Attorneys for the Proud Boys members charged with seditious conspiracy this week on Thursday accused the Department of Justice of “mixing politics and criminal justice.”
“Mixing politics and criminal justice is dangerous, and we have to run from it like fire,” said attorney David Smith, representing Proud Boys members Ethan Nordean, according to The Washington Post.
The leader of the far-right group, Henry “Enrique” Tarrio, echoed the attorney in accusing the DOJ of making political calculations in indicting the Proud Boys defendants just as the public hearings by the House Committee investigating the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol began.
Tarrio’s attorney Nayib Hassan wrote on Wednesday that the indictment “suspiciously seems orchestrated at the highest levels of government” to occur just as Jan. 6 hearings began to be televised.
“But when you look at the timing of the government’s indictment,” added Smith in court. “When the charges could have been brought, and what is coming from the Capitol this week, there is no doubt what is happening, and it’s un-American, Judge.”
Proud Boys defense attorneys called on U.S. District Judge Timothy J. Kelly to accelerate the trial currently scheduled for Aug. 8 to allow them to speak out against perceived unfair publicity.
Kelly, who was appointed by former President Trump in 2017, rejected claims made by the attorneys that the 10-count indictment was politically motivated.
“To make the sweeping conclusion that there is no other explanation for the timing of this is unwarranted,” said Kelly according to the Post, commenting that prosecutors had said in March that they could bring charges by late May.
“The government strenuously objects to the premise there is any coordination going on between this office and the select committee in the timing of charges or the decision to bring the superseding indictment in this case, full stop,” said Assistant U.S. Attorney Jason B.A. McCullough.
Ten prominent Proud Boys members are accused of attempting to use violence to obstruct the government, in the second historically rare charge of seditious conspiracy brought in the aftermath of the Jan. 6 insurrection.
Despite Proud Boy leader Tarrio’s physical absence from the riots on Jan. 6, prosecutors argue that he was instrumental in preparing the group to obstruct Congress from certifying President Joe Biden’s victory over Trump.
“Tarrio nonetheless continued to direct and encourage the Proud Boys prior to and during the events of Jan. 6, 2021, and … he claimed credit for what had happened on social media and in an encrypted chat room during and after the attack,” wrote the DOJ in March.