Jeremy Bertino, a North Carolina leader of the Proud Boys pleaded guilty to seditious conspiracy on Thursday, becoming the first member of the group to admit to the charge stemming from the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol.
Bertino appeared before U.S. District Court Judge Tim Kelly to enter his guilty plea, which also included a count of unlawful possession of a firearm.
Bertino, who previously testified to the Jan. 6 select committee, was involved in key conversations and chats with other members of the group, including national chair Enrique Tarrio and other leaders facing seditious conspiracy charges in the weeks before Jan. 6.
Tarrio is set to go on trial in December, along with Proud Boys Ethan Nordean, Joe Biggs, Zachary Rehl and Dominic Pezzola, who was the first member of the Jan. 6 mob to breach the Capitol when he shattered a Senate-wing window with a police riot shield.
Prosecutors say Tarrio and his allies developed a plan to besiege the Capitol, relying on - and in fact organizing and spurring on - members of the mob to help break through police lines and get inside the Capitol. It was part of an effort that prosecutors say was intended to disrupt the peaceful transfer of presidential power.
Kelly accepted Bertino's plea after asking Bertino a series of standard questions to ensure, under oath, that Bertino entered it voluntarily and without being threatened or coerced.
The seditious conspiracy charges against the Proud Boys leaders are the gravest leveled by the Justice Department against any of the more than 850 defendants charged in connection with the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol.
Bertino was briefly featured during video testimony aired by the Jan. 6 select committee during its first public hearing in June. He described a surge in Proud Boys membership after then-President Donald Trump urged the group to "stand back and stand by" during a debate against Joe Biden.
"Would you say that Proud Boys numbers increased after the stand back, stand by comment?" an investigator asked.
"Exponentially. I'd say tripled probably," Bertino replied