Zach Rehl, the longtime leader of the Philadelphia Proud Boys, was indicted Monday along with four other leaders of the organization on seditious conspiracy charges related to the Capitol takeover last year — a significant escalation of allegations by the Department of Justice. Justice regarding their role in fomenting violent aggression.
Rehl, 36, had previously been charged with conspiracy to obstruct certification of the 2020 presidential election.
The historically rare sedition charge against him and his co-defendants – including Enrique Tarrio, the former national president of the Proud Boys and two other regional leaders of the far-right group – is the most serious charge prosecutors have brought. against one of more than 800 people. accused of having played a part in the attack.
To date, the Department of Justice has brought charges in only one other case – a sprawling indictment against Stewart Rhodes, the founder and leader of the extremist group The Oath Keepers, and 10 other members of the ‘organization.
It requires prosecutors to prove the men sought to overthrow the government or interfere with federal law enforcement.
Rehl, a Navy veteran and son and grandson of Philadelphia police officers, has remained in custody without bond since his initial arrest in March 2021. He could not immediately be reached for comment Monday.
His lawyer, Carmen Hernandez, said his client “maintains his innocence more than before”.
“My client…has never been charged or convicted of a violent offense in his life,” she said. “The latest charge – seditious conspiracy – requires the use of force, and there is no allegation that he used force.”
She has previously argued that Rehl and the other Proud Boys had no intention of inciting a riot on Jan. 6 and criticized the government for not directly linking them to property damage or scuffles with police that occurred that day. -the.
It remains unclear what new evidence prompted the additional charges, which came in the form of a 10-count superseding indictment unsealed on Monday. But the indictment lays out the charges that Rehl and the others were key forces in the days leading up to Jan. 6 in stirring up the crowds that attacked the Capitol building.
Prosecutors say Rehl, Tarrio and Proud Boys chapter presidents Ethan Nordean, of Washington; Joseph Biggs, of Florida; and Charles Donohoe of North Carolina, encouraged members across the country to descend on Washington that day. They used websites to raise funds for travel and equipment, outfitted members with paramilitary gear and tactical vests, and made plans to avoid detection.
Although Tario was not in Washington on the day of the attack, prosecutors said he ‘led the pre-planning and kept in touch with other members of the Proud Boys’ during the storming. of the building.
Video footage from that day shows Nordean, Biggs and Rehl – wearing “Make America Great Again” camouflage caps and carrying a Temple Owls backpack – leading a crowd of around 100 Proud Boys members from the Washington Monument to Capitol security lines.
There, rioters – including another Proud Boy charged on Monday, Dominic Pezzola, of Rochester, NY – rushed into the fray, brawling with police and fighting their way into the building.
Photos later surfaced showing Rehl inside the building, smoking a cigarette amid a partying crowd of rioters in the office of Sen. Jeff Merkley (D., Ore.)
Since the initial indictment last year, a Proud Boy lieutenant, originally charged alongside Rehl and the other men, has pleaded guilty and is cooperating with the government’s investigation into the group.
Authorities also raided the homes of three other Proud Boys members — including Aaron Whallon Wolkind, Rehl’s top lieutenant and vice president of the Philadelphia Proud Boys — though they have yet to be publicly charged.
Three other members of the Philadelphia Proud Boys – Isaiah Giddings, 29, of Philadelphia; Brian Healion, 31, of Upper Darby; and Freedom Vy, 36, of Philadelphia — were also charged with lesser charges related to the riot. They were not named in Monday’s new indictment against Rehl and his co-defendants.
As of Monday afternoon, a crowdfunding account run by “Zach Rehl’s friends and family” on the Christian site GiveSendGo – popular among far-right organizations – had raised more than $43,300 in contributions for his family.
Prior to the uprising, a GiveSendGo account under the name Rehl raised over $5,500 to get to the Jan. 6 event.
This is a developing story and will be updated.