Jeremy Bertino, a top lieutenant to Proud Boys leader Enrique Tarrio, pleaded guilty for seditious conspiracy in federal court Thursday, and is cooperating with the Justice Department’s investigation into the far-right extremist group.
Bertino, 43, also pleaded guilty to unlawful possession of a firearm by a prohibited person. He is the first member of the Proud Boys to plead guilty to seditious conspiracy – a major boost to the organization’s historic prosecution.
He could spend more than five years in prison, according to his plea agreement, which was read aloud in court, although prosecutors can ask a judge for a lesser sentence depending on their level of cooperation with the investigation.
The judge did not set a sentencing date. Bertino’s next hearing is scheduled for February 2023. Bertino will not be held in prison. He will not be able to have a passport or firearms, and will only be able to return to Washington to meet with prosecutors or participate in legal proceedings.
Bertino was listed in previous indictments as “PERSON-1”, but has not been publicly charged. It is not alleged that he was in Washington, D.C. on January 6, 2021. Prosecutors have previously described his involvement in the leadership of the Proud Boys and numerous planning meetings and discussions.
Although he was not present during the Capitol riot, Bertino could provide crucial testimony to prosecutors in the Proud Boys’ seditious conspiracy trial, which is due to begin in December of this year.
According to Proud Boys charged with seditious conspiracy, Bertino was in a number of cryptic group chats meant to plan for January 6th. The groups, including the main channel “Boots on Ground”, included all of the Proud Boys sedition defendants – Tarrio, Ethan Nordean, Joseph Biggs and Zachary Rehl. They pleaded not guilty.
Bertino issued instructions for Jan. 6 in the talks, prosecutors say, telling the Proud Boys where to meet and not to wear the usual Proud Boys colors, though he ultimately did not travel to Washington because he was recovering from a stab wound at a previous rally in DC. .
After 1 p.m. on January 6, Bertino, along with another member of the group, posted messages in a Proud Boys chat to “Push in! Find eggs and rotten tomatoes! and asking if they’re “deploying again the mace,” according to the indictment.
Bertino posted publicly to the rioters, writing “DON’T GO HOME. WE ARE ABOUT SAVING THE CONSTITUTION.
Bertino also texted Tarrio on the evening of Jan. 6, saying, “Brother. You know we made this possible” and “I am so proud of my country today,” according to the indictment. “I know,” Tarrio reportedly replied.
According to prosecutors, Bertino then replied “1776 motherf*****s” to Tarrio, later adding “Dude. Did we just influence the story?
“They MUST certify today!” Bertino reportedly texted. “Or it’s invalid.”
The same day Tarrio was arrested in March 2021, investigators executed a search warrant at Bertino’s home, according to court documents. Officers found six firearms, including an AR-15 rifle with a scope, and more than 3,000 rounds, prosecutors said. Bertino had already been convicted of a felony and was not allowed to own a firearm.
Bertino has previously testified before the House Select Committee investigating it on Jan. 6, and an excerpt of his testimony was released at a public hearing in June.
The committee used an excerpt from Bertino’s deposition to show how former President Donald Trump’s call for the Proud Boys to “step back and be ready” during a 2020 presidential debate when told asked if he was prepared to condemn white supremacists and militias in turn energized individuals. the Proud Boys and other extremist groups.
When asked if Proud Boys membership grew after Trump’s “stand back and stay ready” comment, Bertino said, “Exponentially. I would say probably tripled. With potential for many more likely.
He may also be eligible for witness protection, depending on his plea agreement.
This story has been updated with additional details.