The former leader of the right-wing militia group the Proud Boys, Enrique Tarrio, and four associates were charged with seditious conspiracy for their role in the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the U.S. Capitol by Donald Trump's supporters, Reuters reports. Federal prosecutors accused the five men of plotting the attack in advance and encouraging others to prevent Congress from certifying his 2020 election defeat by Joe Biden. Thousands of Trump supporters stormed the Capitol after Trump's fiery speech repeating his false claims that his loss was result of widespread fraud, an allegation repeatedly rejected by multiple courts, state election officials and members of Trump's own administration. Federal prosecutors rarely use the seditious conspiracy charge, defined as attempting "to overthrow, put down or to destroy by force the government of the United States."
The new charges were filed against Tarrio, Dominic Pezzola, Ethan Nordean, Joe Biggs and Zachary Rehl. They are accused of encouraging other Proud Boys to come to Washington on Jan. 6, 2021, raising money to buy bulletproof vests and other tactical gear, and directing crowd members into the Capitol and assaulting police once the attack was underway. The indictment said that three days before the attack, Tarrio received a document titled "1776 returns" that laid out plans to occupy buildings in the Capitol complex. Tarrio was ordered to stay out of Washington as a condition of his release from an arrest the month before Jan. 6, but prosecutors say he still played a leading role in the attack. He returned to Washington on Jan. 5. The new charges come days before the U.S. House of Representatives plans to hold its first prime-time hearing that will attempt to reverse Republican efforts to downplay or deny the violence of the day.