SEATTLE — A jury is deliberating in the landmark seditious conspiracy trial against a former Proud Boys leader and four other members including Ethan Nordean of Auburn.
Nordean is facing nine federal charges including seditious conspiracy, a civil war era law that’s rarely used and can be hard to prove.
Legal experts said it’s one of the most serious cases to come from the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol.
“This is a major federal crime that I think carries a lot of significance in terms of the message it conveys about the wrongfulness of these actions,” said Danieli Evans, Assistant Professor at Seattle University School of Law.
The trial focused on actions before and after the attack on the U.S. Capitol to prove the Department of Justice’s case.
Defense attorneys argue it was spontaneously incited by then-President Donald Trump. During the more than three-month trial, prosecutors showed jurors hundreds of messages alleging a plot to stop the peaceful transfer of power.
A federal indictment showed encrypted messages between Enrique Tarrio and other members including Nordean planning the attack before Jan. 6.
The indictment showed social media posts of Nordean’s following the November 2020 election which said: “We tried playing nice and by the rules, now you will deal with the monster you created. The spirit of 1776 has resurfaced and has created groups like the Proud Boys and we will not be extinguished.”
The indictment stated Nordean created a crowdfunding campaign to buy protective gear and radios used on Jan. 6 and detailed events that allege he lead Proud Boy members from the Washington Monument to storm the Capitol.
Evans said seditious conspiracy is rarely used and can be hard to prove.
Evans said prosecutors will have to prove to jurors that there was an agreement to commit a crime, an overt act, and has to prove mental state.
“They will also have to prove that when they did that, they had in their mind the intent to actually do those acts, and use force to actually do those acts," Evans said. "Proving mental state can be challenging. You have to prove it went beyond just making statements or making casual posts on social media and crossed the line into illegal conduct."
Evans points out that federal prosecutions successfully argued that charge earlier this year against the Oath Keepers.
“The fact that a conviction was successful in the Oath Keepers case, suggests that it might be possible here as well,” Evans said.
More than 1,000 people have been arrested in connection to Jan. 6. At least 15 from Washington state, including a Bremerton man who was convicted earlier this week on federal misdemeanor charges.
This case against the Proud Boys carries more weight and a 20-year maximum sentence for seditious conspiracy
“The government is taking very seriously, as it should, efforts to undermine the legitimacy of our political process,” Evans said.