KENNEWICK — The lawyer for a Pendleton Proud Boys member accused of aiding in the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol is saying the blame should actually fall on Antifa and other left-wing groups.
In a 93-page response filing in the District of Columbia’s civil suit, California attorney John M. Pierce makes the case that Jonathanpeter Klein, 23, and other members of the Proud Boys and Oath Keepers did not come prepared to cause violence, but were instead anticipating it from left-wing agitators.
He also denies that an attack on the Capitol building or insurrection by Pro-Trump groups ever took place.
Klein, who is also facing separate criminal charges, is accused of participating in the riot as part of an organized attempt by Proud Boys and Oath Keepers to stop the certification of the 2020 election.
Pierce, who has been described as Pro-Trump and MAGA attorney, is representing more than a dozen people in the District of Columbia’s civil suit against the organization. He was previously in the spotlight after being fired from Kyle Rittenhouse’s defense team.
The filing is one of many received by the court recently, after senior leadership of the Proud Boys were convicted of seditious conspiracy in May.
Members of leadership of the Oath Keepers, including founder Stewart Rhodes, also were convicted of seditious conspiracy in late 2022 and early 2023.
Klein’s alleged role
Klein is awaiting trial in a federal criminal case, along with his brother, Matthew Klein, 26. His brother also is charged in the attack, but is not part of the civil suit.
Earlier filings described Klein as an active participant, who helped Proud Boys, Oath Keepers and other rioters breach the Capitol building. He is a self-admitted member of the Proud Boys, a far-right organization that has gained notoriety for violence at protests.
Court documents say Klein was using a police barrier as a makeshift ladder to help others scale the wall of the building away from the main staircase.
“After pushing their way past another barricade, Proud Boys member Defendant Klein obtained and used the police barricade to help others climb the Capitol walls and gain access to an external stairwell,” said the initial complaint documents.
‘False flag event’
In the filing Klein largely denies participation in, or knowledge of, most of the the District’s complaints, to the point of stating “Klein is unaware of a January 6th Attack” in one instance.
The document is broken down into responses to each of the hundreds of paragraphs in the complaint, with denials or admissions of statements in each section.
The documents described the lawsuit as an attempt to engage in political activism by the Democrat Party “against the Republican Party in future elections using this lawsuit as a political prop paid for at taxpayer expense.”
In the document Pierce places the blame largely on “Left Wing Street Gangs” such as Antifa and Black Lives Matter, the latter of which he repeatedly describes as “so-called” or “misnamed” Black Lives Matter.
“The Proud Boys assemble in large and small groups at public events or demonstrations because violence from anarchist street gangs like ANTIFA, Left-wing street gangs like the completely mis-named Black Lives Matter (who would eagerly attack Black (Proud Boys Leader) Enrique Tarrio and the other 20% of the Proud Boys who are minorities) and others are announced or expected …,” reads one passage of the filing.
He also asserts that Klein believes that the insurrection was a false flag event possibly orchestrated by federal agents.
They specifically called the “1776 Returns” document a false flag “fabricated by U.S. Government Agents.” The document, which was circulated among the Proud Boys ahead of Jan. 6, outlined strategic plans for taking over federal buildings.
“Klein suggests that those “who planned, conspired to carry out, and executed the January 6th Attack” are likely to be Federal agents or assets and/or agents of private organizations who are not what the Plaintiff is expecting.”
In response to another portion of the claim disputing a quote from former president Donald Trump, Pierce also states that Trump did in fact win the 2020 election.
“Although President Trump did claim to have won the 2020 presidential election — and he did in fact win the 2020 presidential election at a minimum because the rules were changed during the election in violation of Article II, Section 1, of the U.S. Constitution which requires that only the state legislatures can set the rules, this paragraph is not what Trump said on November 4, 2020.”
In reference to violence at the 2020 “Stop the Steal” rally, Pierce again blamed left-wing activists, claiming the Proud Boys were merely defending conservative demonstrators.
