Proud Boys leader pleads guilty to seditious conspiracy over Jan. 6 actions



Tarrio is set to go on trial in December, along with Proud Boys Ethan Nordean, Joe Biggs, Zachary Rehl and Dominic Pezzola, who was the first member of the Jan. 6 mob to breach the Capitol when he shattered a Senate-wing window with a police riot shield.

Prosecutors say Tarrio and his allies developed a plan to besiege the Capitol, relying on — and in fact organizing and spurring on — members of the mob to help break through police lines and get inside the Capitol. It was part of an effort that prosecutors say was intended to disrupt the peaceful transfer of presidential power.

Kelly accepted Bertino’s plea after asking Bertino a series of standard questions to ensure, under oath, that Bertino entered it voluntarily and without being threatened or coerced.

The seditious conspiracy charges against the Proud Boys leaders are the gravest leveled by the Justice Department against any of the more than 850 defendants charged in connection with the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol.

Bertino was briefly featured during video testimony aired by the Jan. 6 select committee during its first public hearing in June. He described a surge in Proud Boys membership after then-President Donald Trump urged the group to “stand back and stand by” during a debate against Joe Biden.

“Would you say that Proud Boys numbers increased after the stand back, stand by comment?” an investigator asked.

“Exponentially. I’d say tripled probably,” Bertino replied.

Several leaders of the far-right Oath Keepers, including founder Stewart Rhodes, are currently on trial for seditious conspiracy as well, just down the hall from where Bertino entered his plea. Prosecutors say they spent the weeks after Election Day fomenting an “armed rebellion” against the government and seizing on the opportunity created by the Jan. 6 mob to disrupt the transfer of power.

In documents accompanying his plea, Bertino joined the Proud Boys in 2018 and admitted to attending Washington, D.C., rallies with the group after the 2020 election. He was one of a handful who was stabbed during civil unrest at a Dec. 12, 2020, event — which he describes as the reason he wasn’t present on Jan. 6.

Bertino was on an encrypted chat with other Proud Boys leaders, including Tarrio, in the weeks before Jan. 6, and he says in his plea documents that he believes the group’s plan “was to stop the certification of the Electoral College Vote” on Jan. 6, even if it involved “using force against police and others.”

Hours after the attack on the Capitol, Bertino messaged Tarrio saying “You know we made this happen” and “1776 motherfucker.”

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