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'Retaliation' worries don't derail jury selection in Proud Boys case

Former national chairman Enrique Tarrio and four co-defendants are accused of plotting to attack the U.S. Capitol Building on Jan. 6, 2021.

WASHINGTON — After 10 days of questioning, a jury of seven men and nine women was selected Monday to hear the government’s case against five members of the Proud Boys accused of conspiring to instigate the assault on the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021.

The defendants – Ethan Nordean, Joseph Biggs, Zachary Rehl, Dominic Pezzola and Enrique Tarrio – all face at least nine counts alleging they conspired to stop the transfer of presidential power on Jan. 6 by destroying fencing around the U.S. Capitol Building, assaulting, resisting or impeding police and obstructing the joint session of Congress. Pezzola, a New York resident and U.S. Marine Corps veteran, faces an additional 10th count of robbery alleging he stole a riot shield from a U.S. Capitol Police officer.

With the exception of Pezzola, whose attorneys told WUSA9 he only joined the Proud Boys in late 2020, all of the defendants are accused of holding organizing or leadership roles in the group. Tarrio previously served as the national chairman of the Proud Boys prior to his arrest in D.C. two days before the Capitol riot on charges stemming from the burning of a church’s Black Lives Matter flag. Nordean, of Washington state, was an organizer and member of the group’s “Elder Chapter” of national leaders. Biggs, who previously worked for the online outlet InfoWars, was a “self-described organizer” of Proud Boys events, according to prosecutors. Rehl served as the president of the local Philadelphia chapter of the group.

A federal grand jury indicted all five men in March of seditious conspiracy – the same charge of which two members of the Oath Keepers were convicted in November – conspiracy to obstruct an official proceeding and conspiracy to obstruct members of Congress and law enforcement from discharging their duties. Prosecutors have alleged Tarrio possessed a document titled “1776 Returns” that laid out a plan to occupy “crucial buildings” in D.C. on Jan. 6, including House and Senate office buildings. Members of the Proud Boys are also accused of inciting the mob, of participating in charges against police lines and, in Pezzola’s case, of breaching the first window into the Capitol. All five defendants have denied any plan or conspiracy to disrupt the joint session of Congress or incite violence on Jan. 6.

Although jury selection in previous Jan. 6 trials has frequently taken longer than usual, owing to the many potential jurors with connections to the Capitol, selecting a jury to hear the Proud Boys case was a particularly lengthy process. Selection began Dec. 19 and continued for more than two weeks until 12 jurors and four alternates were selected Monday. Unlike in the Oath Keepers trial, where potential jurors often had fairly generic, if any, familiarity with the group, many potential jurors were cut due specific knowledge about the Proud Boys – including the group’s participation in a violent Dec. 14, 2020, evening in D.C. that ultimately resulted in Tarrio spending five months behind bars.

At least two jurors also expressed concern about serving in the trial, with one asking for potentially personally identifiable information about himself to be struck from the court record and another telling the presiding judge Monday he had developed serious anxiety about the possibility of retaliation against him were he to vote to convict any of the five Proud Boys. The potential juror, who was excused from service, did not allege anyone had threatened him or contacted him in any way and said he had previously suffered from an anxiety disorder.

Opening arguments had been expected to begin Tuesday, but were bumped back to Wednesday after a Connecticut judge suspended the law license of attorney Norm Pattis, who is representing Biggs, for improperly giving other attorneys representing Alex Jones records in his defamation case related to comments about the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting. The trial was expected to last more than a month and involve dozens of witnesses and hundreds of exhibits.

We're tracking all of the arrests, charges and investigations into the January 6 assault on the Capitol. Sign up for our Capitol Breach Newsletter here so that you never miss an update.

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