Jeremy Bertino is the first Proud Boys frontman to plead guilty to seditious conspiracy

A lieutenant to longtime former Proud Boys president Henry “Enrique” Tarrio became the first member of the group to plead guilty to seditious conspiracy during the Jan. 6 riot at the Capitol on Thursday, deepening the government’s case. against an organization accused of having mobilized violence to prevent the inauguration of Joe Biden.

Jeremy Bertino, 43, of Belmont, North Carolina, becomes a potential key witness for the Justice Department against Tarrio and four other Proud Boys leaders, some of whom had ties to influential supporters of President Donald Trump. The five Proud Boys defendants are set to go on trial in December for, among other charges, plotting to forcibly oppose the presidential transition, which culminated in the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the Capitol.

At a hearing before U.S. District Judge Timothy J. Kelly in Washington, Bertino pleaded guilty to that count and one count of unlawful possession of firearms as a formerly convicted felon, face 51 to 63 months in prison at sentencing under federal advisory guidelines, prosecutors said.

From December 2020 to January 2021, Bertino “knowingly allied, conspired, confederated and agreed with ‘the leaders of the Proud Boys’ and others known and unknown, to oppose by force the authority of the government of the United States and forcibly delaying the execution of the laws governing the transfer of power,” the two-page charging document alleges.

In a sign of the sensitivity and potential importance of Bertino’s testimony, prosecutors agreed that if he provided “substantial cooperation,” they would seek leniency at sentencing and may enroll Bertino in a witness protection program at the court. Ministry of Justice.

Bertino held a place in the inner circle of Proud Boys leaders accused of conspiring to hobble Congress with angry Trump supporters as lawmakers gathered to confirm election results. Bertino’s North Carolina home was raided in March at the same time Tarrio was arrested on charges that he and at least four other people “directed, mobilized and directed” a crowd of 200 to 300 supporters on the Capitol grounds. Many in that crowd are accused of carrying out some of the earliest and most aggressive attacks on police and property.

At the time of the search, Bertino allegedly possessed two pistols, a shotgun, a bolt-action rifle and two AR-15 type semi-automatic rifles with scopes. Bertino was convicted in 2004 of first degree reckless endangerment in the state of New York, a felony, and sentenced to five years probation with a term in local jail, according to court filings.

Bertino’s testimony could implicate Tarrio, a former assistant to GOP Strategist Roger Stoneand co-defendant Joe Biggs, a former employee Alex Jones, host of Infowars Online. Stone and Jones are two prominent right-wing figures who have promoted Trump’s inflammatory and baseless claims that the election was stolen.

Stone stayed in touch with Trump at Mar-a-Lago and in Washington in the weeks leading up to the Jan. 6 attack, coordinated post-election protests, and strategized privately with figures such as the former national security adviser Michael Flynn and ‘Stop the Steal’. ‘ organizer Ali Alexander, reported The Post.

Exclusive post: The Roger Stone Tapes – Video shows efforts to overturn 2020 election results

Stone also communicated via encrypted texts after the 2020 election with Tarrio as well as with Stewart Rhodes, the founder and leader of a second far-right group, the Oath Keepers, accused of playing an outsized role in the planning and organizing violence on Capitol Hill. . Rhodes was on trial Thursday for seditious conspiracy in the same courthouse where Bertino pleaded.

Tarrio and Rhodes were on a Signal chat group called “FOS” – or Friends of Stone, and the pair met in an underground parking lot next to the Capitol on the eve of January 6 with the leaders of two pro-Trump grassroots groups.

Jones, meanwhile, promoted a podcast from November 20, 2020 by Tarrio in which he suggested in a swear-laden appeal that Trump supporters are infiltrating Biden’s inauguration and turning it into a “circus, a sign of resistance, a sign of revolution.” This podcast, which featured Tarrio co-defendants Ethan Nordean and Biggs, a former Infowars employee, was first reported by online news site The Daily Dot and seen by The Post.

