — limited to before attending the rally and discussion about their planned activities for the day –about what he said to other Proud Boys on the day of January 6, while he and Nicholas DeCarlo were attending the Trump speech and most of the other the other Proud Boys were marching around DC.

On the morning on January 6, Mr. Ochs and DeCarlo went to the rally where the President was addressing the crowd. Mr. Ochs was dressed in normal civilian clothing and did not wear any special military or other riot gear—unlike the many others who attended the rally, dressed in military/assault garb, signaling their violent intentions. Mr. Ochs was armed only with a smartphone.

Before attending the rally, Mr. Ochs did not communicate with any other Proud Boy members regarding their planned activities for the day. Indeed, at no point during the rally or the resulting assault on the Capitol, did Mr. Ochs coordinate with other Proud Boy members. As is stated in the Statement of Facts, though Mr. Ochs did come across other Proud Boy members in Washington, these were chance encounters and not the result of any prior planning. During the rally itself, Mr. Ochs was unable to live stream the event because the local cellular system was overwhelmed, and given his physical location, he was unable to hear the president’s speech.

At the conclusion of the rally, after the President finished speaking on the Ellipse, Mr. Ochs began seeking out the larger crowd which had begun moving towards the Capitol building—the first of many bad decisions that day. [my emphasis]

Given the evidence, that’s a credible claim.

What’s not covered by Och’s narrow (albeit for sentencing, critical) denials was Ochs’ participation in some small member chat groups, including one, called Skull and Bones, that included Nordean and Enrique Tarrio.

Leading up to January 6, 2021, Ochs participated in several Proud Boys chats on an encrypted messaging application, including one called “Official Presidents’ Chat” and one called “Skull and Bones.” Skull and Bones consisted of a small group (approximately twelve) of the Proud Boys’ Elders, including Enrique Tarrio and Ethan Nordean, both of whom have been charged with seditious conspiracy and other crimes for their roles leading the Proud Boys on January 6. See United States v. Nordean et al., 21-cr-175 (TJK). Some of these chats ended and then were reconstituted (because of concerns about being “compromised”) in the days leading up to January 6.

Of some interest: while the Proud Boy Leaders prosecution used Och’s November 2020 advocacy to wait before embracing violence as a way to show the Proud Boys ratcheted up their willingness to embrace violence.

[A]s the defendants, their co-conspirators, and their tools got further from the election and closer to Inauguration, the language they used to discuss the transfer of power became more desperate and more reflective of a willingness to take matters into their own hands. See Ex. 1 (proposed trial exhibit referenced at 11/18 hearing, with Proud Boys “elder” counseling: “I’m pro violence but don’t blow your load too soon.”).

Here, the focus is on Ochs’ attempts to persuade others to await the Supreme Court, which he was sure would deliver victory to Trump.

In Skull and Bones, on November 7, 2020, the group reacted to Biden being declared the winner of the election. Tarrio said, “Dark times if it isn’t reversed…and if it’s reversed…civil war.” Another user commented, “It’s civil war either way.”

Ochs disagreed: “It’s really not. The odds are with us because of the Supreme Court boys. I’m pro violence but don’t blow your load too soon.” He continued, “Not to be an anti-murder buzzkill but I really think this ISN’T fucked. Once it is, let’s go wild.” Ochs advised the group, “Bush/gore ruling took till December…Trump has a MUCH stronger case.” Ochs said, “Americans are weak and don’t want to fight. Them more so than us, but what’s really going to matter to the common man is what the Supreme Court says. And it will say.”

Another member noted, “Interesting that Trump got that woman through just before this huh. Could be the ace up his sleeve.” Ochs agreed and reiterated his belief that the Supreme Court was the best option to overturn the election: “Don’t fuck up the ruling. It’s a better chance than fighting.” He advised the group not to turn violent yet: “Not till the law enforcement institutions [are] weakened or more on our side. We lose right now.” But he told the group: “I’ll still chimp out if I’m wrong about the Supreme Court tho…we just have to TIME IT RIGHT and DO IT SMART.” Another member proposed that “veterans with combat experience” should “form militias.”

Ochs also expressed optimism in Parler posts that the Supreme Court would overturn the election results, including an image of Justice Thomas as a video game character:

Tarrio and others discussed a conference call on December 19 after Trump announced the rally.

Ochs’ prediction that the Supreme Court would overturn the election results did not come true. Instead, courts rejected dozens of lawsuits challenging the election results. On December 19, 2020, then-President Trump invited his followers to Washington, D.C. for a “wild” protest. The Proud Boys’ chats soon filled with talk of what they would do there. The same day as Trump’s December 19 tweet, in the small-group Skull and Bones chat, one member said, “Trump is calling for proud boys to show up on the 6th.” Ochs, Tarrio, and others then discussed arranging a conference call.

But Ochs is only described as a participant in the larger 50 and 35 person Ministry of Self Defense chats leading up to the riot. His top-level access seems to have remained that Skull and Bones chat.

After cooperating witness Charles Donohoe — though he is not named — is described as attempting to reconstitute the main MOSD list after Tarrio’s arrest, Ochs suggests doing so on the Skull and Bones list (and elsewhere it says it was reconstructed).

At 7:11 p.m., [Donohoe] posted a message in the MOSD Main chat, which read, “Hey have been instructed and listen to me real good! There is no planning of any sorts. I need to be put into whatever new thing is created. Everything is compromised and we can be looking at Gang charges.” The member then wrote, “Stop everything immediately” and then “This comes from the top.”

[snip]

Ochs asked if the Skull and Bones chat, which included Tarrio, should be deleted. Another user responded, “I did tell him to delete telegram off his phone right before he was arrested, so I’m hoping he listened to me.” Ochs sent two responses: “Yep. Smacc it off your phone if there’s trouble. Can always redownload no problem” and “*Fed has joined the chat*”

The sentencing memo describes Ochs getting the message to show up at the Washington Monument twice, on the Main MOSD chat and another unnamed one.

On January 5, in in a reconstituted version of the Main MOSD chat created the evening of January 4, another user sent a message with instructions for the next day: “Everyone needs to meet at the Washington Monument at 10am tomorrow morning! Do not be late! Do not wear colors! Details will be laid out at the pre meeting! Come out []as patriot!”6 ”

6 Ochs received a similar message in another Proud Boys encrypted chat involving approximately 33 members.

But he didn’t follow those directions; he went to the Ellipse speech with Nicholas DeCarlo instead.

But by 4:18PM, when the riot was still very much ongoing, Ochs was back on Skull and Bones in chats in which Tarrio also participated — including someone instructing Tarrio to tell Don Jr to stop condemning the violence.

In the Skull and Bones chat, at 4:18 p.m., another member reposted a photograph of Ochs and DeCarlo smoking cigarettes in the Crypt, and asked, “@Nick_Ochs you inside? Lol.” Ochs replied, “Yeehaw.” Soon after, one member said, “So what now,” and another (whose username indicated he was from the United Kingdom) said, “from our end it looks like Trump ain’t going peacefully.” Tarrio responded, “They’ll fear us doing it again…” When asked, “So what do we do now?” Tarrio replied, “Do it again.” Another user told Tarrio to “text your boy Don jr and tell him to stfu. This is PB country now.”

One explanation for this is that Ochs might have liked to be a more central player in the Proud Boys. But was not, and so he didn’t take part in the Nordean (and Joe Biggs-run) operation on the day of the riot.

