How Former Proud Boy testifies in Jan. 6 seditious conspiracy trial

How Former Proud Boy testifies in Jan. 6 seditious conspiracy trial

A former Proud Boy who turned on his alleged co-conspirators testified in federal court this week about increasingly violent conversations among the far-right group’s members leading up to the Jan. 6 attack on the United States Capitol.

Matthew Greene of Syracuse, New York, testified in the trial of the former leader of the Proud Boys and four associates, who are each accused of seditious conspiracy against the United States, among other charges, as part of an alleged plot to disrupt the certification of President Joe Biden’s 2020 election victory.

How Former Proud Boy testifies in Jan. 6 seditious conspiracy trial
Proud Boys members Zachary Rehl, left, and Ethan Nordean, left, walk toward the U.S. Capitol in Washington, in support of President Donald Trump, Jan. 6, 2021.

Enrique Tarrio, the ex-leader, as well as Ethan Nordean, Joseph Biggs, Zachary Rehl, and Dominic Pezzola, have all pleaded not guilty.

Greene testified that in the weeks leading up to Jan. 6, 2021, the group was attempting to incite violent interactions with those they suspected to be members of a “antifa,” or anti-fascist, group.

“As the Proud Boys, we almost saw ourselves as right-wing foot soldiers, whereas antifa were left-wing foot soldiers,” Greene explained.

Greene said that after Biden defeated Donald Trump in the election, the Proud Boys became “more and more angry about the result of the election,” and “at that point I was pretty well convinced we were heading toward a civil war.”

Greene was questioned by Assistant U.S. Attorney Erik Kenerson about his first interactions with the Proud Boys as he described the group’s recruiting process, which included an online application and in-person vetting. Greene’s cooperation appears to be critical as prosecutors seek to demonstrate that the Proud Boys were more than a loosely organized drinking club, as defense attorneys have claimed.

Greene was arrested in April 2021 and initially pleaded not guilty to conspiracy and obstruction of Congress charges, but he changed his plea about eight months later – after reaching an agreement with prosecutors.

On the stand on Tuesday, Greene acknowledged he was upset about the results of the 2020 presidential election and said he was looking for like-minded people to share his political concerns. But the events of Jan. 6 were a wakeup call, he said.

“After everything that happened [on Jan. 6], I had kind of a slap in the face,” he told the jury.

How Former Proud Boy testifies in Jan. 6 seditious conspiracy trial
Enrique Tarrio, leader of the Proud Boys, stands outside of the Hyatt Regency where the Conservative Political Action Conference is being held, Feb. 27, 2021, in Orlando, Fla.

He denied having direct knowledge of alleged plans to riot by Proud Boys leadership. Defense attorneys said he was not part of group messages used by leadership and had no direct interactions with Rehl or Tarrio.

But prosecutors argued that Greene had personal interactions with several Proud Boys members on multiple occasions. Greene testified to a culture of violence and said Tarrio and Pezzola were present at times when they discussed using force on Jan. 6.

“I can’t say it was ever overtly encouraged,” Greene said. “But it was never discouraged, and when it happened, it was celebrated.”

Greene admitted on cross-examination that he never had a direct conversation with Biggs, Tarrio, or Nordean, but described a “collective expectation” among members of the group that violence was acceptable.

Greene’s testimony was used at trial despite strong objections from defense attorneys, who claimed he was making broad assumptions about the defendants based on irrelevant interactions with other members.

“It’s mind-boggling that this person, for the court’s sake, who claims to know nothing about nothing about nothing… All of a sudden, he claims to have all of this information “Carmen Hernandez, the defense attorney, stated on Tuesday.

Multiple defendants said allowing his testimony should result in a mistrial, a motion that U.S. District Judge Timothy Kelly denied.