WASHINGTON – A former leader of the Proud Boys extremist group pleaded guilty Thursday to seditious conspiracy in connection with the group's efforts to halt the certification of the 2020 election.
Jeremy Bertino, 43, acknowledged his role in helping to plan the Proud Boys' participation in the Jan. 6, 2021, assault on the U.S. Capitol and also agreed to cooperate in the government's continuing investigation.
Five other members of the Proud Boys, including former national chairman Enrique Tarrio, also have been charged with sedition and are awaiting trial. A sixth member of the group, Charles Donohoe, 34, pleaded guilty earlier this year to a conspiracy to obstruct an official proceeding and assaulting and resisting officers.
In addition to the sedition charge, Bertino also pleaded guilty to unlawful possession of firearms related to a March search of his home where authorities recovered six guns, including an AR-15 rifle and more than 3,000 rounds of ammunition. Bertino had been barred from possessing firearms and ammunition due to a previous conviction.
In the weeks prior to the Jan. 6 assault, according to court documents, Bertino participated in encrypted chats and other communications with members of the group's so-called "Ministry of Self-Defense," in which leaders asserted that the "presidential election had been stolen."
At the time, the members discussed traveling to Washington on a mission to "stop the certification of the Electoral College Vote, and that the MOSD leaders were willing to do whatever it would take, including using force against police and others, to achieve that objective."
Monitoring activities outside of Washington, while recovering from a stabbing, Bertino allegedly encouraged his Proud Boy colleagues on Jan. 6 to "form a spear" and continue the fight.
“DO NOT GO HOME. WE ARE ON THE CUSP OF SAVING THE CONSTITUTION," Bertino wrote to his colleagues, later celebrating the group's effort with Tarrio.
“You know we made this happen," he wrote.
According to court documents, Bertino joined the Proud Boys in 2018 and for a time served as the vice president of the Proud Boys chapter in South Carolina.
In a videotaped deposition before the House committee investigating the Capitol assault, Bertino told lawmakers that membership in the Proud Boys group had "tripled," after then-President Donald Trump urged members to "stand back and stand by" during a 2020 presidential debate.
Bertino faces a maximum of 20 years in prison for seditious conspiracy and up to 10 years in prison for the firearms charge.
The guilty plea comes as five members of the para-military group Oath Keepers, including leader Stewart Rhodes, stand trial on sedition charges in a Washington, D.C., federal court.
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Ex Proud Boys leader pleads guilty to seditious conspiracy in Jan. 6