“The Proud Boys were violently attacked by members of Antifa, the so-called Black Lives Matters, anarchists, and other Leftists while trying to protect innocent conservative demonstrators. Leftists were solely and exclusively responsible for their violence against the Proud Boys and other Trump supporters, just as the Leftists had done since Trump’s inauguration in January 2017, and from 2012 through 2020.”
He also says the Proud Boys and Oath Keepers had to step in because demonstrators were “left defenseless” by D.C.’s gun laws at these rallies leading up to the insurrection, later describing the group’s intent as coming to the Capitol to “protect Trump supporters, so that those Trump supporters could engage in a lawful protest.”
In response to the prosecutor’s asserting the Proud Boys were wearing a mix of street clothes and tactical gear, Pierce said any body armor was to protect them from left wing provocateurs. The use of street clothes to blend in was also a means of protection.
“There are no fashion crimes in America. The United States of America does not have a national dress code,” Pierce states in the filing.
Breaching the Capitol
Pierce also refers to the police barriers as “portable bike racks” throughout the filing, claiming they had no signs indicating they were intended to be barriers. He denies Klein used one to help others scale the wall.
He said that the claims of bragging that the Proud Boys stormed the Capitol were hyperbole and “puffery.”
“The Proud Boys clearly did not, in fact, storm the Capitol (whatever that means) and clearly did not ‘take’ the Capitol. Therefore, the statements are clearly hyperbole and exaggeration.”
The documents also claim that D.C. Metropolitan Police attacked peaceful protesters.
“ … They further confirm the unlawful police brutality and excessive use of force by the District of Columbia’s Metropolitan Police Department that transformed a peaceful demonstration into a few violent confrontations in a few small, isolated areas.”
The filings claim that one protester, who was killed in a crush as rioters surged against police, was murdered by the Metropolitan Police Department. And it said the Metropolitan force was not overwhelmed by the violence, but was the cause of it.
“Unfortunately (Rosanne) Boyland was murdered by the MPD in the same manner in which George Floyd was murdered by officer Derek Chauvin, as MPD officers then piled more and more people on top of her,” said the filing.
The response also denies knowledge of harm toward Metropolitan officers, stating “it is not credible that those trained to deal with violations of law would be so fragile.”
The union estimates at least 140 officers were injured.
The Klein brothers
At the time Matthew Klein was reportedly a third-year student attending George Fox University in Newberg, majoring in computer science. He was living with relatives on a farm in Sherwood, southwest of Portland, before his arrest.
Jonathanpeter Klein was arrested near Heppner — about 80 miles south of the Tri-Cities. They entered innocent pleas at the time, and were granted pretrial release to third-party guardians in May 2021.
But a judge would not release them to the custody of their parents in Baker City because of text messages from the parents advising Matthew after the attack to destroy his cellphone data and to keep quiet about what they had done because “braggers get caught.”
The charges in the indictment for both brothers were for conspiracy, obstruction of an official proceeding and aiding and abetting, obstruction of law enforcement during civil disorder and aiding and abetting, destruction of government property and aiding and abetting, entering and remaining in a restricting building or grounds and disorderly conduct in a restricted building or grounds.
That trial is pending while the D.C. lawsuit moves forward.
The brothers are required to make regular status updates to the court in the meantime.
Another Tri-Cities area man accused of involvement in the Jan. 6 riot is also still awaiting trial in a civil suit over the wrongful death of an Metropolitan Police Department officer.
Taylor Taranto of Pasco and chiropractor David Walls-Kaufman were named in a wrongful death civil suit, filed by Erin Smith.
She is the widow of Officer Jeffrey Smith, who was attacked during the insurrection and later died by suicide.
Taranto was listed as the webmaster for the Franklin County Republican Party at the time. It’s unclear whether he is still involved with the organization. The U.S. Navy veteran is a one time Pasco school board candidate.
That lawsuit is still in progress, but has seen little in the way of updates since the judge presiding over it was appointed to a higher bench.
Taranto, who is representing himself, had asked the judge for $3.5 million and an apology.