WASHINGTON (AP) — The month before the riot at the United States Capitol, members of the Proud Boys grew increasingly angry over the outcome of the 2020 election and expected a “civil war,” said a former member to the jury on Tuesday as he took the stand in the seditious conspiracy case against the group’s former leader.
Matthew Greene testified in the case against former Proud Boys National President Enrique Tarrio and four lieutenants under a government cooperation agreement after pleading guilty to storming the Capitol on January 6, 2021, with other extremists.
Greene told jurors that the Proud Boys’ conversations became more heated as December 2020 progressed and challenges to President Donald Trump’s election defeat were fruitless. The Proud Boys were “ready and willing for whatever was to come,” Greene said, adding that the group saw themselves as “essentially the tip of the spear.”
“We openly expected a civil war at that time,” Greene said.
Greene is the first Proud Boys cooperator to take a stand in the case accusing Tarrio and his associates of plotting to forcibly stop the transfer of power from Trump to President Joe Biden. He was the first member of the Proud Boys in December 2021 to publicly plead guilty to conspiring with others to prevent Congress from certifying the Electoral College vote. He is cooperating with prosecutors in hopes of getting a lighter sentence.
Prosecutors allege members of the Proud Boys carried out a coordinated attack on the Capitol in a desperate attempt to keep Trump in power. It is one of the most significant cases to emerge from the Justice Department’s sprawling Jan. 6 investigation.
The other co-defendants are Joseph Biggs, of Ormond Beach, Fla., a self-proclaimed Proud Boys organizer; Zachary Rehl, who was president of the Proud Boys chapter in Philadelphia; and Dominic Pezzola, a member of the Proud Boys from Rochester, New York.
Defense attorneys say there is no evidence the Proud Boys conspired to attack the Capitol and prevent Congress from certifying the Electoral College vote on Jan. 6. A lawyer for Tarrio has acknowledged that the former president and other self-proclaimed ‘Western chauvinists’ in the Proud Boys shared ‘offensive’ messages, but said it was Trump who started the mob that attacked the Capitol. .
Greene, who was a new Proud Boys recruit on Jan. 6 and says he has since left the group, said he was unaware of any specific plans to storm the Capitol. He said leaders did not openly encourage members to use force, but when it happened it was celebrated.
“I expected that if the violence started you shouldn’t back down,” he said.
Tarrio, who is from Miami, was not in Washington on Jan. 6 because he was arrested two days before the riot and charged with vandalizing a Black Lives Matter banner at a historic black church during a protest. in December 2020. He was ordered to leave the capital, but prosecutors say he remained engaged in the extremist group’s planning for January 6.
Others likely to testify against Tarrio include Jeremy Bertino, the only Proud Boy to plead guilty to seditious conspiracy. A statement of offense filed in court says Bertino understood the Proud Boys’ purpose in traveling to Washington was to prevent certification of Biden’s victory and that the group was prepared to use force and violence if necessary to do so.
Greene’s testimony comes a day after four members of another far-right group, the Oath Keepers, were convicted of seditious conspiracy in a separate case at the same Washington courthouse. The leader of the group and another Oath Keeper were convicted of sedition in November.
Greene traveled from Syracuse, New York, to Washington with other Proud Boys on January 5 and was at the front of the crowd on January 6 when police began using pepper spray and other control measures crowds.
One of them was Pezzola, who is accused of snatching a police riot shield from an officer and then smashing a Capitol window. Greene was with him around the time it happened, but soon after he began to have second thoughts and turned back, he testified. He did not see Pezzola again until much later that day.
Associated Press writer Alanna Durkin Richer in Boston contributed to this report.
Follow AP’s coverage of the Capitol Riot at: https://apnews.com/hub/capitol-siege
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