Lawyers for several of the men argued their clients could not receive a fair trial by an impartial jury amid the panel’s January 6 public hearing
The trial of the extremist group of five leaders the Proud Boys, including Enrique Tarrio, charged with seditious conspiracy in connection with the attack on the US Capitol of at least December 6. U.S. District Judge Timothy Kelly, with the support of several Proud Boys defendants and the Justice Department, said he would “reluctantly” end the May 8 trial.
The decision to postpone the trial came after attorneys for several of the men argued their clients could not receive a fair trial by an impartial jury amid a public hearing by the House Committee investigating the Capitol attack. They are also waiting for the committee to share documents that could become evidence at the trial. Earlier on Monday, June 6, the Justice Department indicted Proud Boys leader Enrique Tarrio and four other leaders of the seditious conspiracy in the January 6 attack on the US Capitol. Judge Kelly’s ruling means one of the two most high-profile cases arising from the Capitol riots will be decided after the two-year anniversary of the riot.
The defendants include Henry “Enrique” Tarrio, 38, of Miami, Fla., former national chairman of the Proud Boys; Ethan Nordean, 31, from Auburn, Washington; Joseph Biggs, 38, of Ormond Beach, Fla.; Zachary Rehl, 37, of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania; and Dominic Pezzola, 44, of Rochester, New York.
The trial was scheduled to begin Aug. 8 and was expected to last more than a month, raising the possibility that the trial would clash with the scheduled final hearing and public report of the House of Representatives in September. Justice Department prosecutors concurred with the delay. They said the House committee’s failure to release the testimony and interview transcripts also hampered their ability to investigate and prosecute the January indictees. The panel has so far preferred to retain exclusive control over the evidence it collects. Additionally, Rep. Jamie Raskin is planning another hearing, scheduled for July, that will focus on the connection between the Trump world and domestic extremism, including the Proud Boys. The Justice Department notes that the hearing could give the Proud Boys additional exposure before the trial.
One of the defense attorneys, John Hull, wrote in a court filing that the House hearings had tainted the jury pool of “lovably wacky, wobbly, media-savvy Washingtonians,” reports Business Insider. Meanwhile, prosecutors said the extra time would help them review information from the House Selection Committee that may be “relevant” to the defendants’ guilt. Federal prosecutors wrote, “The parties to this case may find themselves in the unprecedented position of pursuing a criminal trial at the same time as the release of a congressional report that is likely to include robust descriptions of the criminal conduct of the defendants.”
However, Tarrio is the only one opposed to postponing the trial scheduled for August 8. “Our position is that it doesn’t matter when this case is heard, whether it’s August or December,” said Sabino Jauregui, Tarrio’s attorney, the judge said. “We’re not going to get an impartial jury in Washington, DC,” Jauregui said. “We are ready for the August 8 trial.” However, the judge seemed to brush aside Tarrio’s objection. “Mr Tarrio is looking forward to his trial day and to showing a full picture of all the evidence the government intends to present in court,” Jauregui said.
The judge refused to accept federal prosecutors’ suggestion that the opening speech be scheduled for Jan. 2 after the bank holiday. “We won’t have that many weeks from the time we start selecting a jury to an opening statement,” he said. “The parties should be prepared to open this week,” he added. “We’re not going to let these people sit around December through January waiting for an opening statement,” the judge said. “I just don’t see a world where that’s appropriate. We’re going to have a quick start and we should be ready to pick them. At the end of the day, it’s not rocket science.”
At the House Committee’s first hearing, the panel played footage of interviews in which members of the Proud Boys said they felt emboldened when Trump told the extremist group to “stand back and stand by” during a September 2020 debate. In an interview with the House Committee, Tarrio said he regrets not selling T-shirts that say “stand back and stand by.” “One of the salespeople on my site actually beat me to it, but I wish I’d made a ‘stand back stand by’ t-shirt.”