Capitol riot: FBI informant testifies in defense of Proud Boys

WASHINGTON– An FBI informant who marched to the US Capitol with other members of the Proud Boys on January 6 testified Wednesday that he was unaware of any plans for the far-right extremist group to invade the building and didn’t think they had inspired violence. That day.

The informant, who identified himself in court only as ‘Aaron’, was a defense witness at the trial of former Proud Boys leader Enrique Tarrio and four lieutenants charged with seditious conspiracy to what prosecutors called a plot to keep Donald Trump in the White House. after the 2020 presidential election.

The informant was communicating with his FBI handler when the crowd of Trump supporters broke through police barricades at the Capitol on January 6, 2021.

“Barriers lifted to the construction of the capital. The crowd surged, almost to the building now,” the tipster texted. In another post, he wrote that the Proud Boys “didn’t do it, or inspire it.”

“The crowd did like a herd mentality. Not organized,” he wrote. The manager’s response was drafted from a screenshot a defense attorney showed jurors.

His testimony comes as defense attorneys attempt to undermine prosecutors’ claim that the Proud Boys conspired to attack the Capitol and prevent Congress from certifying President Joe Biden’s election victory in a joint session on 6 January.

The presence of government informants in the far-right group came up repeatedly during the lengthy trial, raising new questions about intelligence failures in the days leading up to the riot. A US Senate report examining security flaws surrounding the riot found that law enforcement had intelligence as of January 6 that some Trump supporters were threatening violence and planning a siege to prevent the certification of the Biden victory.

“Aaron,” who was allowed to withhold his last name while testifying, is one of several Proud Boys associates who were FBI informants before or after the Jan. 6 attack. He is the first to testify at the trial, one of the most important to emerge from the Justice Department’s massive investigation into the Capitol Riot.

The informant, however, who joined the Proud Boys in 2019, said he was not a group leader and did not know any Tarrio or any of the other leaders on trial. He was not in any of the Telegram conversations that the leaders of the Proud Boys on trial are accused of using to plot in the days leading up to January 6.

The informant said his relationship with the FBI began around 2008, about eight years before Vice Media co-founder Gavin McInnes formed the Proud Boys. He said the FBI did not ask him to join the Proud Boys or ask him to gather information about the group.

The informant told jurors he was planning his trip to Washington with members of a Kansas City chapter of the Proud Boys, including at least four accused of conspiring to prevent the Jan. 6 Electoral College vote. The FBI did not ask him to go to Washington on Jan. 6 or walk with the Proud Boys that day, he said.

He said he contacted his master on January 6 because he considered it an “emergency situation”.

“If there had been violence and all that, they would have wanted to know,” he said of the FBI.

The informant told jurors that the march from the Washington Monument to the Capitol appeared to be a photo opportunity for the Proud Boys.

“I didn’t know the specific purpose other than just being on the street and being seen,” he said.

Tarrio, a Miami resident who served as the group’s national president, and the other Proud Boys could face up to 20 years in prison if convicted of seditious conspiracy. Tarrio was not in Washington on January 6. Tarrio had been arrested in a separate case days earlier, but authorities say he helped spark the violence that day.

Jurors also heard testimony from two other former members of the Proud Boys who agreed to cooperate with the government after being charged with crimes related to the riots. Those government witnesses, Matthew Greene and Jeremy Bertino, both said they were unaware of any specific plans to storm the Capitol.

But Bertino, a North Carolina regional leader of the group who pleaded guilty to seditious conspiracy, told jurors the far-right group conspired to violently prevent Biden from taking office because they were trying to “save the country” of what they feared. to be a tyrannical government.

Hundreds of privately exchanged messages shown to jurors during the trial show how the Proud Boys grew increasingly restless as Trump’s legal challenges fell through in the weeks leading up to Jan. 6. The posts also show the Proud Boys celebrating the attack on the Capitol. and their role in it.

“Do what needs to be done,” Tarrio wrote on social media as crowds stormed the Capitol. Later that day, someone asked in a cryptic group chat what to do next.

“Do it again,” Tarrio replied. In another message, Tarrio urged the Proud Boys to stay at the Capitol on January 6.

“Make no mistake about it,” he wrote. “We did that.”

Ethan Nordean, Joseph Biggs, Zachary Rehl and Dominic Pezzola are also on trial along with Tarrio. Nordean, of Auburn, Washington, was a chapter leader of the Proud Boys. Biggs, of Ormond Beach, Florida, was a self-proclaimed Proud Boys organizer. Rehl was president of the Proud Boys chapter in Philadelphia. Pezzola was a member of the Proud Boys from Rochester, New York.

Prosecutors closed their case on March 20. Jurors are expected to hear several days of testimony from defense witnesses before hearing closing arguments.

Nordean’s attorney, Nicholas Smith, called the informant as a witness. The informant said the FBI interviewed him within 10 days of his return from Washington.

The informant entered the Capitol on January 6 and stayed inside for about 20 minutes. He said he felt justified in entering the Capitol because he believed he could stop rioters from destroying objects of “historical significance.”

“I didn’t want to stay in there any longer than necessary,” the informant testified.


Follow AP coverage of the Capitol Riot at

ABC News

Not all news on the site expresses the point of view of the site, but we transmit this news automatically and translate it through programmatic technology on the site and not from a human editor.
Back to top button