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Federal jury finds 4 Proud Boys members guilty of seditious conspiracy

LEILA FADEL, HOST:

The former chairman and three other members of the far-right group, the Proud Boys group, have been found guilty of seditious conspiracy by a federal jury in Washington, D.C. Prosecutors said they had a role in planning the January 6 attack on the Capitol. Andy Campbell is a senior editor and reporter at HuffPost and author of the book "We Are Proud Boys," and he joins us now by Skype to talk about these convictions. Good morning.

ANDY CAMPBELL: Good morning. Happy to be here.

FADEL: So what do we know about these convictions, if you could talk about what happened, what just happened?

CAMPBELL: Right. Prosecutors just successfully prosecuted a very rare charge in seditious conspiracy against 4 out of 5 Proud Boys leaders who had an outsized role in the January 6 attack. And they found that these Proud Boys agreed before the attack to oppose the transfer of presidential power to Joe Biden. Now, a fifth defendant, Dominic Pezzola, who you might remember as the first guy to breach the Capitol using a stolen police riot shield, they're still deliberating on that charge for him and a number of other charges. But all five defendants have been found guilty of other charges, including obstruction of Congress.

FADEL: So a partial verdict. And already this jury had been deliberating for days to get to this point. What has taken so long, you think?

CAMPBELL: Well, it's a complex case with a lot of defendants, each with their own lawyer teams making different arguments. So it's very difficult. And it's a very serious charge that hasn't been brought for a long time. The last time prior to January 6 that this charge was successfully prosecuted was in the '90s, when Islamic militants plotted to blow up the U.N. So it's a very serious charge by the government. And the jury had a very serious job here.

FADEL: Put into context more, if you could, how historic these convictions actually are. What is the significance of this?

CAMPBELL: Right. I mean, it means the government means business. They want to show with this charge that they're not going to take armed insurrection. And again, it hasn't been prosecuted for a long time. And the Proud Boys joined their fellow extremists, the Oath Keepers, a militant group also present on January 6, with these guilty verdicts on seditious conspiracy. In January, two leaders of the Oath Keepers militia were found guilty as well. And so this is a very successful prosecution for the government.

FADEL: Now, obviously, you're very familiar with the Proud Boys. You literally wrote the book "We Are Proud Boys." What has this trial taught us about this group that's maybe new?

CAMPBELL: Well, unfortunately, what it's taught me is that we can't prosecute our way out of our extremist crisis. The Proud Boys, despite their leaders sitting in jail right now and sitting in jail for a long time now, the Proud Boys are mobilizing across the country - drag queens, story hours and school board meetings and any number of the GOP's grievances which they fight for. And so what we are seeing is that this crisis has not been tamped down despite all of these prosecutions.

FADEL: Andy Campbell reports on extremism for HuffPost, and he's the author of "We Are Proud Boys." Thank you so much for your time.

CAMPBELL: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.