And Nicholas DeCarlo joined him in not taking part.

DeCarlo goes even further attempting to distance himself from the Proud Boys — and the “nihilistic” behavior of those who were insufficiently insouciant while rioting.

As the Court can readily determine from both the agreed upon Statement of Facts in this case, as well as the photographic and video evidence, the defendant did not travel to the Capitol as a member of the Proud Boys, a group that he resigned from in 2019. He did not wear their distinctive clothing; he did not coordinate with other Proud Boy members (other than his co-defendant) prior to coming to Washington D.C.; and more importantly, he did not participate in any of the organized violence attributed to the group. In addition, while the Government argues that Mr. DeCarlo acted with “glee” during the riot, that adverb misapprehends the defendant’s intent. While Mr. DeCarlo’s insouciant/sarcastic nature and comments before, during, and after the events are blameworthy, he did not evince the angry, nihilistic demeanor displayed by a significant number of the other January 6 defendants.

The claim he wore no distinctive clothing is irrelevant, as that was what Proud Boys were ordered to do that day. And his complaint that he still bears a Proud Boy tattoo raises questions why he hasn’t removed it to limit the “lifelong” consequences of once having belonged to the group.

The defendant acknowledges that he became a member of the Proud Boys Dallas Fort Worth Chapter in in 2017, but he is adamant that resigned from the organization in 2019 because it was becoming “too political.” Mr. DeCarlo is well aware that his prior membership in the Proud Boys will have lifelong consequences; if nothing else, he had the words Proud Boys” tattooed on his left arm. The defendant is emphatic, however, that he left the Proud Boys in 2019 and the Government’s effort to connect him to the group thereafter is based upon nothing more than conjecture, suspicion, and innuendo and ought to be rejected by this Court. 1

And when disavowing the import of December calls with Tarrio and Gavin McInnes, DeCarlo doesn’t name McInnes.

1 The Government notes that the defendant stated he was “in contact” with Enrique Tarrio, the head of the Proud Boys, in December 2019. The Government has no idea whether the two men actually spoke and if so, what was the topic of conversation. Similarly, the prosecution states that based upon data collected from his cellular phone, Mr. DeCarlo “called” another Proud Boy leader the day that the former President announced that he would be speaking on the Mall on January 6, 2021. Again, the Government does not state if the data reveals the two men actually spoke and the prosecution makes no representation as to the nature of any such conversation. [my emphasis]

Here’s how DOJ described those claimed and real contacts.

DeCarlo flew from Texas and met with Ochs in Virginia, where they shared a hotel room. That night, DeCarlo posted a 15 minute “selfie” video stream titled BlackVill’d: Twas the Night Before Revolution!!! to the Murder the Media/ThunderdomeTV Facebook page. DeCarlo said he spoke to “Enrique,” “who isn’t even allowed in D.C.,” referring to Proud Boys leader Enrique Tarrio, who had been arrested the day before and ordered to stay out of Washington, D.C. 3 DeCarlo stated that they would be getting a “nice early interview” with Enrique the next day. He also said that he had “a lot of shit planned for tomorrow.”

[snip]

Evidence recovered from DeCarlo’s phone indicates that, on December 19, 2020, the same day that then-President Trump announced plans for a “wild” rally in Washington, D.C., DeCarlo called Gavin McInness, the founder of the Proud Boys.

There’s a lot unsaid here, and it goes further than DOJ’s choice not to name Donohoe and DeCarlo’s choice not to name McInnes. It may suggest a factionalism in the Proud Boys that has since grown more acute.

Remember, too, that after doing the mandatory FBI interview with Ochs, the government chose not to do one with DeCarlo. So on October 4, DeCarlo went and did one with the January 6 Committee instead (and is trying to claim credit for that).

October 4, 2022, the defendant participated in a virtual interview with staff members of the House Select Committee for several hours. Mr. DeCarlo gave them a narrative of the events that led to his presence at the Capitol on January 6, 2021 and responded to the Committee’s questions. He also voluntarily provided them with access to the contents of his electronic devices.

Again, there’s a lot that has been said and left unsaid.

Litigating “‘Normies’ Smash[ing] Some Pigs to Dust” in the Proud Boy Leader Conspiracy

Ten months ago, I wrote a post describing how the Proud Boys were a key part of the overall assault on the Capitol, because they took “normies” and made sure they were deployed to maximal advantage, including having them do the dangerous job of “smash[ing] some pigs to dust.”

The plan required six types of participants to make it work:

  • People (Trump, Rudy, and Mo Brooks) to rile up large numbers of normies
  • Someone (Alex Jones) to guide the normies to the Capitol, probably while communicating with the Proud Boys as they kicked off the riot
  • People at the Capitol (Proud Boys and associates) to tactically deploy the normies as a weapon, both to occupy the Capitol and to create a very real risk to the members of Congress
  • Members of Congress (Paul Gosar and others) willing to create conflict that could be exploited in any of a number of ways
  • Masses and masses of people who, starting even before the election, had been led to believe false claims that their country was under threat; those masses did two things:
    • Enter the Capitol, with a varied level of vocal enthusiasm for the mayhem occurring, and make it far more difficult for cops to put down the assault
    • “Smash some pigs to dust”

Whether or not that conception is true — and just as importantly, whether DOJ can introduce the evidence to prove it at trial — has been the subject of recent pretrial litigation in the Proud Boy Leader case that may determine the outcome of the trial:

As I’ve been saying for 14 months, whether this approach succeeds at the Proud Boy trial will determine the degree to which higher ranking people who were conspiring with Joe Biggs and Enrique Tarrio can be implicated in a conspiracy with those who attacked the Capitol, as opposed to an incitement or aid and abet theory of criminal exposure. And whether it succeeds is neither an easy legal question nor, for a jury assessing guilt beyond a reasonable doubt, evidentiary one.

The opening filing in this dispute argues that even if the subordinate Proud Boys and affiliates who marched on the Capitol didn’t know all the plans and objectives of the conspiracy, they were still part of it. As DOJ describes, the Proud Boy leaders, including John Stewart (Person 3), who secretly entered into a plea deal, probably in June, intentionally aimed to get lower ranking Proud Boys to obey unthinkingly.

It is important to note that it does not matter whether all these members of the conspiracy understood and “agreed on the details” of the scheme, so long as they agreed on the “essential nature of the plan.” United States v. Gatling, 96 F.3d 1511, 1518 (D.C. Cir. 1996); cf. ECF 71 at 46 (Court’s ruling on Nordean and Biggs detention, explaining that “even if someone who was a part of the conspiracy expressed surprise at the way events unfolded that day or what the ultimate outcome was . . . that does not necessarily mean there wasn’t a conspiracy of the kind alleged.”). And in fact, the evidence will show that the conspiracy’s leaders purposefully kept subordinates in the dark about the precise details, urging them to “turn off [their] brains” and “follow the . . . guys you’re with.” ECF 475 at 15 (Statements Motion, quoting statement from Person 3 to MOSD members). In assembling their group of foot soldiers, the leader defendants sought loyal followers, not co-equal partners. Cf. United States v. Mahdi, 598 F.3d 883, 891 (D.C. Cir. 2010) (finding that evidence of defendant exercising “organization control” to keep “the worker bees in line” was intrinsic evidence of conspiracy). Willing followers all, the fact that each may not have been fully privy to the entire plan in no way negates their being co-conspirators.1 Co-conspirators need not share all of the charged criminal objectives of the conspiracy, so long as they formed some agreement with the defendants. Hypothetically, if a particular member of the marching group lacked sufficient understanding of what was happening in Congress to make him part of a conspiracy to corruptly obstruct an official proceeding in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 1512, he could still be part of a conspiracy to use force to oppose the lawful transfer of Presidential power in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 2384 or a conspiracy to forcibly prevent law enforcement officers from discharging their duties in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 372. His conduct is relevant regardless. [my emphasis]

Based on that logic, the filing argues that the tactically important violence of a number of Proud Boys (plus Robert Geiswein, who is being prosecuted by Proud Boy prosecutor Erik Kenerson) was part of the conspiracy.

