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Jury in Proud Boys seditious conspiracy Jan. 6 case to begin deliberations Wednesday

After 4 1/2 half months of testimony, arguments and sealed hearings, the jury in the Proud Boys seditious conspiracy case will finally begin deliberations Wednesday morning. 

Defense attorneys for Proud Boys leader Enrique Tarrio delivered closing arguments today in the long trial, laying the blame for Jan. 6 squarely at Donald Trump's feet. 

"It was Donald Trump's words, it was his motivation, it was his anger that caused what occurred on Jan. 6 in your amazing and beautiful city," attorney Nayib Hassan said, "They want to use Enrique Tarrio as a scapegoat for Donald Trump and those in power."

As other defense attorneys argued, Hassan said there was "no plan…no objective" to enter the building or obstruct Congress during the Capitol breach. 

"Did Enrique Tarrio make comments that were egregious," he asked the jury. "Absolutely." He added, "You may not like what he said, it but is First-Amendment protected speech." 

Hassan then tried to identify weaknesses in each of the government's witnesses in an attempt to raise questions about their testimony.

Dominic Pezzola's attorney, Steve Metcalf, was equally critical of the Justice Department's case, calling its  evidence a "fair dust conspiracy."  Metcalf said his client accepted responsibility for some actions during the breach, like taking a police shield to smash a Capitol window. But he asked incredulously, "Seditious conspiracy, are you kidding me?"

The government, he alleged, worked to enflame the jury and mislead jurors into convicting the defendants. Pezzola acted alone, Metcalf contended, and was part of no conspiracy.

And in a somewhat rambling closing argument of his own, Inforwars defense attorney and the legal representative for Joseph Biggs alleged, "The facts in this case are that Donald Trump was compelled into using the Proud Boys as a prop," prompting objections from Justice Department and the court, WUSA reported.

The Justice Department used its final words to refute the defense's claims, arguing the jury the evidence at trial is indisputable and the defendants should be convicted.

The federal jury on Tuesday heard a second day of attorneys' closing arguments in the landmark trial for former Proud Boys extremist group leaders charged with plotting to violently stop the transfer of presidential power after the 2020 election, on Jan. 6, 2021.

The Proud Boys prosecution is one of the most serious cases to come out of the attack on the Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021, which temporarily halted Congress' certification of Joe Biden's presidential election victory over Donald Trump. Tarrio and four lieutenants are charged with seditious conspiracy — a rarely used charge that carries up to 20 years behind bars.

A prosecutor told jurors on Monday that the Proud Boys were ready for "all-out war" and viewed themselves as foot soldiers fighting for Trump as he spread lies that Democrats stole the election from him.

"These defendants saw themselves as Donald Trump's army, fighting to keep their preferred leader in power no matter what the law or the courts had to say about it," prosecutor Conor Mulroe told jurors.

Tarrio, a Miami resident, is on trial with Ethan Nordean, Joseph Biggs, Zachary Rehl and Dominic Pezzola. Nordean, of Auburn, Washington, was a Proud Boys chapter president. Biggs, of Ormond Beach, Florida, was a self-described Proud Boys organizer. Rehl was president of a Proud Boys chapter in Philadelphia. Pezzola was a Proud Boys member from Rochester, New York.

Attorneys for Norden and Rehl gave their closing arguments on Monday. Lawyers for Biggs and Pezzola also are expected to make their final appeals to jurors on Tuesday before prosecutors deliver their rebuttal and the case goes to the jury.

Tarrio is one of the top targets of the Justice Department's investigation of the Capitol riot. Although Tarrio wasn't in Washington that day, he is accused of orchestrating an attack from afar.

The foundation of the government's case, which started with jury selection in January, is a trove of messages that Proud Boys leaders and members privately exchanged in encrypted chats — and publicly posted on social media — before, during and after the deadly Jan. 6 attack.

Defense attorneys have tried to portray the far-right group as a drinking club that only engaged in violence for self-defense against antifascist activists.

Nicholas Smith, attorney for former Proud Boys chapter leader Nordean, said on Monday that prosecutors built their case on "misdirection and innuendo." He told jurors there is no evidence of a conspiracy between unarmed Proud Boys who marched toward the Capitol with beer cans in their hands, pausing to stop at food trucks.

"They can't even order McDonald's, and they're planning to stop what the government is calling the peaceful transfer of power?" Smith asked. "Where is the conspiracy?"

The Justice Department has already secured seditious conspiracy convictions against the founder and members of another far-right extremist group, the Oath Keepers. But this is the first major trial involving leaders of the far-right Proud Boys, a neofacist group of self-described "Western chauvinists" that remains a force in mainstream Republican circles.

Robert Legare contributed to this report.

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