Leading up to the Jan. 6 Capitol riot, the FBI had as many as eight informants inside the Proud Boys organization. This week, lawyers for five Proud Boy members charged with seditious conspiracy said the information those informants gave the FBI could clear their clients.
There are five Proud Boy members, including the group’s former leader Enrique Tarrio, charged with seditious conspiracy by the FBI. To win their case, prosecutors must prove the men had a premeditated plan to use force to overthrow, put down, destroy or oppose the authority of the U.S. government or to block the execution of a law.
According to court documents and reporting from the New York Times, government prosecutors recently released hundreds of pages of records to defense lawyers. The records are sealed so the public doesn’t know exactly what they said. However, lawyers for the Proud Boy members argue the information contained could be “exculpatory” for their clients, meaning it proves there was no seditious conspiracy.
The defense said the government was improperly suppressing the information and asked Judge Timothy J. Kelly to dismiss the charges outright, or at least delay the December trial. Government prosecutors countered the records weren’t immediately given to the defense because they weren’t directly relevant to the case.
Judge Kelly has yet to make a ruling on whether to dismiss charges or delay the trial, but the revelation the FBI had as many as eight informants in the Proud Boys is renewing criticisms of the federal agency.
For instance, many in Washington are wondering why the informants didn’t give enough advanced warning to stop the reportedly coordinated Jan. 6 attack. And now, almost two years later, what is stopping the informants from corroborating the accusations of a conspiracy to attack the Capitol?
In the absence of answers, conspiracy theories have sprouted that the FBI was using the informants to encourage the storming of the Capitol and entrap others. Testifying before the House Committee on Homeland Security on Tuesday, FBI Director Christopher Wray said any suggestion that an agent or confidential human sources “in some way instigated or orchestrated the January 6th attack is categorically false.”