  • Daniel Lyons Scott, aka “Milkshake,” a Proud Boy, led a crowd in shoving a line of officers to force their way up a set of steps leading to the Capitol.3
  • Alan Fischer and Zachary Johnson, both Proud Boys, were part of a crowd trying to force its way through a line of officers defending an entrance to the Capitol building known as the “tunnel” on the Lower West Terrace. Johnson passed weapons up to rioters on the front line of the crowd, including a sledgehammer and a can of chemical spray.4
  • Edward George, a Proud Boy, engaged in a shoving match with an officer while trying to force his way into the Capitol through the Senate Carriage Door.5
  • Steven Miles, a Proud Boy, shoved and threw punches at officers in an altercation at the west front of the Capitol, and used a plank of wood resembling a two-byfour to break a window to make entry into the Capitol building.6
  • Christopher Worrell, a Proud Boy, sprayed a chemical irritant while in the restricted area of the Capitol grounds.7
  • Robert Gieswein, who is not a Proud Boy but who joined the marching group and wore orange masking tape as insignia showing affiliation with the marching group, sprayed officers with chemical irritant at multiple times and places inside the Capitol.8

Note, I believe all of these defendants are still awaiting trial (though Milkshake was for a time plea-curious), and thus far, only Milkshake and Worrell have been charged with conspiracy, with each other. All the rest, and their co-defendants, could well be superseded with conspiracy charges if this structure succeeds at trial.

Also of note, this government argument preceded (and to some degree explains) the leak about Proud Boy informants who had no knowledge of a plan to attack the Capitol. The defendants want to argue that if Proud Boys didn’t know of the plan to attack the Capitol, there must have been no conspiracy to do so. DOJ argues that, particularly given the hierarchy and the planned close hold on the plan imposed in advance, it doesn’t matter if they knew the overall plan and in fact the ignorance of lower level Proud Boys was actually part of the plan.

But the government is not relying just on the actions of Proud Boys and affiliates. It argues that the Proud Boys “harnessed” others who were at the attack.

Evidence of the conspiracy is not bound by the actions of the co-conspirators. As the evidence will show, on January 6, the defendants sought to harness the actions of others to achieve their objective of forcibly opposing the lawful transfer of Presidential power. In so doing, the defendants used these individuals as “tools.”

That the government is arguing this is unsurprising. As I’ve noted repeatedly, senior Proud Boys discussed doing this explicitly the morning of the attack.

UCC-1: I want to see thousands of normies burn that city to ash today

Person-2: Would be epic

UCC-1: The state is the enemy of the people

Person-2: We are the people

UCC-1: Fuck yea

Person-3: God let it happen . . . I will settle with seeing them smash some pigs to dust

Person-2: Fuck these commie traitors

Person-3 It’s going to happen. These normiecons have no adrenaline control . . . They are like a pack of wild dogs

But the two sentence paragraph, above, is all that the opening motion describes with respect to “harnessing” “normies.”

Nordean’s short response on this point notes that the government had not yet proven the bulleted list of defendants were co-conspirators, much less provided any precedent to introduce the actions of people not alleged to be co-conspirators as evidence of the conspiracy.

Even more inappropriate is the government’s attempt to show the jury countless actions by nondefendants on January 6 who the government concedes are not “co-conspirators” even under its relaxed standards. Gov’t Mot., pp. 6-7. Although the government has no evidence that these protesters joined the charged conspiracies, it says their actions are somehow admissible because they are “tools” of the conspiracy. The government cites no rule or case law holding that the criminal actions of nondefendant “tools” of a conspiracy—conceded nonmembers—can be admitted against defendants in their criminal case. There is none. The government’s novel “tools” concept has no discernable limiting principle.

This argument accompanies Nordean (and Zach Rehl’s) First Amendment argument that the poor Proud Boys were simply engaged in a non-violent protest outside the Capitol when a bunch of unaffiliated people showed up and violently attacked the Capitol.

After which the Proud Boys took credit for what those purportedly unaffiliated people had done.

(Nordean’s filing also anticipated the extended sealed argument about a bunch of informant materials that he would later claim to be surprised by.)

In reply, the government uses analogies for other types of crime. This interlocking conspiracy, DOJ argues, is like a complex drug scheme where someone might be involved in delivering the drugs but not the money laundering.

An analogy illustrates the fallacy of Nordean’s argument. Imagine a defendant charged with one count of conspiring to possess cocaine with the intent to distribute and one count of laundering the proceeds of that drug trafficking. Imagine that an uncharged co-conspirator transported narcotics on the defendant’s behalf but had no involvement in, or knowledge about, the laundering of the money. On Nordean’s reasoning, the co-conspirator’s conduct would be excluded at trial because it was only related to “a conspiracy” to traffic drugs and not “the conspiracy” to commit both object offenses. ECF 505 at 2 (emphasis Nordean’s). See Joint Proposed Jury Instructions (submitted to the Court on 11/2/2022), at 18 (“To have guilty knowledge, the defendant need not know the full extent of the conspiracy or all of the activities of all of its participants. It is not necessary for the defendant to know every other member of the conspiracy.”).

Before DOJ describes how the “normies” “harnessed” in the attack are like “money mules” in a financial transaction, it cites the discussion in advance of inciting the “normies” or leading them as the tip of a spear.

Contrary to Nordean’s telling, though, there is nothing novel about the principle that the actions of third parties can advance a conspiracy even if those parties are not full members of the conspiracy. The notion that the conspiracy could operationalize other individuals as a force multiplier is not an invention of the government; to the contrary, the conspirators expressly discussed it. See, e.g., ECF 440-1 at 20 (Transcript of MOSD meeting where Bertino explains: “[T]hey’re gonna follow us now because, you know, we’re the tip of the spear.”); ECF 111-1 at 4 (discussion on morning of January 6 about hopes that “normies burn that city to ash today” and “smash some pigs to dust,” which was “going to happen” because normies “have no adrenaline control . . . They are like a pack of wild dogs.”).

