Judge delays Proud Boys trial amid January 6 committee uncertainty

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The trial of five Proud Boys leaders — facing seditious conspiracy charges related to the January 6, 2021 attack on the Capitol — will be postponed until at least December, a federal judge ruled Wednesday, citing continuing publicity and the uncertainty surrounding January 6, 2021. 6 select committee.

Judge Tim Kelly, with the support of several of the Proud Boys defendants and the Justice Department, said he would “reluctantly” set December 12 as the new date to begin selecting a jury for the trial, which, according to prosecutors, is expected to last four to six weeks. . But Kelly also raised the prospect of more time, if the parties agreed to wait until after the holidays.

The ruling, which Kelly said he would expand on in an upcoming order, ensures that one of the two most high-profile lawsuits stemming from the Jan. 6 attack will extend beyond the insurgency’s second anniversary. Prosecutors say the Proud Boys played a pivotal role in the attack, mobilizing pro-Donald Trump mob members to converge on key access points that helped overwhelm law enforcement and facilitate the breach in the building.

The ruling also highlights the tension between the Justice Department and the Jan. 6 select committee, which is simultaneously gathering evidence about the Proud Boys’ role in the attack, as well as its ties to figures in the orbit of Trump. The panel has already introduced several Proud Boys defendants by name in its ongoing series of public hearings, including National President Enrique Tarrio, Florida Proud Boy Joseph Biggs and New York Proud Boy Dominic Pezzola.

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Rep. Jamie Raskin (D-Md.) also plans to lead a subsequent hearing, scheduled for July, that will focus on the connection between the Trump world and domestic extremism, including the Proud Boys. The Justice Department noted that the hearing could create additional pretrial publicity for the Proud Boys.

The department has urged the select committee in recent weeks to share its 1,000 witness transcripts with prosecutors, but the panel has so far refused, preferring to retain sole control of the evidence it has collected. Prosecutors complained that the committee’s reluctance hampered their ability to move forward with the Proud Boys’ prosecution, and they agreed that the possibility of additional evidence becoming public created potential ‘prejudice’ that justified a delay in the trial. .

Rep. Bennie Thompson (D-Miss.), chairman of the Jan. 6 select committee, said he plans to start sharing some of his evidence with the Justice Department in July, but not before the committee is ready. has completed its list of public hearings. He stressed, however, that it would not be a “shared transcript” and that the committee would not let the ministry keep the material, only review it.

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“I think we can sort this out,” he said.

Thompson’s proposal may present an additional challenge for the Justice Department. Kelly ordered the department to immediately share any new evidence it receives from the committee with the defendants in order to fulfill evidence sharing and discovery obligations. But if the Justice Department is allowed to view evidence only in committee spaces, it’s unclear how the department would share it with Proud Boys attorneys.

Tarrio is the only seditious conspiracy defendant who has opposed the postponement of the trial, saying it would be impossible for him to have a fair trial with an impartial jury in Washington, DC, either in August or December.

Kelly rejected a Justice Department suggestion to begin jury selection in mid-December, but suspended opening statements until early January. Despite concerns from several of the defendants about the challenge of choosing an impartial jury, Kelly said it was “not rocket science” and that he did not want to delay the start of the trial once a jury was formed.

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“I think we have an obligation, once we’ve formed the jury, to really move forward without interruption,” Kelly said.

Instead, he said, if the Justice Department and the Proud Boys agree, he would consider delaying jury selection until January, to avoid any holiday-related disruption.

Asked about the trial delay, Raskin said he was interested in reading Kelly’s rationale. He declined to say whether he considered the Justice Department’s interest in the committee’s evidence a legitimate reason to delay the trial.

The panel has previously interviewed Tarrio, who sat for a deposition in February. It’s unclear whether other members of the Proud Boys have sat down for interviews, including those facing seditious conspiracy or other felony charges for their role in the Jan. 6 attack. Dozens of members of the group, as well as allies who were not official members, were charged with taking part in the January 6 riot, and many of them pleaded guilty.

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