While Proud Boys leader Enrique Tarrio was being arrested in Miami, FBI agents in North Carolina were executing a search warrant at the home of Jeremy Bertino, a high-profile member with close ties to the street brawling group’s national leadership, at his home in the Charlotte suburbs.
In a motion to temporarily seal the indictment of Tarrio and five other Proud Boys on conspiracy charges, the government referenced two search warrants for the residences of co-conspirators in Belmont, NC and Carlisle, Pa. At least one of the warrants was executed on Bertino’s residence in North Carolina on Tuesday, according to a source with knowledge of the matter who spoke to Raw Story on condition of anonymity.
Bertino is referenced in the new superseding indictment of Tarrio and the five other Proud Boys as “Person-1,” noting that he suffered a knife wound during an altercation when Proud Boys gathered in Washington, DC on Dec. 12, 2020 for a large pro-Trump rally that preceded the Jan. 6, 2021 assault on the US Capitol.
Although Bertino is frequently referenced in the indictment as “Person-1,” he has not been arrested. But his Telegram channel, which was a frequent source of invective against COVID restrictions, was recently set to private.
After marching with hundreds of Proud Boys to Black Lives Matter Plaza in an effort to confront antifascist counter-protesters on Dec. 12, Bertino recorded a video on the social media platform Parler taunting the group’s adversaries with an invitation to come to Hotel Harrington, where Proud Boys and their supporters were milling around in the street.
“I mean, if they don’t want any, then I guess they don’t get none,” Bertino said. “But if they want some, they know where we’ll be at. We’ll be at the Harrington. Come f*cking get some.”
As a member of the Proud Boys, Bertino has promoted an aesthetic of extreme right-wing violence by marketing a patch with the letters “RWDS,” short for “Right Wing Death Squads.” During a confrontation over the Confederate flag in Pittsboro, NC in 2019, he wore a T-shirt inscribed with the words, “Pinochet did nothing wrong,” referring to the Chilean dictator who carried out a bloody coup backed by the CIA. During a right-wing gathering to protest COVID restrictions and the outcome of the 2020 election, Bertino told counter-protesters: “We will exterminate you.”
According to the indictment, Bertino was added to the MOSD Leaders Group, an encrypted message group created by Tarrio as a “national rally planning committee” for events Jan. 6, on Dec. 20, 2020, along with Ethan Nordean, Joe Biggs, Zach Rehl and Charles Donohoe, who are co-defendants in the conspiracy case. On Dec. 26, according to the indictment, Tarrio announced that the leadership team for the special operations group — known as the MOSD, or Ministry of Self-Defense — included a marketing council consisting of himself, Biggs and Nordean; and an operations council consisting of Rehl and one other individual. Bertino and Donohoe were designated regional leaders, according to the government.
The indictment alleges that Tarrio created another encrypted messaging group to vet prospective members for the MOSD, and that on Dec. 29 he posted a message to the MOSD Prospect Group advising that the group “will have a top-down structure” while admonishing prospects that they should not attend a live orientation session the following day “if that’s something you’re not comfortable with.” According to the government, Tarrio described the Operations and Marketing sections as “upper-tier leadership” while designating eight regional members, including Bertino, as “second tier” leaders.
According to the indictment, Dominic Pezzola, who would later gain infamy as the Proud Boy who bashed out of window with a stolen police riot shield allowing the first stream of rioters to enter the Capitol on Jan. 6, sent a direct message to Tarrio.
“Hey boss, [I’m] one of the guys bringing the [decorative] shield down,” Pezzola told Tarrio. “I’ll be in dc w a few other brothers from NY.”
The indictment alleges that Pezzola traveled to the Carolinas to visit Bertino, to whom he presented the decorative shield, on Dec. 30 and 31. On Dec. 31, Tarrio posted a photo of Pezzola from the Dec. 12 rally, accompanied by the text, “Lords of War #J6 #J20.”
A new encrypted message group named “MOSD Members Group” created by Tarrio on Jan. 2 absorbed Proud Boys who had cleared the vetting process, growing to 65 members, according to the indictment. Bertino personally added Pezzola to the encrypted messaging group, according to the government.
On Jan. 4, Tarrio was arrested on charges of burning a Black Lives Matter flag stolen from a Black church on Dec. 12. Panicking over the prospect of law enforcement detecting the Proud Boys’ plans, leaders junked the original MOSD encrypted messaging groups and instructed members to delete their previous chats. In a chat in the New MOSD Leaders Group, Donohoe allegedly reassured other leaders: “Well at least they won’t get our boots on the ground plans because we are one step ahead of them.”
As an indication of the significance of Bertino’s role in setting up the Proud Boys’ communications network for the Jan. 6 operation, the government alleges that he created a new encrypted messaging group called “Boots on the Ground” that grew to 60 members on Jan. 5.
At 8:27 p.m. on Jan. 5, the government alleges, an unidentified Proud Boys leader posted a message to the New MOSD Members Group with instructions for the next day: “Everyone needs to meet at the Washington Monument at 10am tomorrow morning! Do not be late! Do not wear colors! Details will be laid out at the pre meeting! Come out at as [sic] patriot!”
The same message, was posted by Bertino, in the Boots on the Ground group one minute later.
Bertino, who was convalescing from his stab wound, was not in DC on Jan. 6, but the government alleges that he and another regional leader identified as “Person-2” posted messages shortly after 1 p.m. urging Proud Boys on the ground to, “Push inside! Find some eggs and rotten tomatoes!” and questioning, “They deploy mace yet.”
Post on Parler by Jeremy Bertino at 4:28 p.m. on Jan. 6, 2021Screengrab
At 4:28 p.m., Bertino posted on Parler: “DO NOT GO HOME. WE ARE ON THE CUSP OF SAVING THE CONSTITUTION. Stay the ground patriots.”
At 5:18 p.m., after President Trump released a video urging supporters to “go home in peace,” Bertino posted on Parler: “This is not about Trump. This is about the constitution. Stfu with your go home. Either get on board or f*ck off half ass patriots.”
And then, at 6:08 p.m., Bertino lamented, “The house is meeting again. We failed. NEVER F*CKING BACK DOWN.”
In a video posted on Rumble in the early morning hours of Jan. 7, Bertino exulted in the scenes of members of Congress “hiding behind their seats” and “cowering in fear.”
“Because this, today, while it could have gone all the way, this was a f*cking warning,” Bertino said. “You don’t have enough men or ammo to stop Americans if we want to take it back. Mark my f*cking words. You don’t have enough. There’ll be one behind every blade of f*cking grass, you better believe it. If that didn’t show you enough tonight what we’re capable of, keep pushing us. Keep f*cking with us. You’ve been f*cking around for years; today you found out.
“There’s not enough people to stop us,” he continued. “And we’ve proven it today. Had we just had some leadership there to take the reins and say, ‘No, we’re not leaving this building. We’re staying. And if you bring violence, violence will be returned.’”
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