Indeed, for example, it is common for financial schemes to involve the use of “money mules” who knowingly conduct transactions at the perpetrators’ direction while remaining unwitting to the essential nature of the arrangement. See, e.g., United States v. Thomas, 999 F.3d 723, 727-28 (D.C. Cir. 2021). The conduct of those “money mules” is relevant evidence of the financial scheming defendant’s criminal intent and unlawful conduct. This case is factually different, but the basic theory is the same. The limiting principle is whether, on the evidence at trial, a jury could reasonably find a factual nexus between the actions of the conspirators and the actions of the tools. See Fed. R. Evid. 104(b) (“When the relevance of evidence depends on whether a fact exists, proof must be introduced sufficient to support a finding that the fact does exist.”). [my emphasis]

There was a hearing on all this on November 18 at which the government introduced a new angle to its argument about “harnessing” the “normies” (it was live so there was no call-in). Joe Biggs (whose lawyers are representing few other January 6 defendants, and so many not appreciate how many January 6 defendants — whether trespassers or assailants — claim they just got “caught up,” including a bunch who cited the Proud Boys as inspiration) describes the argument this way:

The Government asserted at argument that what guns were to the Oath Keepers on January 6, non-party protestors were to the Proud Boys. It further attempted to explain what it meant by this clumsy analogy when it asserted that the Proud Boys “weaponized” third parties.

[snip]

Perhaps mindful of the difficulties its arguments presented, the Government asserted that the defendants had “weaponized” third parties, either fellow members of the Proud Boys, members of other groups, or so-called “normies” unaffilated with any group, to engage in acts of violence. The Government did not argue just how percipient agents were transformed into little more than zombies, or tools, at the disposal of the defendants.

[snip]

The analogy to “mules” in narcotics cases in unavailing. In the case of passive mules, that is a party unknowingly carrying a prohibited item from one location to another, the mule lacks knowledge and intent to commit a crime. They are used as a transportation device. They are agents acting on purposes all their own but used by others to accomplish unlawful aims The Government is unclear whether it seriously intends to argue that protestors on January 6, 2021, were used without their knowledge, forced, somehow, to carry on as foreign objects the ideas of another. One suspects the Government cannot mean this, otherwise why would they prosecute the nearly 1,000 individuals charged with crimes requiring intent?

Nordean, whose lawyers do represent a slew of other defendants (though usually those who had more culpability themselves), responds this way.

[T]he government proposes to show the jury the criminal actions of individuals on January 6 who are (a) nondefendants, (b) not members of the charged conspiracies, (c) not members of the Proud Boys, and (d) not linked to the Defendants through a recognized principle of liability such as conspiracy, aiding and abetting, solicitation, or “willfully causing an act to be done.” ECF No. 494, pp. 3-7. The government describes the relevance of such evidence as follows: “the ‘tools’ of the conspiracy [were] deployed by the defendants in furtherance of their criminal objectives.” Id., p. 3 (emphasis added). “These ‘tools’ served as instruments of the defendants to carry out their criminal objective. While unwitting to the criminal objective, they were employed to take action on behalf of and in furtherance of the criminal objective.” Id. (emphasis added). According to the government, this group includes all “normies” whom the Defendants “sought to ‘let [] loose’ on January 6.” Id. Although the government does not say it in plain English, its “tools” argument aims to show the jury any and all criminal acts by any actor on January 6 on the contradictory relevance theory that these Defendants caused all of those acts and yet, at the same time, are not “criminally liable” for any of them. ECF No. 494, p. 7.

In the November 18 hearing, the Court indicated that the “tools” evidence might satisfy the test of relevance even if the government could not establish that the Defendants are legally responsible for the “tools’” actions under a recognized theory of liability.2 The Court suggested that relevance may lie in the following argument: the government alleges that the Defendants conspired to use “normies” to further their conspiratorial aims and thus the “jury should be permitted to see” what Defendants “achieved by mobilizing the crowd.” ECF No. 494, p. 4.

However, embedded in the government’s argument is a factual premise failing which the test of relevance cannot be satisfied. Whether acts of violence on January 6 by “normies” were caused or “mobilized” by the Defendants is a fact question. If those acts were not caused by the Defendants’ “mobilization,” they are not relevant under the government’s novel argument. A counterfactual shows this to be the case. Suppose Normies 1-4 rushed past barriers, ran into the Capitol, and assaulted police officers. They have never heard of the Proud Boys, nor did they see or hear the Defendants on January 6. Displaying their actions to the jury cannot demonstrate the “manner and means of the defendants’ conspiracy,” ECF No. 494, p. 3, as there is no causal relationship to speak of.

In response, the government will try to contend that even absent any causal relationship between the Defendants’ actions and those of “normies,” the latter are relevant inasmuch as the Defendants allegedly dreamed of being or aspired to be an instigator of the normies on January 6. But while Defendants’ alleged pre-January 6 comments about riling up the normies may in that case still hold relevance as to the nature/scope of the alleged criminal agreement, the actions of the normies themselves would not be relevant. Absent any causal relationship between the Defendants’ actions and the normies’ criminal acts, the latter can logically show neither that the conspiracy “succeeded” nor that the Defendants’ alleged agreement somehow “planned” the normies’ actions even where unilaterally undertaken without knowledge of Defendants’ desires.

[snip]

Here, the government has adduced no evidence to show that the actions of the “normies” or other nondefendants were caused by the Defendants’ actions. ECF No. 494, pp. 3-7. None exists. The government has not adduced the statement of any “normie” or other nondefendant to the effect that their acts were “caused” by the Defendants. [my emphasis]

The bolded language may be the only place in the papers where the Proud Boy defendants address the repeated explicit reference in their Telegram threads to riling up “the normies.” But Nordean gets at a critical issue: The government has proof that the Proud Boys intended to “harness” the “normies.” He’s arguing they don’t have proof, perhaps in the form of witness testimony, that hundreds of other January 6 defendants did what they did because of actions of the Proud Boys. (If pressed, the government could come up with at least a dozen witnesses who did talk about following the Proud Boys, but I trust from Nordean’s claim that they haven’t committed to doing so, and one subtext of this fight is the aborted effort by DOJ to get Ryan Samsel to enter a cooperation agreement in which he would testify about what Biggs told him before Samsel set off the entire attack.)

The government, partly because Nordean is also challenging the reliance on earlier evidence and events at the two earlier MAGA Marches, describes first how the Proud Boy Leaders cultivated a certain kind of recruit leading up to the attack, using comms to show senior Proud Boy leaders picked members who had embraced violence to be part of MOSD and anticipated needing a lot of bail money.

The escalation of both violence and violent rhetoric among the Proud Boys from November through January is not only highly probative to the charged conspiracy, it cannot be separated therefrom. After the Ministry of Self Defense was approved as a chapter, the defendants in leadership set about hand-selecting other individuals to join the group. In deciding who to admit, the defendants drew on their knowledge and experience with them at prior rallies. The fact that some of the recruits came into the chat and nearly immediately made references to violence, without rebuke by Nordean or any other leader, is additional evidence both (1) why they were chosen for MOSD, and (2) what they had come to understand about MOSD’s purpose based on  their prior communications with the defendants and other leaders of the conspiracy.4 See Ex. 3 (proposed trial exhibits comprising messages from MOSD recruits upon joining group, expressing (1) willingness to “log into Minecraft”; (2) shared experience of previous “seek and destroy” mission in DC “where we had a target which was Black Lives Matter plaza”; (3) expectation that members were going to need “a lot of bail money”; (4) understanding that “protest time” means “punch ‘em in the face”; and (5) appreciation that “to be in this group, you need to . . . be able to fucking kick ass if you need to kick the fuck ass.”).

It responds to the complaints about the government’s theory of “riling the normies” by pointing to specific moments when the Proud Boys opened the way through which hordes would swarm.

