A senior member of the Proud Boys, a far-right extremist group, pleaded guilty Thursday to seditious conspiracy, the most serious charge that has been leveled against individuals tied to the Jan. 6 riot.
Jeremy Bertino, of North Carolina, is the first Proud Boy to plead guilty to the charge in connection with last year's attack on the U.S. Capitol.
U.S. District Judge Timothy Kelly accepted Bertino’s guilty plea and agreement to fully cooperate with prosecutors, according to government statements made during the plea agreement hearing Thursday.
Five other members of the Proud Boys, including the group's former national chairman, Enrique Tarrio, were indicted in June on seditious conspiracy and other charges. They are awaiting trial after having pleaded not guilty.
A court filing detailing the counts against Bertino, 43, said he "did knowingly combine, conspire, confederate, and agree" with Tarrio and group members Ethan Nordean, Joseph Biggs, Zachary Rehl, Charles Donohoe, Dominic Pezzola and others to oppose authority of the government by force “to delay by force the execution of the laws governing the transfer of power.”
Nordean, Biggs, Rehl and Donohoe were indicted in March on charges that included conspiracy and obstructing an official proceeding. Donohoe, of Kernesville, North Carolina, pleaded guilty in April to conspiracy to obstruct an official proceeding and assaulting, resisting or impeding officers.
In addition to the seditious conspiracy charge, Bertino also pleaded guilty Thursday to a charge of unlawful possession of a firearm after a court-authorized search in March of his home in North Carolina related to a previous conviction unearthed six firearms, including an AR-15-style weapon with a scope and more than 3,000 rounds of ammunition.
Bertino joined the Proud Boys around 2018 and was vice president of the group’s chapter in South Carolina for a time, according to the Justice Department. He traveled to Washington, D.C., “on multiple occasions” in 2020 for rallies, the Justice Department said, and was stabbed in December during a trip with other Proud Boys that turned violent.
He did not travel to Washington on Jan. 6 as he recovered from his injuries but continued to participate in planning sessions, according to the Justice Department.
Few defendants have pleaded guilty to seditious conspiracy in connection with the Jan. 6, 2021, riot at the U.S. Capitol.
In May, William Todd Wilson, a former leader of the Sampson County, North Carolina, chapter of the Oath Keepers, became the third member of the right-wing militia group, following Joshua James and Brian Ulrich, to plead guilty to seditious conspiracy and agree to cooperate with the government.
Under sentencing guidelines, the government estimates that Bertino faces 51 to 63 months in prison. Prosecutors will file a sentencing status report in February.
Bertino will remain out of jail pending sentencing but will be ordered to check in weekly with pretrial services and get approval for any out-of-state or international travel.
More than 850 people have been charged in connection with the Jan. 6 insurrection, and over 350 have pleaded guilty.