Rhodes, Tarrio, Nordean and Biggs pleaded not guilty to seditious conspiracy and other charges. Stone, who has not been charged, has categorically denied any involvement in the Jan. 6 offense. He previously told the Post, “Any claim, assertion, or implication that I have knowledge of, imply, or condone the unlawful acts on Capitol Hill on January 6th is categorically false and there are no witnesses or documents to prove otherwise. “

An attorney for Alexander said he testified before a federal grand jury this summer after being assured he was not the target of the investigation. Jones’ attorney did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Prior to Bertino, all four of the 14 people charged with the historically rare charge of seditious conspiracy in the Capitol riots who pleaded guilty were affiliated with the Oath Keepers.

Tarrio and Bertino were not present in Washington on January 6, the only two defendants of more than 870 federal defendants who were not. But prosecutors alleged Bertino was in direct contact with Tarrio, who was overseeing the Baltimore events, and Nordean, who was in charge in Washington, according to a 10-count indictment against the couple and court documents. previous charges.

Released videos show Proud Boys leader Enrique Tarrio meeting with Oath Keepers leader Stewart Rhodes the day before the attack on the Capitol. (Video: U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Columbia)

For example, Bertino was a guest on Nordean in a video linked to Parler sur December 31st in which Bertino called Proud Boys”right wing soldiers“at war, and Nordean said the Americans must”desensitizethemselves to violence.

On December 30 and 31, according to his indictment, Tarrio exchanged messages with an individual who sent him a plan called “1776 Returns” to occupy “crucial buildings” in Washington, including the House and Senate. His indictment said the individual sent a message to Tarrio, the “revolution is [sic] important than anything,” to which Tarrio replied, “That’s what every waking moment is about…I don’t play games.

Proud Boys leader charged with conspiracy in Capitol insurrection

On January 4, according to his indictment, Tarrio posted a voicemail message to a group of Proud Boys “Ministry of Self-Defense” leaders, stating, “I haven’t heard that voice note until now. , you want to storm the Capitol. After the Capitol breach, Tarrio wrote in a Telegram group chat, “We did this,” prosecutors said.

That night, Bertino – previously identified as “Individual A” or “Person 1” in the charging documents – messaged Tarrio “1776”, exulting with a profanity, and Tarrio replied “The Palace of Winter,” according to the indictment. Prosecutors allege this is a reference to a Proud Boys planning document that had a section titled “Storm the Winter Palace,” referring to the 1917 Russian Revolution and the former Imperial Palace of St. -Petersburg which was attacked by the Bolsheviks, CNN reported for the first time.

Bertino also suggested to Tarrio that the election result could be invalidated if lawmakers did not vote by midnight, an argument that echoed efforts by Trump’s own lawyers to deny Biden’s victory.

Bertino has been on the radar of the FBI and a House select committee investigating the events of January 6.take a step back and stay awayduring a 2020 presidential debate, according to a video clip of his interview played during a House hearing in June.

Social media posts, video recordings from January 6 and before load papers by the FBI also indicate that the leaders of Nordean and Proud Boys were motivated to confront the police that day in part by what they perceived as an insufficient response to the stab Bertino outside Harry’s Bar in downtown Washington after a pro-Trump protest the month before.

In Proud Boys live video taken at the Capitol shortly before it was stormed, Nordean can be seen shouting to police through a megaphone, “You took our boy and you let our stabber go” – an apparent reference to Tarrio’s arrest and the dismissal of charges against another man originally accused of involvement in a December 12 scrum. On January 4, Nordean shared a post of a photo of himself and Bertino captioned “And fight we will”, and included a link to his “Rebel Talk with Rufio” podcast, in which he and Bertino discussed the stabbing.

At least two other Proud Boys defendants have pleaded guilty to conspiring to obstruct joint congressional proceedings on Jan. 6 and agreed to cooperate with the government, Matthew Greene, 34, of Syracuse, NY, and Charles Donohoe, 34 years old, from Kernersville, NC

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