Proud Boys “had no target” on January 6, the defendant testifies

WASHINGTON (AP) — A former leader of the Proud Boys took the stand on Tuesday to challenge seditious conspiracy and other serious allegations in the Jan. 6, 2021 attack on the US Capitol, telling jurors the group had testified this day “no goal”. .

“On January 6th there was no target. I even checked on the chat the night before,” Rehl, 37, testified, referring to the chat the Proud Boys used to communicate with before the riot. “There were no goals. We just wanted to walk around town. I’ve said over and over again I want the trial to go through. This is the process on which our country was founded.”

Rehl is on trial alongside former Proud Boys national leader Enrique Tarrio and three others accused of plotting to violently stop President Donald Trump’s transfer of power to President Joe Biden. They face up to 20 years in prison if convicted of seditious conspiracy.

Another defendant, Dominic Pezzola of Rochester, New York, is also scheduled to testify before the long-running trial concludes next week.

Political cartoons

Tarrio is not expected to take a stand. Neither are Ethan Nordean of Auburn, Washington, or the Proud Boys’ self-proclaimed organizer Joseph Biggs of Ormond Beach, Florida.

Marching with other Proud Boys on January 6, Rehl entered the Capitol through a door on the west side of the building, but testified that he waited until he knew all members of Congress were outside before entering. He said no one told him to attack the Capitol, injure anyone, or damage anything, and he did none of it.

He said he joined the group in 2018 to build his network while trying to start a business, although he conceded it likely had the opposite effect. He portrayed his membership of the group as more of a form of social drinking with friends, describing Trump as a businessman whom he had respected since childhood but also as a “loudmouth”.

Rehl’s decision to testify could see him grilled by prosecutors when the case resumes Wednesday.

He was a member of a group Tarrio set up for “national rally planning” called the Ministry of Self-Defense. He warned would-be members about a week before January 6 that it would be an “entirely different operation” and not a “night march” to have their arms “bent,” prosecutors said in indictment documents.

His social media messages cited by prosecutors included one dated November 27, 2020, which said, “Hopefully the firing squads are for the traitors trying to steal the election from the American people.”

On the evening of January 6, when asked by his mother if he was okay, Rehl replied and said he was fine, saying it “seems like our raid on the capital had a chain reaction of events across the country.” triggered. I’m so (expletively) proud.”

Former Proud Boys, who testified for the prosecution after pleading guilty, said that while they did not know a detailed plan for storming the Capitol, they had a common goal to keep Trump in office.

Rehl is not the first January 6 defendant charged with seditious conspiracy to take the witness stand. In the first trial of members and associates of another far-right group, the Oath Keepers, three out of five defendants testified – with mixed results.

Oath Keepers leader Stewart Rhodes testified that he had no idea they were going to join the mob and storm the Capitol and said he was upset after finding out some members were doing so. Despite his testimony, he was convicted of seditious conspiracy and other crimes and is due to be sentenced next month.

But two other Oath Keepers defendants who took the stand were acquitted of the sedition charge. However, the jury found all five defendants guilty of obstructing an official proceeding: Congress’ confirmation of Biden’s election victory.

Associated Press writers Michael Kunzelman and Alanna Durkin Richer contributed to this story.

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