On Thursday, the first member of the far-right Proud Boys to plead guilty did so in connection with his involvement in the assault on the U.S. Capitol that took place on January 6, 2021.
Jeremy Bertino, a 43-year-old from Belmont, North Carolina, is a possible crucial witness against five other members of the organization, including former Proud Boys Chairman Enrique Tarrio, who will go on trial in December on charges of seditious conspiracy.
In April, Charles Donohoe, 34, from Kernersville, North Carolina, a sixth member of the Proud Boys, pled guilty to conspiracy to impede an official action and assaulting, resisting, or hindering officials.
On Thursday, prosecutors claimed Bertino was not at the Capitol on January 6, 2021 because he was still healing from a stabbing he suffered in a December 2020 dispute.
However, it was reported that he had agreed to join Tarrio’s “Ministry of Self Defense” in December 2020. According to the prosecution, Bertino conspired with other members of Congress to prevent the certification of Democratic Joe Biden’s election victory, in part because they believed that Trump’s election had been stolen.
The government claims that whilst he was healing from his wounds, he secretly spoke with other members and encouraged them by asking them to “form a spear” in preparation for an assault on the Capitol.
He also shared things like this on his own social media account: “RESIST THE URGE TO GO HOME. ON THE VERGE OF SAVING THE CONSTITUTION.”
Bertino pled guilty to a gun charge in addition to the seditious conspiracy charge after the FBI discovered six loaded weapons and over 3,000 rounds of ammunition during a search of his house in March. According to court documents, he was disallowed from having firearms owing to an earlier conviction for reckless endangerment in New York state in 2004.
The first seditious conspiracy trial of Trump supporters accused of plotting the Capitol attack has begun, and Bertino has pleaded guilty. Including Oath Keepers’ original leader Stewart Rhodes, five of the group’s associates are on trial in that case.
Bertino has agreed as part of his plea agreement to testify in front of a grand jury or at trial if asked to do so by federal prosecutors.
After a virtual hearing before U.S. District Court Judge Timothy Kelly in Washington, DC, authorities said that he might get a term of up to five years and three months in prison and a fine of up to $200,000.
Prosecutors, however, have indicated that they could try to have Bertino’s sentence reduced and that he might be eligible for a witness security program if he cooperates.
Rarely prosecuted, the seditious conspiracy provision dates back to the Civil War and criminalizes any plan “to overturn, put down, or to destroy by force the government of the United States.”
Three other Oath Keepers, Joshua James, Brian Ulrich, and William Todd Wilson, all pled guilty last year to seditious conspiracy charges related to the incident, joining Bertino in prison.
They have yet to hear their sentences but may be summoned as witnesses in the case against Rhodes and the other defendants.
Trump’s second impeachment was a direct consequence of the assault of the Capitol by Trump supporters, which failed to impede the legislative certification of Biden’s election win. A total of five persons were killed during or immediately after the incident, and around 140 police officers were injured.