To be clear, the government does not plan to argue that every member of the crowd on January 6 was a tool of the defendants’ conspiracy. The tools will consist primarily of those Proud Boys members and affiliates whom the defendants recruited and led to the Capitol as part of their marching group. As the government explained, many of these individuals would also qualify as co-conspirators who shared a criminal objective with the defendants (even if, as far as the followers understood, that objective was only to commit assault). See 11/18/22 Tr. at 66 (“[W]e would argue, first, that these people are co-conspirators.”); 119 (“[P]art of what the tools theory does is says, even if these people were just signed up to commit violence without knowing why or against whom it would be directed, that’s still relevant.”). In some other instances, of course, the tools will be apparent strangers whose conduct nonetheless has a causal relationship with the defendants. For example, video evidence at trial will show that numerous rioters surged toward the Capitol as a result of Nordean, Biggs, and others destroying a black metal fence that was obstructing the crowds’ progress. Video will likewise show that many rioters entered the Capitol through a window that Pezzola smashed. All these facts lend credence to Tarrio’s own evaluation of the causal relationship at work: “Make no mistake, we did this.”

Stated thusly, it is a more modest argument than the government could have made and may one day make. There’s no reference to Alex Jones delivering the mob created by Donald Trump to his allies (and former employee, in the case of Biggs) in the Proud Boys, for example. Instead, the government seems to be looking barrier by barrier to show that the Proud Boys created the breach through which thousands ran.

I’ve been expecting an argument like this for months. But I admit it’s a close legal call.

I keep thinking about two things as I read this: First, a chilling line in cooperating witness Matthew Greene’s statement of offense, where he likened the moment on January 6 when things turned from peaceful to violent to his time in Afghanistan.

Greene noticed that during and following the chanting, the mood in the crowd changed, and it reminded him of his time in Afghanistan while stationed there with the U.S. Army, when protests changed from peaceful to violent.

While I don’t know the military experiences of Joe Biggs or other Proud Boy veterans, what Greene was describing was the Proud Boys deliberately stoking an insurgency the likes of which many of the men present (both Proud Boys and others) had fought in Iraq and Afghanistan. Some of these guys know how to incite an insurgency because they fought them for so long overseas.

The other thing that’s not clear is who DOJ will have as witnesses. I don’t think Pezzola’s lawyers have submitted an active filing for weeks or months, a possible sign Pezzola is close to or has already flipped; given that he literally breached the Capitol, making way for everyone else, if he were a cooperating witness at trial it would be far easier to make this argument. And while the very first filing in this series described Aaron Whallon-Wolkind (Person 2) as part of the core conspiracy…

Specifically, the jury will be called upon to evaluate whether the defendants and their co-conspirators – including Enrique Tarrio, Joseph Biggs, Ethan Nordean, Zachary Rehl, Charles Donohoe, Jeremy Bertino, Persons 2 and 3, and Dominic Pezzola – entered into an agreement to accomplish an unlawful objective. The defendant’s own words, and those of their co-conspirators, reveal (1) their motive to stop the lawful transfer of power; (2) their agreement to use force to do so, including against law enforcement and elected officials; (3) their efforts to recruit individuals to carry out the criminal objective of the conspiracy; 1 and (4) their efforts to encourage other individuals present on January 6 to use force to achieve their objective.

… unlike Bertino (who formally pled guilty the day before this filing) and John “Blackbeard” Stewart (Person 3), who pled guilty in June, it’s unclear what AWW’s status is. That’s important because he was part of the plan to, “see thousands of normies burn that city to ash” on January 6.

The status of Ron Loehrke, another former Marine who played a key role in directing the attention of the rioters, is also unclear. A year ago, he was arrested on civil disorder and trespassing charges — but not obstruction or conspiracy — with co-defendant Jimmy Haffner (Haffner was also charged with a tactically important assault, at the East Door), but AUSA Kenerson has gotten three pre-indictment continuances of their case, through January 10, probably right in the middle of the Proud Boy Leader trial.

In other words, DOJ’s arguments about the way the Proud Boys deployed “normies” to carry out the bulk of the attack on the Capitol make a ton of sense given the evidence from the attack. This approach also helps to explain a lot of the oddities and apparent delays about the larger Proud Boy prosecution.

What’s unclear is whether DOJ will succeed in introducing it as evidence at trial.

The Roger Stone Convergence at the Winter Palace

There was a status hearing in the Owen Shroyer case last week that was so short it was over by the time I had entered the dial-in code. Shroyer, you’ll recall, is the Alex Jones sidekick who was charged for violating his specific prohibition on being an asshole at the Capitol. His lawyer, Norm Pattis, happens to be the lawyer who sent a large swath of Alex Jones’ data to the Texas Sandy Hook plaintiffs, and then presided over the $1 billion judgement in the Connecticut Sandy Hook lawsuit. On June 14, Pattis noticed his appearance on Joe Biggs’ legal team, effectively giving him visibility on how badly the discovery in the Proud Boy case implicates Shroyer and Jones and Ali Alexander. Shroyer appears to be stalling on his decision about whether he wants to enter a plea agreement — one that would presumably require some cooperation — or whether he wants to stick around and be charged in a superseding indictment along with everyone else.

Shroyer has until November 29 to make that decision, around which time I expect a Roger Stone convergence to become more clear.

The Roger Stone convergence has been coming for some time (I’ve been pointing to it for at 14 months). Yesterday, NYT reported that one means by which it is coming is in the dissemination of the We the People document laying out plans to occupy buildings — under the code “Winter Palace” — which the FBI found on the Enrique Tarrio phone it took over a year to exploit.

As I laid out here, the document is important because it shows Tarrio’s motive on January 6 in his assertion that “every waking moment consists of” planning for revolution.

41. Between December 30 and December 31, 2020, TARRIO communicated multiple times with an individual whose identity is known to the grand jury. On December 30, 2020, this individual sent TARRIO a nine-page document tiled, “1776 Returns.” The document set forth a plan to occupy a few “crucial buildings” in Washington, D.C., on January 6, including House and Senate office buildings around the Capitol, with as “many people as possible” to “show our politicians We the People are in charge.” After sending the document, the individual stated, “The revolution is important than anything.” TARRIO responded, “That’s what every waking moment consists of… I’m not playing games.”

And an exchange he had with now-cooperating witness Jeremy Bertino that they had succeeded in implementing the Winter Palace plan shows that Tarrio recognized that occupying buildings was part of his plan.

107. At 7:39 pm, PERSON-1 sent two text messages to TARRIO that read, “Brother. ‘You know we made this happen,” and “I’m so proud of my country today.” TARRIO responded, “I know” At 7:44 pm. the conversation continued, with PERSON-1 texting, “1776 motherfuckers.” TARRIO responded, “The Winter Palace.” PERSON-1 texted, “Dude. Did we just influence history?” TARRIO responded, “Let’s first see how this plays out.” PERSON-1 stated, “They HAVE to certify today! Or it’s invalid.” These messages were exchanged before the Senate returned to its chamber at approximately 8:00 p.m. to resume certifying the Electoral College vote.

The NYT story reveals that Eryka Gemma is the person who sent the document to Tarrio, but she was not its author.

As a part of the investigation, prosecutors are seeking to understand whether Mr. Engels has ties to a little-known Miami-based cryptocurrency promoter who may have played a role in the Capitol attack.

A week before the building was stormed, the promoter, Eryka Gemma, gave Mr. Tarrio a document titled “1776 Returns,” according to several people familiar with the matter. The document laid out a detailed plan to surveil and storm government buildings around the Capitol on Jan. 6 in a pressure campaign to demand a new election.

[snip]

The federal indictment of Mr. Tarrio says that the person who provided him with “1776 Returns” told him, shortly after it was sent, “The revolution is more important than anything.” That person was Ms. Gemma, according to several people familiar with the matter.

But Ms. Gemma was not the author of “1776 Returns,” which was written by others, first as a shared document on Google, the people said.

It remains unclear who the original authors were.

It may be unclear or detrimental to the sources for this story who originally wrote the document; it’s probably not to investigators who can simply send a warrant to Google.

And whether because investigators know who wrote the document or for some other reason (such as that they have just a few more weeks of pre-sentencing cooperation with Joel Greenberg), they’re trying to understand whether this document, laying out a plan to occupy buildings, had an analogue in the Florida-based riots that key Roger Stone associate, Jacob Engels, staged in 2018 in an attempt to thwart any delays in certification for Rick Scott (and Ron DeSantis, who gets a positive shout out by name in the Winter Palace document).

On Nov. 9, [2018] a group of about 100 angry protesters, including members of the Proud Boys, descended on the Broward County elections office, carrying pro-Scott and pro-Trump signs and protesting the recount.

The event drew support from several far-right activists in Florida linked to Mr. Stone — among them, Ali Alexander, who later organized Stop the Steal events around the 2020 election, and Joseph Biggs, a leader of the Proud Boys who has since been charged alongside Mr. Tarrio in the Jan. 6 seditious conspiracy case.

The NYT describes this line of inquiry as happening via two different sets of prosecutors, which is a sign of either convergence or simply the networked structure that DOJ’s approach, using parallel and (through Stone) intersecting, conspiracy indictments clearly facilitated (Shroyer’s prosecution team, incidentally, features an Oath Keeper prosecutor and a key assault prosecutor).

In recent months, prosecutors overseeing the seditious conspiracy case of five members of the Proud Boys have expanded their investigation to examine the role that Jacob Engels — a Florida Proud Boy who accompanied Mr. Stone to Washington for Jan. 6 — played in the 2018 protests, according to a person briefed on the matter.

The prosecutors want to know whether Mr. Engels received any payments or drew up any plans for the Florida demonstration, and whether he has ties to other people connected to the Proud Boys’ activities in the run-up to the storming of the Capitol.

Different prosecutors connected to the Jan. 6 investigation have also been asking questions about efforts by Mr. Stone — a longtime adviser to Mr. Trump — to stave off a recount in the 2018 Senate race in Florida, according to other people familiar with the matter.

While the NYT describes (breaking news!) that Engels was one of the people who in 2019, along with Tarrio, crafted an attack on the judge presiding over Roger Stone’s case, Amy Berman Jackson, it does not note that the Stop the Steal effort dates back two years earlier than the 2018 riot, to voter intimidation efforts that Stone pursued that look similar to the current drop box intimidation effort being disseminated via Trump’s shitty social media website (NYT does mention the Brooks Brothers riots in 2000 and notes the participants “apparently work[ed] with Mr. Stone” — more breaking news).

Nor does it describe the backstory to how Biggs showed up in Florida in 2018, fresh off his ouster from InfoWars after playing a key role in both the PizzaGate and Seth Rich hoaxes, both part of a Russian info-op that Stone played a key role in. But it’s part of the prehistory of the Proud Boys that prosecutors are now tracing.

I have no idea whether the very clear 2016 precedent is part of this. DOJ wouldn’t need to do (much) fresh investigation of it because Mueller and DC USAO did quite a bit of investigation before Bill Barr torched the investigation all to hell and then Trump pardoned Stone to avoid being implicated himself. But if it was part of this, no one who would share those details with NYT would know about it unless and until it was indicted. That’s even true of the 2019 incident; DOJ did at least some investigative work into the funding of that, the same questions being asked now about how Engels organized the 2018 riot.

But whether this investigative prong extends no further back than 2018 or whether it includes the Stone Stop the Steal activity that demonstrably paralleled a Russian effort, it does seem that DOJ is investigating how the prior history of the Proud Boys parallels these efforts to undermine democracy and did so in the place — Miami — where the Proud Boys, schooled by the master rat-fucker, are increasingly taking on an official role.

That may not be an investigation about Engels’ actions, directly (though he has long been in the thick of things). Rather, it may be an investigation into resources that were consistent throughout these developments.

Former Secret Cooperator Enrique Tarrio Reveals a Secret Cooperation Deal

Last Friday, in the guise of arguing that Enrique Tarrio’s trial should be moved from DC to Miami, one of his attorneys, Sabino Jauregui, revealed that DOJ had gotten a plea agreement with Jeremy Bertino and “Stewart” in June, but only rolled them out recently, which he claimed was proof of politicization. That argument, like Jauregui’s arguments that the national media coverage that Tarrio himself had cultivated and a DC lawsuit against the Proud Boys that the judge presiding over the case, Tim Kelly, had never heard of, meant Tarrio could not be tried in DC was nonsensical and probably false as to motive. It was a painfully stupid argument from lawyers from one of the few people who could make a real case for moving his trial (though not to Miami, where there has been localized Proud Boy coverage).

But it revealed that the person identified as “Person Three” in many of the charging documents, John “Blackbeard” Stewart, had entered a plea agreement in June. After I tweeted that out, WaPo described a June 10 Information charging someone with conspiring to obstruct the vote certification.

The disclosure by Tarrio’s defense aligns with court records showing that prosecutors on June 10 charged a defendant who was expected to plead guilty and cooperate with investigators in a case related to Tarrio and four top lieutenants, who stand accused of planning in advance to oppose the lawful transfer of presidential power by force. The unidentified defendant was charged with conspiring to obstruct an official proceeding of Congress, according to the records — initially posted publicly by the court but removed from public view.

It’s unclear whether Jauregui really meant to argue that the non-disclosure of a June plea would harm his client — or even the early October disclosure of a Bertino plea that was signed in September — or whether this was the kind of happy accident that sometimes exposes a detail that might be useful for others. But it reveals that in the same period when DOJ charged Tarrio and his alleged co-conspirators with sedition, DOJ secretly added a cooperator against them.

That detail isn’t all that surprising — and it’s certainly not cause to move the trial to Miami. The government often keeps cooperation deals secret — indeed, the government kept at least some of Tarrio’s cooperation secret when he was cooperating against his codefendants and other medical fraudsters in the 2010s. They did so, in part, so he could conduct undercover operations.

But it raises other questions, such as what happened with Aaron Whallon Wolkind, who also figured prominently in charging documents as Person 2, but who was not mentioned in Bertino’s statement of offense. The recent silence about AWW’s role in January 6 is all the more telling given that Zach Rehl’s co-travelers, Isaiah Giddings, Brian Healion, and Freedom Vy just had their pre-indictment prosecution continued until February; along with Rehl, they’re the ones that interacted most closely with AWW on and leading up to January 6. We may learn more by Wednesday, which is the due date for the two sides to submit a new sentencing date for Jeff Finley, another co-traveler of this crowd.

There has long been reason to wonder about what was going on in the Proud Boy case behind the scenes. The revelation of hidden plea deals only confirms that.

The silence of most Oath Keeper cooperators

It’s not just the Proud Boys investigation where there’s uncertainty about cooperating witnesses.

A recent status report for Jon Schaffer, who was generally understood to be a cooperator against the Oath Keepers, reveals that his attorney,

has reached out to counsel for the government, Ahmed Baset, Esq., multiple times in regard to the Joint Statius Report as requested by this Court. Unfortunately, as of the filing of this report, undersigned counsel has not been able to reach Mr. Baset.

The status report includes the same description as used in earlier status reports, one that was always weird in conjunction with the Oath Keepers and now is completely incompatible with it.

Multiple defendants charged in the case in which the Defendant is cooperating have been presented before the Court; several are in the process of exploring case resolutions and a trial date has yet to be set.

That doesn’t rule out that his cooperation was for different militia defendants, or for Oath Keeper James Breheny, whose pre-indictment prosecution was recently continued until January (Breheny is most interesting for an event he attended in Lancaster, PA, not far from both John Stewart and AWW).

The continuing lack of clarity about Schaffer’s cooperation comes even as he has successfully hidden from DC process servers for months. He is one of the cooperators whose plea included the possibility of witness protection, but the process servers attempting to notify him of lawsuits against him seem to be chasing real addresses.

Schaffer aside, there are even interesting questions regarding cooperators in the main Oath Keeper conspiracy. After Graydon Young finished testifying yesterday (revealing, among other things, that he had learned that Kelly Meggs had high level ties to the Proud Boys), prosecutor Jeffrey Nestler revealed there is just one more civilian witness. If by “civilian” he includes cooperators, that means at most one more Oath Keeper cooperator — probably Joshua James, whose cooperation on post-January 6 development seems critical for the sedition charge — will testify. That would mean a bunch of the cooperators — Mark Grods, Caleb Berry, Brian Ulrich, and Todd Wilson — would not have taken the stand (Jason Dolan is the only other cooperator, in addition to Young, who has testified so far). While some of these cooperators were likely important for getting others to flip (for example, Grods would have implicated James), there are others, like Wilson, whose testimony might be uniquely valuable.

Or perhaps in the same way DOJ was attempting to hide at least one Proud Boy cooperator, the Oath Keeper team is hiding the substance that some of their cooperators have provided to protect ongoing investigations.

Mystery Green Berets

Then there’s a January 6 cooperation deal that has attracted almost no notice: that of Kurt Peterson. He’s a guy who broke a window of the Capitol and witnessed the shooting of Ashli Babbitt. Last December, DOJ was attempting to use the broken window to leverage him to plead guilty to obstruction as part of a cooperation deal. In September, he pled to trespassing with a dangerous weapon, one of the sweetest plea deals of any January 6 defendant, one that likely means he’ll avoid any jail time (which is consistent with how enthusiastically DOJ was pursuing his cooperation last year). In advance of his plea, the two sides got permission to seal two sentences in Peterson’s statement of offense.

Here, there are compelling interests that override the public’s presumptive right of access because the proposed plea agreement is conditioned upon Defendant’s continued cooperation with the government, and the statement of offense that accompanies the proposed plea agreement describes another individual who is under investigation for criminal wrongdoing on January 6, 2021. Publicly filing this information could lead to the identification of this individual and would be akin to a criminal accusation that could cause serious reputational or professional harm before formal charges are filed. Moreover, the need to protect the integrity of the ongoing investigation justifies the requested partial sealing. See United States v. Hubbard, 650 F.2d 293, 323 (D.C. Cir. 1980) (“As to potential defendants not involved in the proceeding …premature publication can taint future prosecutions to the detriment of both the government and the defense.”). Furthermore, the partial sealing is justified by the need to protect the Defendant’s safety in light of his ongoing cooperation. Washington Post, 935 F.2d at 291 (“the safety of the defendant and his family, may well be sufficient to justify sealing a plea agreement”). See also United States v. Thompson, 199 F. Supp. 3d 3, 9 (D.D.C. 2016) (“sentencing memoranda that include information regarding a defendant’s cooperation are often filed under seal.”).

[snip]

No alternative to sealing will adequately protect the due process rights of an unnamed defendant; preserve the integrity of the government’s investigation; and help ensure the safety of the Defendant.

The two sentences in Peterson’s statement of offense (which follow these two sentences) clearly relate to the three people with whom he traveled from KY to DC.

The defendant, Kurt Peterson, lives in Hodgenville, Kentucky. On January 5, 2021, the defendant drove from his home to the Washington, D.C. area with three other people,

[snip]

After leaving the Capitol Building, the defendant met back up with his traveling companions.

He got separated from them on the way to the Capitol though; his cooperation likely pertains to what he learned they (or one of them) had done on the trip back.

His arrest affidavit describes a recording he made on January 10, 2021, when he had gone on the run. It reveals that his three companions were all former Special Forces guys in their sixties.

To my family and friends who are able to see this, I am writing it with a voice recognition program while driving. I feel the need to keep moving and trying to keep my phone wrapped such that it can’t be traced most of the time. I was at our nation’s capital for the rally and watched the presentations at the ellipse prior to walking to the Capitol building with at least a million and a 1-1/2 to 2 million people.

The people that were there at the ellipse were peaceable and loving and supporting our country. The people that were at the capital were also primarily peaceful and loving our country. But when there are huge crowds and there are people that are inciting violence the crowds will many times be pulled in to this action.

I was with 3 men who had served our country in special forces. All of us in our sixties.

[snip]

Sadly I do not trust many branches or people in our government particularly the federal bureau of investigation. So at this time I am moving continuously and wrapping my phone in such a way that I hope it cannot be tracked. If for any reason I am not available to see you or meet with you again know that my intentions are to keep our country free of oppression by an over zealous government.

Yet no one knows who these three (or one particular) suspects were that made them or him so interesting to DOJ to merit this sweet plea deal or the year of effort to get it.

The thing is, the suspect in question must have already been charged and probably arrested. Before the plea hearing formally started, there was discussion of a “related case” designation, which would ensure that Judge Carl Nichols would preside over it, as well as Peterson’s. That would only happen if there were already another indictment.

Besides, the three guys who were with Peterson know they were with him; redacting that language doesn’t hide the cooperation from them, at all.

The relentless public roll-out of cooperators in the Oath Keeper case is the exception, not the norm (as Amit Mehta noted when Schaffer first pled guilty). Even those of us who follow closely are not seeing all of what’s going on, even in the overt crime scene prosecutions.

And Tarrio, himself a former snitch, knows better than most how useful disclosing such details may be to help others evade justice.

Friends of Sedition: The Networked January 6 Conspiracy

I’d like to look at several developments in recent days in the interlocking January 6 investigations.

First, as I noted Friday, the January 6 Committee subpoena to the former President focuses closely on communications with or on behalf of him via Signal. It specifically asks for communications with the Proud Boys and Oath Keepers (including on Signal). And Roger Stone is the first person named on the list of people all of whose post-election communication with Trump (including on Signal) the Committee wants. Clearly, the Committee has obtained Signal texts from others that reflect inclusion of the then-President and expects they might find more such communications, including some involving Stone and the Proud Boys and Oath Keepers.

Then, on Friday, one of the the main Proud Boy prosecutors, Erik Kenerson, asked to continue Matthew Greene’s cooperation for another 120 days, which would put the next status update in late February, over a month after the Proud Boy leader’s trial should be done. There are, admittedly, a great number of Proud Boy defendants who will go to trial long after that, but Greene doesn’t know many of them (he had just joined the Proud Boys and mostly interacted with other New York members like Dominic Pezzola). Nevertheless, prosecutors seem to think he may still be cooperating after the first big trial.

Those details become more interesting given how DOJ is presenting the Oath Keeper conspiracy at trial. Last Thursday, DOJ added the various communication channels each participant was subscribed to on their visual guide of the various co-conspirators.

It’s not surprising they would do that. To prove the three conspiracies these defendants are charged with, DOJ needs to prove each entered into an agreement to obstruct the vote certification, obstruct Congress, and attack the government. DOJ is relying on the various statements in advance of (and, for sedition, after) January 6 to show such intent. The fact that an intersecting collection of Signal channels incorporated most of the charged defendants will go a long way to show they were all willfully part of these three conspiracies.

But as you can see with Elmer Stewart Rhodes and Kellye SoRelle (circled in pink), DOJ has included Stone’s Signal channel — Friends of Stone — along with the Oath Keeper ones. As DOJ laid out last week, in addition to Rhodes and SoRelle, Enrique Tarrio, Alex Jones, and Ali Alexander were on the FOS channels, in addition to Stone himself.

DOJ has included things Rhodes said on the FOS chat in its timeline leading up to and on January 6. Significantly, at 2:28 on January 6, Rhodes informed the FOS chat that they were at “the back door of the Capitol.” (See the context in Brandi Buchman and Roger Parloff live threads.)

The thing is, many of the participants in FOS that prosecutors have, thus far, identified as participating in the chat (SoRelle, Ali Alexander, and Alex Jones) and most of the Oath Keepers were there on the East side of the Capitol or had only recently left. So was Owen Shroyer, who was also on FOS; he had been on the top of the stairs with Alexander and Jones.

Enrique Tarrio is one exception. He wasn’t present at the East side of the Capitol, but he was following along closely on social media — and likely already knew what was happening on the East side of the Capitol from Joe Biggs, who went through the East doors right along with the Oath Keepers.

Which means the only person mentioned so far who now needed to be told where the Oath Keepers were was Stone, back at the Willard.

We learned one more thing recently, at the last January 6 Committee hearing.

At 1:25PM — after the attack on the Capitol had started — Trump’s Secret Service detail was still planning on bringing him to the Capitol two hours later, around 3:30. That was after, per a video clip in which Nancy Pelosi said she would punch Trump if he showed up, Secret Service told Pelosi they had talked him out of coming.

But 18 minutes after Rhodes told the Friends of Stone list where the Oath Keepers were, at 2:46, Joseph Hackett came out of the Capitol and looked around, as if he was expecting someone to show up.

The fact that Rhodes was updating the FOS list from the Capitol suggests he may have been getting feedback from Stone and whoever else was on the list, including those who may have been coordinating with the then-President.

And whatever else DOJ’s use of the FOS list as part of this conspiracy does, it establishes the basis to argue that those coordinating on the FOS list were, themselves, in a conspiracy together: Rhodes and SoRelle with Tarrio (whom both met in the parking garage) and Alex Jones and Ali Alexander and Stone.

Just as importantly, it would network the conspiracies. That would put all the various Proud Boys taking orders from Tarrio in a conspiracy with those on the FOS list. It would put all the Oath Keepers conspiring with Rhodes and SoRelle in a conspiracy with those on the FOS list.

And it would put those on the FOS list in a conspiracy with those directing the attack on the Capitol.

I laid out over 14 months ago that, if DOJ were to charge Trump in conjunction with the attack on the Capitol, it would likely be part of an intersecting conspiracy with those already being charged.

Finally, if DOJ were to charge Trump, they would charge him in a conspiracy to obstruct the vote count that intersected with some of the other conspiracies to obstruct the vote count, possibly with obstruction charges against him personally. In general, I don’t think DOJ would charge most of Trump’s discrete acts, at least those conducted before January 20, as a crime. There are two possible exceptions, however. His call to Brad Raffensperger, particularly in the context of all his other efforts to tamper in the Georgia election, would have been conducted as part of campaigning (and therefore would not have been conducted as President). It seems a clearcut case of using threats to get a desired electoral outcome. It’s unclear whether Trump’s request that Mike Pence to commit the unconstitutional action — that is, refusing to certify the winning electoral votes — would be treated as Presidential or electoral. But that demand, followed closely with Trump’s public statements that had the effect of making Pence a target for assassination threats, seems like it could be charged on its own. Both of those actions, however, could and would, in the way DOJ is approaching this, also be overt acts in the conspiracy charged against Trump.

In the last two weeks, DOJ has started to show how those conspiracies intersect.

Unsurprisingly, they intersect right through the former President’s rat-fucker.

Update; Corrected Pelosi timing, per Nadezhda.

Update: Tried to clarify that Tarrio was on the chat but was not (as the Oath Keepers, Jones, and Alexander were) on the East side of the Capitol.

Trump Subpoena: The Revolution Will Not Be Signaled

The January 6 Committee has released the subpoena it sent to the former President.

It requires document production by November 4 and a deposition starting on November 14. Notably, the first deadline is before the election.

It focuses not just on Trump’s attempt to overturn the election, summon mobsters, and raise money off of it. There are several questions focused on obstruction: both document destruction and witness tampering.

The witness tampering one reads:

All documents, including communications sent or received through Signal or any other means, from July 1, 2021, to the present, relating or referring in any way to the investigation by the Select Committee and involving contacts with, or efforts to contact: (1) witnesses who appeared or who were or might be expected to appear before the Select Committee, including witnesses who served as White House staff during your administration, who served as staff for your 2020 campaign, and who served or currently serve in the United States Secret Service; or (2) counsel who represented such witnesses. The documents referenced in (1) and (2) include but are not limited to any communications regarding directly or indirectly paying the legal fees for any such witnesses, or finding, offering, or discussing employment for any such witnesses, and any communications with your former Deputy Chief of Staff Anthony Ornato or any employee of the Secret Service with whom you interacted on January 6, 2021.

The subpoena mentions Signal at least 13 times. Which strongly suggests the President was in direct communication with some of the coup plotters via the mobile app.

The Trump associates named in the subpoena include:

  • Roger Stone
  • Steve Bannon
  • Mike Flynn
  • Jeffrey Clark
  • John Eastman
  • Rudy Giuliani
  • Jenna Ellis
  • Sidney Powell
  • Kenneth Chesebro
  • Boris Epshteyn
  • Christina Bobb
  • Cleta Mitchell
  • Patrick Byrne

The subpoena even asks him for communications involving the Oath Keepers, Proud Boys, “or any other similar militia group or its members” from September 1, 2020 to the present.

The subpoena also asks the former President for all communications devices he used between November 3, 2020 and January 20, 2021. In the Stone trial, there were about nine devices identified on which he may have received a call during the 2016 election, and there are several others — such as that of his then bodyguard Keith Schiller — who weren’t discussed in the trial. Tony Ornato also receives a close focus in this subpoena; I wonder if he was receiving calls for the then-President on the Secret Service phone that has since been wiped.