The indictment is arguably the most significant in the ten weeks since a crowd of Donald Trump supporters – seeded with cells of organized extremist groups like the Proud Boys and Oath Keepers – stormed the Capitol, sending lawmakers and then Vice President Mike Pence on the run for security and injured more than 100 police officers.
And the Proud Boys case could go beyond the four current defendants. One allegation in the new indictments is that up to 60 people were on a secure, encrypted communication channel that the group set up to coordinate their activities on the day the Capitol was stormed.
A conspiracy charge against 10 Oath Guards has been pending for weeks and is expected to include up to five other defendants, although some members appear to be low-level members who have teamed up with organizers.
In contrast, the conspiracy charge brought against Proud Boys Friday is directed against the group’s leadership.
Tarrio, who was arrested when he arrived in Washington two days before the January 6 attack on the Capitol, is not charged in the new indictment but for his alleged role in violence at a rally in support of former President Donald Donald broke out, separately indicting Trump in December. But after that time, according to prosecutors, Tarrio stayed in touch with the other four Proud Boys leaders as they discussed a strategy for the Capitol’s rush.
Prosecutors have repeatedly warned in court that their investigation is still at an early stage as piles of new video and documentation evidence – some from Capitol surveillance cameras and some from phones and computers seized during searches across the country – continues end up in their offices.
According to the prosecution, the four leaders were alarmed that their encrypted communications could be breached after police arrested Tarrio. So they decided to “nuclearize” the previous chat and set up two new channels before January 6th: “New MOSD” and “Boots on the Ground”, the latter for the Proud Boys who had gathered in Washington. According to prosecutors, around 60 people took part in this channel.
On these channels, the Proud Boys leaders discussed a leadership strategy in Tarrio’s absence, and one person identified as an “unindicted co-conspirator” stated that Nordean – under the pseudonym Rufio Panman – was the group leader in Washington, prosecution, had been appointed fight.
“Rufio is responsible, police officers are the main threat,” said the unaccounted co-conspirator, according to the indictment, to employees on the encrypted channel. “[D]Don’t let them or BLM catch you, get drunk off the street first. “
According to the notices contained in the indictment, Rehl then stated that he would bring Baofeng radios to Washington that would be programmed so that Proud Boys could communicate throughout the day. At several moments, members of the group leadership admonished their allies to remain “decentralized” or to break up in “groups” for their march on the Capitol.
The indictment related to Nordean, Biggs and Rehl entering the Capitol in the earliest waves, closely followed by several other previously identified Proud Boys who broke through the building, such as Dominic Pezzola and William Pepe.
Biggs, who had entered through a door near Pezzola who had smashed a window with a police impact sign, left the Capitol early to pose for a picture on the steps before passing through another along with two other proud boys Door kicked back in, say prosecutors. Then he went to the Senate Chamber.
At 3:38 pm, as the first waves of rioters left the building, Donohoe sent an encrypted message to the “Boots on the Ground” channel to indicate, “We are regrouping with a second force.”
In previous trials, Nordean had argued that he had no access to communications that day and that a radio he had bought, which was in the Baofeng style of the other Proud Boys, had only arrived at his home on January 7th.
Prosecutors at the time also backed away from evidence saying Nordean directed the Proud Boys’ strategy of splitting into groups to target Capitol doors with few police officers or fortifications. However, prosecutors reiterated that the plan returned in the new indictment on March 10 and was released on Friday.