Co-defendant’s attorney protests trial delays while the accused are held without bail
Former Proud Boys national chairman Enrique Tarrio pleaded not guilty Tuesday to conspiracy to obstruct the counting of Electoral College votes on Jan. 6, 2021, obstruction of law enforcement, and five other federal charges lodged against him by federal prosecutors.
Tarrio, 38, of Miami, was the last of the six Proud Boys defendants named in a March 7 superseding indictment to enter a plea on the Jan. 6-related charges. His five co-defendants have also pleaded not guilty and will prepare for a trial that was supposed to start on May 18 but might not begin until 2023.
Although Tarrio was not at the Capitol on Jan. 6, he is charged with aiding and abetting a conspiracy to obstruct an official proceeding, obstruction of an official proceeding; obstruction of law enforcement during civil disorder; two counts of destruction of government property; and two counts of assaulting, resisting, or impeding police.
The addition of Tarrio and Dominic J. Pezzola, 45, of Rochester, New York, to the Proud Boys indictment has created headaches for defense attorneys representing the other four defendants, all of whom are being held in jail pending trial.
One attorney objected Tuesday to a decision by U.S. District Judge Timothy J. Kelly to vacate the planned May trial date because the new defendants won’t be ready for trial by then, and federal prosecutors won’t have turned over all of the discovery evidence to defense attorneys.
Attorney David B. Smith, who represents Ethan Nordean, 31, of Auburn, Washington, said the government cannot force his client to choose between his constitutional right to a speedy trial and his right to examine all of the evidence lodged against him before trial—all while he remains in pretrial detention.
Nordean, also known as Rufio Panman, was arrested on Feb. 3, 2021, in Washington state. He has been held in jail ever since. Depending on what final trial date the court sets, Nordean could end up serving close to two years behind bars before the start of his trial.
Prosecutors Create ‘Cruel Trilemma’
“What the government is attempting to do over a year into this case after charging those two defendants is it’s trying to give them what the Supreme Court has called a ‘cruel trilemma,’” Smith said, referring to something that creates an untenable position.
“There is no dispute that the government cannot force this choice on a defendant,” Smith said.
Smith filed a motion to separate Nordean’s trial from that of Tarrio and Pezzola, but Judge Kelly said he will issue a written ruling this week that the six men be tried together.
“We’re not talking about 13 months of harsh pretrial confinement waiting for trial, we’re talking about a period much longer than that. You’re talking about possibly two years, your honor,” Smith said.
“This is extremely troubling. This needs to be emphasized,” Smith added. “There is no American precedent in this circuit or anywhere else supporting that decision.”
Prosecutor Luke M. Jones said the government would be ready for the Proud Boys trial in August and would have the distribution of discovery evidence finished by mid-June. Judge Kelly set the discovery deadline for June 17.
Finding a trial date that works for all of the defense attorneys will be the next challenge because the trial is expected to take a minimum of six weeks and possibly much longer.
Attorney Carmen D. Hernandez, who represents Zachary Rehl, 36, of Philadelphia, told Judge Kelly her trial schedule does not open up for such a long block of time until January 2023. If her November trial can be rescheduled, Hernandez said, she would be available in November.