Politico

Judge orders third Proud Boys leader detained pending trial


A federal magistrate judge on Thursday ordered a key member of the Proud Boys, Charles Donohoe of North Carolina, jailed as he awaits trial.

Judge Michael Harvey’s decision makes Donohoe the third Proud Boys leader ordered locked up in recent days while they fight charges that they conspired — and led dozens of Proud Boys foot soldiers to the Capitol — to stop the certification of the 2020 election. Judge Timothy Kelly, an appointee of President Donald Trump, ruled that the other two leaders, Ethan Nordean and Joseph Biggs, should be taken into custody earlier this week.

Although Harvey found that Donohoe wasn’t quite as senior on the Proud Boys hierarchy as the other two, he found that Donohoe played a central role in the assault on the Capitol on Jan. 6 — and that he celebrated it afterward. The sum of Donohoe’s conduct, Harvey said, makes him too dangerous to release pending trial.

“Here, the danger posed by his release is that he will continue in the future, with his co-conspirators, both indeed and unindicted, to engage in acts of political violence or to aid and abet those who do.”

Harvey said that Donohoe and the other Proud Boys leaders made clear after the Capitol breach that it was not the end of their crusade.

“They spoke of political violence, of the spirit of 1776, of revolution, of war,” