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“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).

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.

The Additional Complexities of the Proud Boy Sedition Case

Some weeks ago, someone involved in the Proud Boy case emailed me a personal invitation to the Proud Boy leader trial later this year: “please accept my invitation to come report on the proceedings in person.  In my opinion, it will prove far more interesting than the OK trial.” It had been a long time since I had heard from this person — since I warned him, for a second time, I would not treat his emails to me as presumptively off the record, because by then the frequency of them and the conflicts between what he said about the First Amendment publicly and what he said to me on emails had become newsworthy in and of itself.

I have no intention of traveling to DC for the Proud Boy trial. Like the Oath Keeper one, there will be scores of journalists who are very familiar with the case who will do great live coverage. I would add little, if anything.

But this person’s promise that the trial will be more interesting than the Oath Keeper one is a sound prediction. To be clear: I think the evidence shows that the Proud Boys are far more complicit in the attack on democracy on January 6 than the Oath Keepers, who were mostly whack right wingers with delusions of grandeur. But I also recognize that the Proud Boy case has been far more difficult for DOJ to put together than the Oath Keeper one, in significant part because they have been more successful at cultivating authoritarian law enforcement that likes their mob culture.

Remember, several Proud Boys, including Tarrio, worked with Roger Stone to threaten Amy Berman Jackson and Bill Barr’s DOJ treated it as a mere legal technicality. The Proud Boys got sanction, as a mob, from the President’s own mouth, which had ripple effects throughout government on the way they were treated.

So I wanted to look at three indications of the difficulties the Proud Boy prosecution may face that the Oath Keeper prosecutors did not.

Delayed phone exploitation

First, in a hearing yesterday in the case against five men who were co-travellers with Joe Biggs the day of the attack, prosecutor Nadia Moore mentioned that she had just provided the “scoped” phones from (I think) Paul Rae and Eddie George — “scoped” is what they call it when the FBI pulls out the things that are responsive to a warrant. That’s a fairly shocking delay in exploiting their phones. Rae was arrested on March 24, 2021 and George was arrested on July 15, 2021. But it’s true that a May discovery index from the Proud Boy leader case only shows a scoped LG Tablet from George, with no scoped phone listed for either (though there is a phone video from Rae listed).

It may well be that — like Enrique Tarrio — they had really complex passwords on their phone. It took over a year to exploit the content of his phone, even though it was seized before January 6. There appear to be others, too, whose phones were not yet exploited in May.

Aside from a delay in the scoping of Stewart Rhodes’ phone due to the volume of encrypted texts on it and a privilege review holding up the exploitation of Kellye SoRelle’s phone, there were no known similar delays on the Oath Keeper side.

Complicit FBI and law enforcement

While the Oath Keepers, like the Proud Boys, intentionally recruit law enforcement, the Proud Boys have been better at co-opting cops. Around five of the charged Proud Boys were former or still cops when charged. Tarrio had been a formal informant during a prior criminal prosecution. And several other members of the Proud Boys, including Joe Biggs, provided information to the FBI about what they claimed were Antifa.

Biggs described his own relationship with the FBI this way:

By late 2018, Biggs also started to get “cautionary” phone calls from FBI agents located in Jacksonville and Daytona Beach inquiring about what Biggs meant by something politically or culturally provocative he had said on the air or on social media concerning a national issue, political parties, the Proud Boys, Antifa or other groups. Biggs regularly satisfied FBI personnel with his answers. He also stayed in touch with a number of FBI agents in and out of Florida. In late July 2020, an FBI Special Agent out of the Daytona Beach area telephoned Biggs and asked Biggs to meet with him and another FBI agent at a local restaurant. Biggs agreed. Biggs learned after he travelled to the restaurant that the purpose of the meeting was to determine if Biggs could share information about Antifa networks operating in Florida and elsewhere. They wanted to know what Biggs was “seeing on the ground.” Biggs did have information about Antifa in Florida and Antifa networks in other parts of the United States. He agreed to share the information. The three met for approximately two hours. After the meeting, Biggs stayed in touch with the agent who had called him originally to set up the meeting. He answered follow-up questions in a series of several phone calls over the next few weeks. They spoke often.

This is the same office where an FBI Agent, in August, refused to participate in the arrest of militia-associated men who planned to bring weapons to January 6. The agent then ran to Chuck Grassley and Ron Johnson, bitching, after his clearance was suspended because he didn’t like the way FBI was running domestic terrorism investigations.

The single FBI informant known to have been present on January 6 appears not to have told his handlers about a meeting he was at the night before where using violence was discussed. And so DOJ has given two members of the Kansas City Proud Boy cell who were with him — Ryan Ashlock and Louis Colon — unbelievably sweet plea deals, I suspect to sustain the rest of the cases against the Proud Boys.

Both Tarrio and Biggs have made specific requests for their own communications with law enforcement — in Tarrio’s case, he claims it is Brady material. That is, they plan to argue they couldn’t be guilty of plotting against the government because they’ve been so chummy with often right wing authoritarian cops in the past.

Witness backsliding

The Proud Boys have also been very good at pressuring witnesses not to testify against the mob. It had seemed that Ryan Samsel might enter into a plea deal describing what transpired between him and Biggs right before he kicked off the entire riot, for example, until Samsel was assaulted in still unexplained circumstances at the DC jail. Zach Rehl seemed like he was considering a plea deal until Tarrio called Rehl’s wife about it.

Jeff Finley, who was a co-traveller of Rehl’s, seems like he cooperated his way into a misdemeanor plea deal (like Brandon Straka is known to have), but in a July request for a four-month continuance, the government seemed to suggest they weren’t sure how complicit Finley was.

The government requests this continuance to allow time for the parties to fully evaluate the nature and seriousness of the defendant’s misconduct and for the parties to prepare a full and complete allocution to assist this Court in its sentencing.

All this is background to the Jeremy Bertino plea rolled out yesterday. Bertino was a high level Proud Boy who, because he was injured in a December 12 brawl, was not present on January 6, but was closely involved in discussions in advance of it.

Bertino’s possible arrest has been anticipated for months. A misdemeanor docket for Bertino was briefly unsealed on September 15 but then sealed. Yesterday, he pled guilty to one count of seditious conspiracy and one count of unlawful weapons possession for a small arsenal he had in spite of a past felony conviction. He is, as everyone (including me) has reported, the first Proud Boy to plead to seditious conspiracy. And he’s another participant in key leadership discussions in advance of the attack.

His statement of offense, however, leads me to wonder whether he didn’t get this plea deal in part to keep Charles Donohoe — who like Bertino is from North Carolina, and who pled guilty to obstruction and assault in April — from backsliding as a cooperator.

Most of the new details the SOO provides focus on 2020, describing how the Proud Boys radicalized in late 2020 and emphasizing the import of the December 12, 2020 confrontations, including explicit discussions about using Tarrio’s anticipated arrest to rile people up against the cops. The description of changing attitudes about the cops (something that has featured in Proud Boy indictments from the start) may serve to combat Tarrio and Biggs’ efforts to claim chumminess with the cops.

Bertino further understood that due to a number of negative interactions with law enforcement, including the events of December 12, the Proud Boys increasingly viewed police as the enemy and Proud Boy members increasingly referred to the police as “coptifa,” meaning that they viewed the police as siding with Antifa.

The SOO explains that Bertino did not know what plan Biggs and Nordean came up with at a still unexplained meeting around 9PM on January 5. A very similar paragraph appears in Donohoe’s statement of offense.

What I’m most surprised about is who it includes and who it excludes: The SOO names Donohoe at least twelve times — sworn statements implicating Donohoe in events, many of which he himself admitted to in his own SOO. That shouldn’t be necessary for a cooperating witness (though because they were both in the Carolinas, the two men would have worked closely together). While it mentions Person-3, whom Alan Feuer has identified as John Stewart, it does not name Aaron Wolkind at all, referred to frequently in earlier Proud Boy materials as Person-2. With the exception of Person-3 (who is not yet charged), the focus is entirely on those already charged in the leaders conspiracy, not any other Proud Boys.

It is undoubtedly an important step to get a plea to sedition from someone who wasn’t even present the day of the attack. But that doesn’t alleviate the many things that make this case more complex than the Oath Keeper one.

Big Criminal Justice News — and Not So Big Criminal Justice Not News

Joe Biden just pardoned everyone convicted at the federal level of simple marijuana possession, while encouraging Governors to follow suit.

Proud Boy Jeremy Bertino just pled guilty to seditious conspiracy and weapons possession. (Here’s the statement of offense.)

And … far less interestingly, but noting for the record, FBI agents trying to force David Weiss to indict Hunter Biden leaked to Devlin Barrett just like FBI agents trying to harm Hillary Clinton leaked to Devlin Barrett in 2016.

Back to the stuff that matters. Bertino will be a witness not just against Enrique Tarrio and Joe Biggs, but also against Roger Stone (this plea happened as yet more testimony implicating Stone was introduced into the Oath Keeper’s trial). DOJ now has both seditious conspiracy trials focused on the former reality TV show host’s rat-fucker.

And my goodness, the marijuana pardon will positive affect almost as many lives as the student loan forgiveness (But See Ravenclaw’s correction here).

As Ali Alexander Returns to DC in Wake of Grand Jury Appearance, Alex Jones’ Associates Owen Shroyer and Joe Biggs Share a Lawyer

In an attempt to quash rumors that he was the surprise witness before the January 6 Committee today (he’s not; former Mark Meadows assistant Cassidy Hutchinson is), Ali Alexander complained that the January 6 Committee didn’t let him testify publicly.

On at least four occasions, my legal counsel asked the Committee to allow my deposition to be taken publicly so that the American public could operate from a shared set of facts. The Committee denied our requests to make my testimony public again and again. Instead, they me behind closed doors for 8 hours, at my own expense, depriving me of meals or making my return flight back home. [emphasis original]

That follows a statement issued last Friday, after his (first?) grand jury appearance complaining that DOJ didn’t just use his transcript from the January 6 Committee.

I provided the documents requested and suggested they obtain my full transcript of my testimony from the January 6 Committee. They responded then that they cannot obtain those transcripts due to separation of powers and thus, they needed me to repeat my testimony here today.

I almost feel a little sorry for Alexander. This Roger Stone mentee has been sent out with the same lawyer, Paul Kamenar, who helped Stone evade real accountability for his Russian operation in 2016 (in that case, by helping Andrew Miller challenge a subpoena for a year before he ultimately joined Stone’s defense team). Perhaps Alexander thought he was going to replay that same Roger Stone script, with him playing the role that Jerome Corsi did, publicly releasing a cover story as a way to get everyone telling the same false story.

To be sure, Alexander was always fucked, because by the time he told his cover story in December, DOJ had already debunked that cover story when Owen Shroyer tried to tell it. So not only was Alexander stuck, Friday, trying to retell the same story that he told in December, but even if he succeeded, he’d be on the hook for a story that Judge Tim Kelly has already ruled to be inaccurate specifically as regards the choices that the Alex Jones retinue made after they arrived at the Capitol on January 6.

In any case, Alexander will be back in DC today talking to “officials” some more about January 6. It’s unclear whether this is a follow-up interview with DOJ, now that they’ve locked Alexander into a story, or whether the GOP will attempt to serve as a clearinghouse for stories, as HPSCI did with the Russian investigation.

But Ali Alexander, a key member of Alex Jones’ retinue, is not done telling his currently operative story yet. Perhaps, if he is interviewed further, Alexander will be asked about Stop the Steal communications first made available by Brandon Straka in spring 2021, and probably bolstered by Baked Alaska earlier this year, communications that also seem to be inconsistent with Alexander’s currently operative story.

Like I said, I almost feel sorry that Alexander agreed to play the role of Roger Stone’s patsy in this go-around, because DOJ is better situated to deal with Stone’s games this time around.

For all the focus on Alexander, that makes two other recent developments rather interesting.

First, in a status hearing on Thursday, prosecutors revealed that they had only recently received the content from Alex Jones sidekick Owen Shroyer’s phone. They were providing it, unscoped, to Shroyer’s attorney, Norm Pattis, so he can have a sense of what’s there in advance of DOJ providing him the “scoped” content (“scoped” content is the stuff that the FBI determines complies with the warrant). In that case, the sides at least claim they’re discussing a plea, with plans for a status or that plea in 45 days.

Which makes the other recent development more interesting. On June 14, Norm Pattis joined Joe Biggs’ defense team.

 

This means that Pattis formally represents two Alex Jones associates — one who currently works for InfoWars and one who worked for Jones until he got “fired” for pushing PizzaGate in 2016 — who converged at the top of the East steps on January 6; Pattis has a longtime affiliation with Jones too.

And unless and until DOJ raises conflict issues with the men (which they’re not likely to do unless and until Jones himself is charged), Pattis will have full access to what are believed to be both sides of conversations that took place in advance of and on January 6 which resulted in an Alex Jones-led mob arriving just as the carefully orchestrated Proud Boy attack on the Capitol needed large numbers of additional, unwitting “normies” to fill the building. That’s a pretty critical set of discovery.

So one member of the retinue is struggling quite obviously with his effort to come up with a consistent story (after telling one that has already been debunked), while the other members of the retinue have arranged to be in a position to share the most important discovery from the day back and forth.

Things have gotten downright interesting with the convergence of once and current Jones flunkies at the East side of the Capitol on January 6.

Why January 6 Committee Transcripts Are Urgent: Proud Boy Jeremy Bertino

On June 6, DOJ charged the Proud Boy Leaders with sedition. As I noted at the time, the single solitary new overt act described in the indictment involved Jeremy Bertino, Person-1, seeming to have advance knowledge of a plan to occupy the Capitol.

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.

Just days earlier, as part of a discovery dispute, prosecutors had provided this (dated) discovery index. For several reasons, it’s likely that at least some these entries pertain to Bertino, because the CE ones are from the Charlotte office, close to where he lives, because he’s one of the three uncharged co-conspirators of central importance to the Proud Boys efforts, and because we know FBI did searches on him.

In a hearing during the day on June 9, the Proud Boys’ attorneys accused DOJ of improperly coordinating with the January 6 Committee and improperly mixing politics and criminal justice by charging sedition just before the hearings start. In the hearing there was an extensive and repeated discussion of the deposition transcripts from the committee investigation. AUSA Jason McCullough described that there had been significant engagement on depositions, but that the January 6 Committee wouldn’t share them. As far as he knew, the Committee said they would release them in September, which would be in the middle of the trial. Joe Biggs’ attorney insisted that DOJ had the transcripts, and that they had to get them to defendants.

Judge Tim Kelly ordered prosecutors that, if they come into possession of the transcripts, they turn them over within 24 hours.

Hours later, during the first (technically, second) January 6 Committee hearing, the Committee included a clip from Bertino describing how membership in the Proud Boys had tripled in response to Trump’s “Stand Back and Stand By” comment.

His cooperation with the Committee was not public knowledge. I have no idea whether it was a surprise to DOJ, but if it was, it presented the possibility that, in the guise of cooperating, Bertino had just endangered the Proud Boy sedition prosecution (which wouldn’t be the first time that “cooperative” Proud Boys proved, instead, to be fabricators). At the very least, it meant his deposition raised the stakes on his transcript considerably, because DOJ chose not to charge him in that sedition conspiracy.

Today, in response to a bid by Dominic Pezzola and Joe Biggs to continue the trial until December, DOJ acceded if all defendants agree (Ethan Nordean won’t do so unless he is released from jail). With it they included a letter they sent yesterday to the Committee — following up on one they sent in April — talking about the urgency with which they need deposition transcripts.

We note that the Select Committee to Investigate the January 6th Attack on the United States Capitol (“Select Committee”) in its June 9, 2022 and June 13, 2022, hearings extensively quoted from our filings in active litigation and played portions of interviews the Select Committee conducted of individuals who have been charged by the Department in connection with the January 6th Attack on the United States Capitol.

It is now readily apparent that the interviews the Select Committee conducted are not just potentially relevant to our overall criminal investigations, but are likely relevant to specific prosecutions that have already commenced. Given this overlap, it is critical that the Select Committee provide us with copies of the transcripts of all its witness interviews. As you are aware, grand jury investigations are not public and thus the Select Committee does not and will not know the identity of all the witnesses who have information relevant to the Department’s ongoing criminal investigations. Moreover, it is critical that the Department be able to evaluate the credibility of witnesses who have provided statements to multiple governmental entities in assessing the strength of any potential criminal prosecutions and to ensure that all relevant evidence is considered during the criminal investigations. We cannot be sure that all relevant evidence has been considered without access to the transcripts that are uniquely within the Select Committee’s possession.

The discovery deadline for the Proud Boy case is tomorrow. If DOJ put Bertino before a grand jury and he said something that conflicts with what he told the Committee, it could doom his reliability as a witness, and with it the Proud Boys case, and with it, potentially, the conspiracy case against Trump.

The fact that Matt Olsen, National Security Division head, is on this letter suggests the concern pertains to the militias (and, indeed, the charged militia witnesses who appeared were Tarrio and Stewart Rhodes). Similarly, Nick Quested’s testimony may be inconsistent with other information DOJ has obtained.

Some pundits who’ve never done any original reporting on the topic claimed upon seeing this letter that it’s proof DOJ has been “twiddling its thumbs” while the Jan6 Committee has been doing all the work.

They’re saying that, though, when DOJ fairly explicitly said that grand juries have interviewed witnesses that Jan6 — and so, by association, lazy pundits — may not be aware of.

These are the kinds of surprises that can kill entire cases, after a year and a half of painstaking investigation.

The “We the People Plan” Is Evidence of Tarrio’s Motive, But Not His Plan

As part of a renewed motion for bond for her client Zach Rehl, Carmen Hernandez released a copy of the “We the People” plan referenced in the indictments that include Enrique Tarrio. The document is disturbing and in some way reflects the plan to occupy the Capitol achieved during the insurrection on January 6. And it is evidence reflecting Tarrio’s — though not necessarily Rehl’s — motive. But it is not Tarrio’s plan.

We the People Plan

The plan itself consists of nine pages. The last two — intended for public consumption as a recruiting device — issue a demand for a new election on January 20, pledge fondness for Rand Paul and Ron DeSantis, and include a map.

The other seven pages lay out the plan to occupy Congressional office buildings and CNN but not the Capitol itself (one of the points Hernandez makes in her bond motion). The goal was to occupy the buildings with as “many people as possible inside these buildings” and then “present[] our demands in unity.”

The plan envisioned spending January 1 through 5, as well as on January 6 itself, recruiting as many participants as possible, using the public flier. Then, in advance of the attack on January 6, the buildings would be scouted by people wearing suits to blend in. For each building, the plan aspired to recruit a “covert sleeper” who would use a ruse to get inside the building and let others in, with a backup if the first person is discovered. This plan to have someone from the inside open doors to let others in does resemble something that happened on the East side of the Capitol, as Joe Biggs, the Oath Keepers, and the mob led there by Alex Jones all assembled in time for someone to open that door from inside.

The plan advocated using COVID masking to obscure identities (something none of the Proud Boys did, though one of Rehl’s co-travelers, as well as a few others, did a superb job of hiding his face via other means). It also proposed ways to distract by occupying other locations (like hotels and WalMart) and to block select roads in DC. There were conflicting chants — the same people who would chant “No Trump, No America” were also going to demand, “Free and fair elections,” which Trump lost. The plan advocating “sit[ting] in” key Senators’ offices, but then didn’t really understand what to do next.

One area where the plan most closely matches the one ultimately implemented by the Proud Boys was in timing: The mob was supposed to meet at 1PM, then an assessment would be made at 1:22PM if “enough people are around?,” then at 1:30, “Wait for sign from lead, storm the building.” Compare that timeline to this one put together by the Sedition Hunters. Both, importantly, were tied to the vote certification, not Trump’s speech.

The plan appears to have been developed by one or another of the “patriot” groups, which were separate from but with which the Proud Boys had some ties (and, at least in the case of some “Patriots” from Texas, fundraising ties). DOJ has only charged individual pairs of such rioters with conspiracy, even though there was a larger network passing such plans back and forth.

But this was their plan, not the Proud Boys’ plan.

Zach Rehl’s disproportionate charging

And that’s one of the points that Hernandez made in the bond motion. Rehl — and the other charged defendants — had no awareness of the document (though that would not include Jeremy Bertino, who is not currently a charged defendant).

The document was never shared or otherwise discussed with Mr. Rehl. 1776 Returns was sent to Mr. Tarrio by a female acquaintance. Mr. Rehl does not know the woman who sent the document and has not had any conversations with her. The government has represented that Tarrio did not forward the document to Mr. Rehl or the other defendants. And that Tarrio did not discuss the document or its contents with Mr. Rehl and the other defendants.

As I’ll show below, in the government’s theory of the conspiracy, in which Tarrio was a hierarchical head of the militia, that may not matter. The government has accused Rehl of following Tarrio’s plan, not this one.

Hernandez makes another point I find much more persuasive, though. Rehl is included in a sedition conspiracy with Tarrio, the hierarchical leader, Joe Biggs and Ethan Nordean, the onsite leaders who discussed an orally agreed plan starting on January 5, and Dominic Pezzola, whose actions were absolutely crucial from a tactical standpoint. Compared to them, he did play a smaller role in the conspiracy. As conspiracies work legally, that doesn’t necessarily help him much at trial, but this is a bond motion, and it might.

Hernandez cites one of Rehl’s co-travelers, who include Isaiah Giddings, Brian Healion, and Freedom Vy, stating that Rehl wasn’t really in charge and they just entered the Capitol to take a peak.

After the initial breach, [defendant] was with Zach [and two others]. [They] wanted to “go in and take a peek” and that they made the decision to enter the Capitol Building as a group. [Defendant] was curious as to what was going on inside the CapitolBuilding. . . . They left the building as a group.”

It’s true that these three men have, thus far, just been charged with a misdemeanor. But after Hernandez filed this filing yesterday, the prosecutor in their case, Alexis Loeb, filed for a continuance so prosecutors could continue to discuss a pre-charging resolution with these defendants.

The parties therefore request a 69-day continuance to allow defense counsel to continue their review of the discovery in this case. The requested continuance will also allow the government to continue to make progress providing additional discovery and continue discussions potential pre-charging resolution of this matter.

Hernandez also cites Jeff Finley’s treatment, who was with Rehl for part of the day (Hernandez refers to Finley having a cooperation agreement, which may confirm something that was fairly clear from his treatment).

By his own admission, on January 6, Finley marched with the Proud Boys from the start and participated and posted on the Boots on the Ground telegram chat. Id. (ECF 38) at ¶ 8. Finley watched as the barricades were torn down; after the crowd overran law enforcement, he followed the crowd onto the west terrace of the Capitol; and also invited other members of his chapter to join him at the Capitol. During these events, Finley 8 posed for a photograph with Mr. Rehl and three other Philadelphia Proud Boys “on the Upper West Terrace of the U.S. Capitol during the breach.” 9

After entering the Capitol and observing barricades torn down and the crowd overrunning law enforcement, Finley posted a video message, which among other things celebrated the events of the day and congratulated Mr. Rehl (“Yo, [Zach Rehl], proud of your (sic) fucking boy”). Finley (ECF 38) at ¶ 23. Finley deleted social media posts and photographs of himself and other Proud Boys at the Capitol and directed members of his chapter to do the same. Id. Despite almost identical 10 conduct by Finley and notwithstanding the allegations that Finley obstructed justice by deleting and directing members of his chapter to delete posts, the government did not consider Finley a risk of danger and did not seek his detention pretrial.

10 “Following the events at the Capitol on January 6, 2021, Finley took measures to obstruct the government’s investigation into criminal conduct at the Capitol. Among other things, Finley deleted his social media accounts and deleted photos and videos of himself and other Proud Boys at the Capitol. Finley also directed members of his chapter to delete their photographs and advised the presidents of other Proud Boys chapters of his actions, writing in an encrypted message, “Deleted all photos I may have had, advised my boys to as well. No talks about dc on telegram whatsoever and gathering #s as we speak.” Finley (ECF 38) at ¶ 24

According to Hernandez, the single thing that distinguishes Rehl from Finley is that Rehl was a member of the Ministry of Self Defense that Tarrio created in December 2020 as a leadership structure for what came next. She argues, in defiance of years of Proud Boy modus operandi, that the group was formed to avoid violence (rather than to better to incite it from others). And several things she cites actually hurt her argument. She cites Tarrio’s demand for a top-down structure, for example.

Now that goes with the whole thing. I don’t want this – this isn’t a foke (phonetic) thing. This isn’t a fuckin’, a thing where it’s going to be a fuckin’ super militant fuckin’ thing, but we do need to organize better and in order to do that, we need to have a top down structure, right.

She makes much of Tarrio’s demand that the Proud Boys will not, henceforth, be the ones to cross police barricades.

MR. TARRIO: Yeah, I mean every situation calls for something different, you know. Like we’re – I think on the verbalsense and the media sense, me and Biggs has got in on lock, where we know exactly what we’re going to say that will piss off the media. And you can translate that to on the grounds. Now I’m not saying, now I’m not saying to go ahead and fuckin’ talk shit. Go ahead and talk shit, as long as it, you know, keep it fuckin’ professional. But we’re never going to be the ones to cross the police barrier or cross something in order to get to somebody. We’re always going to be the ones standing back, right, and we’re always going to be the ones to fuckin’ defend. [Hernandez’ emphasis]

The Proud Boys weren’t the ones who crossed the barricade first on January 6. Instead, Joe Biggs made some comments to Ryan Samsel, and Samsel pushed over the barricades, giving Officer Caroline Edwards a lasting brain injury in the process and setting off hundreds of people behind him.

And Hernandez points to Bertino’s warnings (whom she names in a piece that also describes that Person-1 is the guy who, like Bertino, got stabbed at an earlier Proud Boy fight) about being stabbed to excuse the body armor the Proud Boys wore on a day when they targeted the Capitol at a time when few if any Antifa were present.

There’s a long redacted passage that, she explains, “refute the allegation that … MOSD planned a violent attack on the Capitol.”

Matters considered by the Court under seal also refute the allegation that the Proud Boys and the MOSD planned a violent attack on the Capitol.

This seems to be a reference to one of, if not the primary extended sealed dispute in this docket before Judge Kelly. Given Hernandez’ description of it, it may be the testimony of an FBI informant who repeatedly denied any such plans. Except that informant went to insurrection with the Kansas City cell of Proud Boys, and two of them — Louis Colon and Ryan Ashcroft — have since pled guilty to statements of offense that seem to directly counter the claims of their co-traveler.

Finally, Hernandez presents what is solid evidence that Rehl was not part of the planning discussions that did go on between Tarrio, Biggs, and Nordean, but which is not evidence that there was no plan.

That was the only plan communicated to the MOSD, to Boots-on-the-Ground and to Mr. Rehl. See also TSI at ¶¶ 63-65; Donohoe Plea (ECF 336 at ¶¶ 22-24). Note also that Mr. Rehl’s understanding of the plan was, as discussed in the 12/30 MOSD meeting, to break off into smaller teams. Mr. Rehl was not with Biggs and Nordean on the evening of January 5 and Tarrio was not in DC. Mr. Rehl did not speak with Tarrio by phone on January 5 or January 6. Compare TSI at 22 ¶¶ 63, 105. Thus, any communications between Mr. Rehl and Biggs, Nordean, or Tarrio on January 5, would have been on telegram. No message exists where they discuss a plan to attack the Capitol.

There was a meeting on January 5 involving Biggs and Nordean, after which Biggs explained that he had a plan that had been discussed with Tarrio. Rehl was not in that loop (and indeed had only just made it to DC). But there are repeated references to this plan.

I lay all this out for two reasons. First, probably because of some difficulties with the prosecution (including the number of Proud Boy informants, including Joe Biggs, that the FBI took to be credible and so got lied to), DOJ’s prosecutorial decisions don’t make transparent sense in the way they do with the Oath Keeper conspiracy, which has been a relentless march towards more senior plotters. But also because, at least according to the government’s theory of how this worked (which does appear in both Matthew Greene and Charles Donohoe’s statements of offense), this attack was implemented using a top-down structure led by a guy, Tarrio, giving oral instructions from offsite. And those oral instructions may have been influenced by the plans of others that Tarrio was known to be in contact with in December, only one of which is this “We the People” plan.

Tarrio’s motive and plan

And that’s why, I would argue, the “We the People” document is in the existing conspiracy indictments. It led Tarrio to express his own motive twice. The sedition indictment has two references to it. First, in regards to discussions Tarrio had with the woman who shared it with him in December, well before the Proud Boy plan was finalized.

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 oceupy 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.”

To her (using a phone Tarrio believed would not be exploited, and which did take a year to be exploited), he agreed that “the revolution is [sic] important than anything,” Tarrio seemingly agreed that “every waking moment” he spent was dedicated to that revolution.

Then, after an attack led by the Proud Boys (who had succeeded in recruiting others to break through the barricades) Tarrio made a reference that suggests Bertino — referred to here as Person-1 — does know about this plan.

107. At 7:39 pm, PERSON-I 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-I 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.

In response to Bertino’s boast of 1776, Tarrio responded with the code for occupying buildings, Winter Palace. That is, this seems to be his tacit reference to the plan to occupy buildings.

But this exchange goes well beyond that of the We the People plan, which imagined issuing a set of demands but didn’t know what would happen next. This occupation, as reflected by Bertino’s awareness that “They HAVE to certify today! Or it’s invalid,” reflects some knowledge of the entire legal theory espoused by people like John Eastman: that to succeed in winning their demands, occupiers needed to ensure that the certification did not happen as scheduled.

Rehl has a point (though prosecutors, being prosecutors, would note that it’s the same point that Donohoe, who only came to DC on January 6 to fill in for Tarrio after the Proud Boy leader predictably got arrested and so retreated to Baltimore for the actual violence) came to: that Tarrio set up this conspiracy to insulate himself, leaving people like Donohoe and Rehl to take the fall for his plan.

Comings and Goings on the Proud Boy Leaders Prosecution

When DOJ finally added Enrique Tarrio to the Proud Boy leader conspiracy, I noted that the way DOJ has structured the prosecution team for the Proud Boys made it really hard to understand where things were headed.

I’ve been expecting and predicting this indictment since December 28. But for the life of me, I’m not sure where DOJ expects to go from here.

This indictment describes the numbers of people massed at several stages of the operation. 65 members on the Ministry of Self Defense (MOSD) Members Group. 90 people in the New MOSD members group created on January 4. Approximately 100 Proud Boys who met at the Washington Memorial the morning of the attack. Donohoe bragging at 12:00PM on January 6 that “WE ARE WITH 200-300 PBS,” just before they kicked off the riot.

Perhaps this framework is meant to provide a way to implicate all those others, 300 people who agreed, by signing up, that they were following a plan that DOJ has now shown (and that Matthew Greene’s cooperation was designed to show) was a plan to occupy buildings from the start.

But otherwise, this still feels really dispersed, and the prosecution team (which consists of three visible members for the leadership conspiracy, including Erik Kenerson, Jason McCullough, and Luke Jones, and about four detailees from other offices for satellite cases; a fourth prosecutor who had been on the core cases, Christopher Berridge, left immediately after [Matthew] Greene pled) has a far harder caseload than the significantly larger team on the Oath Keepers.

Perhaps something will really start to crystalize as some of these continuances end in April. Or perhaps DOJ will be serially prosecuting Proud Boys for the foreseeable future.

That remains true. But on Friday, there were several minor structural changes worth noting. I’ve attempted to summarize the status of some key Proud Boy and related cases here (I’ve only listed a judge if it is someone other than Tim Kelly).

First, Trial Attorney Conor Mulroe filed a notice of appearance in the Proud Boy Leaders and the Biggs Co-Traveler cases. He hasn’t shown up on any January 6 cases before this. It’s likely he was added because on April 22, Judge Kelly set a trial date in the Proud Boy leaders for August 8. That is, it’s likely he was added to start preparing for trial. But the Biggs co-travelers, on whose case he also filed an appearance, won’t be going to trial anytime soon. That’s partly because three of the defendants have to work through the conflict created by John Pierce’s representation of three of them — Paul Rae, Kevin Tuck, and Nate Tuck (though Pierce recently ceded representation to William Shipley for the Tucks). In hearings, prosecutors have said that at least three of the defendants are considering plea deals.

Then Luke Jones, who has been part of the Leaders case from the start, dropped off the case (he recently dropped off an unremarkable misdemeanor case as well though remains on the Ryan Nichols and Alex Harkrider case). Jones had been focusing on Zach Rehl’s prosecution, and he remains on the Rehl co-traveler case, which has not yet been indicted. I don’t know what to make of his departure (perhaps a recognition that his efforts to flip Rehl won’t ever come to fruition?). Jones has, in the past, worked on national security cases, and in fact was listed as prosecuting Russian hacker Evgeny Viktorovich Gladkikh in the press release (though not the docket). That case will never go to trial (because the US is not about to get custody of Gladkikh anytime soon). But it suggests that Jones may have spent time last June helping co-counsel present that case to a DC grand jury.

I’m most interested in the addition of Nadia Moore to the Leaders case. She’s a Brooklyn-based prosecutor, among five or so prosecutors from around the country who’ve been working the Proud Boy cases (in this table, William Dreher is from Seattle, Alexis Loeb is from San Francisco, Michael Gordon is from Tampa, and Christopher Veatch is from Chicago). And as the table makes clear she has been working the Florida-based Proud Boy and related cases, as well as the case of Steven Miles and Matthew LeBrun, who spent January 6 with Florida Proud Boys AJ Fischer and friends, and the former of whom is accused of helping to bust open the other side window in the original breach of the Capitol. This may suggest the government believes they’ll obtain the testimony of multiple Floridians against Biggs and Tarrio.

Meanwhile, a slew of these cases have just one (listed) prosecutor, including the Kansas City case with its five remaining defendants.

We’ll still see some significant movements in the Proud Boys cases. But for now, the focus — as so much of the January 6 investigation is — may be on Florida.

Update, 6/1: Today Jones dropped off the Nichols and Rehl co-traveller cases.

The Tactics of the Louis Enrique Colon Cooperation Agreement

As Capitol Police attempted to lower a barricade protecting the tunnels of the Capitol on January 6, Proud Boy Louis Enrique Colon reached out and prevented it from closing, then placed a chair to further obstruct the gate.

While inside the Capitol building, defendant observed co-defendants Chrestman, Felicia Konold, and Cory Konold at various points inside of the building, including in a downstairs area of the Capitol near where several retractable doors were being lowered by police officers in an attempt to stop rioters from proceeding further into a portion of the building. To prevent one of the doors from closing, defendant used his hands to stop the door and placed a chair in the door’s path, while co-defendant Kuehne and another individual placed a podium in the path of another door.

That’s the basis of the single charge to which Colon pled guilty as part of a cooperation agreement yesterday, 18 USC 231, Civil Disorder.

Defendant knowingly obstructed, impeded, and interfered with law enforcement officers while those officers were lawfully engaged in their official duties incident to a civil disorder that was occurring inside of the Capitol. Among other things, defendant prevented officers from closing a retractable door which was intended to prevent rioters from advancing further into a portion of the restricted Capitol building.

In my opinion, this is, by any measure, the most lenient overt plea deal a January 6 defendant has gotten (and a comment that one of the lawyers in the plea hearing yesterday made suggested that it had recently been sweetened). On top of this charge and trespassing, Colon was originally charged in a conspiracy with other members of the Kansas City Proud Boys, as well as individually with obstruction. With credit for cooperation, according to his plea deal, the former cop may avoid any prison time.

That’s all the more remarkable given that Colon’s statement of offense reveals that he went to the Capitol with a pocket knife and an axe handle.

Among other things, defendant purchased and modified an axe handle to be used as both a walking stick and an improvised weapon

[snip]

Defendant and the group ultimately made their way to the west side of the Capitol’s grounds, outside of the restricted, fenced-off perimeter which had barricades staffed by USCP officers. At the time, defendant was wearing a backpack, pocket knife, tactical vest, tactical gloves, boots, and a helmet adorned with orange tape.

While the knife may be too short to trigger enhancements, carrying an acknowledged weapon has been used to enhance the penalties of others, though it is also the kind of thing prosecutors have used to flip people.

In other words, either Colon’s cooperation is so valuable, or DOJ needed it so badly, that he got a really sweet plea deal even in spite of bringing an “improvised weapon.”

So I’d like to discuss what DOJ may be doing tactically.

First, some background. The Oath Keepers investigation has been marked by a relentless march of new cooperators, publicly unveiled: Jon Schaffer, Graydon Young, Mark Grods, Caleb Berry, Jason Dolan, Joshua James. Boom. Boom. Boom. Boom. By contrast, just two of the overt Proud Boy cooperators have the kind of plea deal that implicates the wider conspiracy, Matthew Greene and Charles Donohoe. For whatever reason — apparently thinner staffing, greater numbers of participants, difficulties created by Enrique Tarrio’s arrest and delayed phone exploitation, investigative equities, corrupt lenient treatment, or a more important role in the overall investigation — DOJ has been using different tactics to get cooperation from Proud Boys and other key far right personalities. As an example, Jeff Finley (like Brandon Straka and likely, soon, Baked Alaska) seems to have cooperated in advance to avoid a felony altogether. So did Jeremy Grace, though his statement of offense implicated his far more complicit father who, if he ever cooperated, might implicate far more important tactical players. Ricky Willden’s statement of offense barely hints at what he knew that day.

Particularly given a reference made to Colon “continu[ing]” his cooperation in the hearing yesterday, this feels more like the kind of deal Finley got, where someone works their way out of more serious charges (which in Colon’s case would be obstruction with a weapons enhancement) ahead of time. That kind of cooperation makes it less visible, but also may make testimony harder to impeach down the road.

With that in mind, I’d like to look at four aspects of his statement of offense.

First, as virtually all conspirators who flip do, Colon implicated his co-conspirators, describing how:

  • Ryan Ashlock, Christopher Kuehne, and another individual traveled with Colon from Kansas City
  • Kuehne brought two AR-15 or similar assault rifles on the trip
  • Kuehne, at defendant’s suggestion, purchased orange, fluorescent tape so the group would be able to identify each other in a crowd
  • William Chrestman, Kuehne, and Ashlock, and others met on January 5 to talk about safety
  • The Konold siblings joined their group on the way to the meet-up at the Washington Memorial
  • Colon saw Chrestman, Felicia Konold, and Cory Konold as police officers attempted to stop rioters from proceeding further into a portion of the building (though the statement of offense doesn’t describe their efforts to prevent it) [my emphasis]

That is, at one level Colon’s cooperation simply shores up the third major Proud Boy conspiracy, just like Donohoe, Greene, and Finley provided direct evidence against the Leader conspiracy.

But consider this big story from Alan Feuer from September. According to 302s that defendants have gotten, one of just two known actively-handled informants among the Proud Boys that day said he had no advance knowledge of plans to disrupt the vote certification.

After meeting his fellow Proud Boys at the Washington Monument that morning, the informant described his path to the Capitol grounds where he saw barriers knocked down and Trump supporters streaming into the building, the records show. At one point, his handler appeared not to grasp that the building had been breached, the records show, and asked the informant to keep him in the loop — especially if there was any violence.

[snip]

On Jan. 6, and for months after, the records show, the informant, who was affiliated with a Midwest chapter of the Proud Boys, denied that the group intended to use violence that day. In lengthy interviews, the records say, he also denied that the extremist organization planned in advance to storm the Capitol. The informant’s identity was not disclosed in the records.

[snip]

But statements from the informant appear to counter the government’s assertion that the Proud Boys organized for an offensive assault on the Capitol intended to stop the peaceful transition from Mr. Trump to Mr. Biden.

On the eve of the attack, the records show, the informant said that the group had no plans to engage in violence the next day except to defend itself from potential assaults from leftist activists — a narrative the Proud Boys have often used to excuse their own violent behavior.

Then, during an interview in April, the informant again told his handlers that Proud Boys leaders gave explicit orders to maintain a defensive posture on Jan. 6. At another point in the interview, he said that he never heard any discussion that day about stopping the Electoral College process.

As Feuer noted at the time, if you ignore that this Proud Boys showed up late, this informant’s testimony significantly undermines claims of prosecutors.

There are multiple clues in Feuer’s article and elsewhere — most notably the reference to a young woman (likely to be Felicia Konold) — that this informant was affiliated with the Kansas City cell.

He said that when he arrived, throngs of people were already streaming past the first barrier outside the building, which, he later learned, was taken down by one of his Proud Boy acquaintances and a young woman with him. [my emphasis]

In other words, until such time as DOJ secures testimony to contradict that of their informant, these interviews remain a weak point in the case against the Proud Boys.

They may have gotten that testimony yesterday.

Now consider what this particular cell of the Proud Boys did — and why that may have led DOJ to be satisfied with just the less serious 231 charge against Colon.

DOJ has charged conspiracy tied to January 6 in a bunch of ways: most spectacularly with some Oath Keepers, seditious conspiracy, also with those Oath Keepers (and the alleged Brian Sicknick assailants), conspiracy to injure an officer, and for most people charged with a conspiracy, either the conspiracy charge tied to the obstruction statute (18 USC 1512k, which carries greater penalties), or conspiracy under 18 USC 371.

But for a few of the Proud Boy conspiracies, including this Kansas City cell, the 371 conspiracy had two objects: to obstruct the vote count, but also to obstruct the cops. That’s basically a conspiracy to commit 18 USC 231, the charge Colon pled guilty to.

And the particular act of obstruction that this cell engaged in — preventing the cops from closing the gates leading to tunnels via which rioters correctly believed members of Congress had fled — is one of the most important tactically. That is, this may show not just a desire to mess with the cops, but a plan to go after members of Congress.

This cell is important for the means by which the Proud Boys made things work on January 6. And Colon may be a key witness to the tactical implementation of plans that went into that day.

Finally, consider the description, from Colon’s statement of offense, of this meeting the night before.

In the evening on January 5, 2021, defendant attended a meeting with co-defendants William Chrestman, Kuehne, and Ashlock, and others during which group safety was discussed. At some point during the meeting, another individual said that he did not come to Washington, D.C., to just march around and asked, “do we have patriots here willing to take it by force?” Defendant was shocked by this and understood that the individual was referring to using force against the government. Co-defendant Kuehne responded to the question by saying that he had his guns with him and, in essence, that he was ready to go. The individual who posed the question said that they should “go in there and take over.” [my emphasis]

DOJ has been doing a lot of work unpacking the degree to which coordination happened at meetings on January 5 (I expect we’ll see it in more expected plea agreements going forward). These meetings were critically important for getting everyone on the same page, including a bunch of people who weren’t otherwise affiliated.

We have no idea what this meeting was — we’re still looking for details on a meeting that Joe Biggs and Ethan Nordean attended around 9PM the night before, though I doubt that’s what this is.

The description is important for several reasons. First, the focus on “group safety” seems to match the informant’s claim that, “On the eve of the attack … the group had no plans to engage in violence the next day except to defend itself from potential assaults from leftist activists.” Except if it’s that same meeting, then the informant would have also heard someone express a desire to take DC by force, in response to which Kuehne, who is a former Marine, said he was ready to go. At the very least, this description could correct the informant’s claims; it may prove them false.

But it also significantly advances the evidence that some of the Proud Boys, like some of the Oath Keepers, were thinking of using force against the government.

That’s the kind of evidence that has, with the Oath Keepers, helped persuade others to plead out and cooperate.

Update: Note that Robert Gieswein also wore orange tape to insurrection; he allegedly sprayed cops trying to close that barricade.