Speed Reads

Capitol Siege Aftermath

Proud Boys leader pleads guilty to seditious conspiracy, agrees to cooperate with feds

Jeremy Bertino, a Proud Boys leader from North Carolina, pleaded guilty to seditious conspiracy and gun charges on Thursday, becoming the first member of the far-right group to admit to seditious conspiracy — the toughest charge prosecutors have filed in the Jan. 6, 2021, Capitol riot investigation — and the first Proud Boys leader to plead guilty to any charges. He agreed to cooperate with the government in its seditious conspiracy case against five other Proud Boys leaders, set for trial in December. 

Bertino, 43, formally entered his guilty plea at a court hearing in Washington, D.C., down the hall from where Stewart Rhodes and other leaders of the Oath Keepers militia are being tried for seditious conspiracy for their roles in the Jan. 6 insurgency. U.S. District Judge Tim Kelly accepted Bertino's guilty plea. 

The charges he admitted to carry maximum jail terms of 30 years, but "in a sign of the sensitivity and potential importance of Bertino's testimony, prosecutors agreed that in exchange for 'substantial cooperation,' they could seek leniency at sentencing and enter Bertino into a Justice Department witness protection program," The Washington Post reports. They said they would recommend a sentence in the four- to five-year range.

The five Proud Boys members facing trial for seditious conspiracy — conspiring to forcibly overthrow the government, impede its laws, or seize its property — are former national chairman Henry "Enrique" Tarrio, Joe Biggs, Zachary Rehl, Ethan Nordean, and Dominic Pezzola.

Neither Tarrio nor Bertino were at the Capitol on Jan. 6 — Tarrio had been arrested on other charges two days earlier and barred from the capital, and Bertino was recovering from a stab wound he got at a bar fight in D.C. in December. Encrypted text messages showed both men were involved in planning an attack, as Bertino's plea deal says, to "stop the certification of the Electoral College vote" on Jan. 6, even if it involved "using force against police and others."

Four people affiliated with the Oath Keepers have also pleaded guilty to seditious conspiracy, and two Proud Boys have pleaded guilty to lesser Jan. 6 conspiracy charges. In all, the Justice Department says, more than 870 people have been arrested for Jan. 6–related crimes, and "the investigation remains ongoing."