Federal Judge Timothy Kelly, who was originally nominated to the federal judiciary by then-President Donald Trump himself, decided this week that federal prosecutors could use a clip of Trump from a 2020 debate in a trial against five individuals involved with the far-right group the Proud Boys.
Those going on trial are facing allegations of seditious conspiracy in connection to actions they took around the Trump-incited Capitol riot in 2021. The list of defendants includes Enrique Tarrio, a former national leader of the group, and Dominic Pezzola, who smashed a stolen riot shield into a window at the Capitol building and helped kickstart the breach of the building itself following violence outside. The clip prosecutors wanted to use shows an infamous moment when Trump said of members of the Proud Boys that they should “stand back and stand by” — which, no matter any claims of original intentions on the now former president’s part, was promptly celebrated in far-right circles, including by Tarrio himself. Some seemed to take the comments in a fashion similar to the reception for a later Twitter post from Trump in which he told his followers to show up in Washington, D.C., on January 6.
The day’s events would be “wild,” Trump said, providing another perceived far-right call to arms — in a literal sense for the members of the right-wing extremist group the Oath Keepers who sought to stockpile weapons ahead of what turned out to be the Capitol riot. According to CNN, Kelly concluded the then-president’s comments about the Proud Boys during that debate outlined “an additional motive to advocate for Mr. Trump [and] engage in the charged conspiracy.” Nick Smith, a lawyer representing one of the charged members, argued specifically the opposite. Kelly himself noted how Tarrio publicly touted the then-president’s remarks, also according to CNN. The comments Trump made could be argued to have provided an impetus for action by group members.
At the trial, among those expected to provide testimony is Charles Donohoe, who also has a history with the Proud Boys and already pleaded guilty to seditious conspiracy in connection to the Capitol violence. Like other felony charges used against riot participants, the offense comes with up to 20 years in prison if found guilty, although no rioter has yet received a sentence that long. Elsewhere, Trump is also now facing another civil lawsuit over his role in the Capitol riot, this time from Sandra Garza, the longtime girlfriend of the late Capitol Police officer Brian Sicknick, who died of a series of strokes very soon after helping defend the Capitol against the rioting Trump supporters. Garza, who filed her case in her personal capacity and as a representative of Sicknick’s estate, accuses Trump of involvement in wrongful death and is seeking millions in financial penalties.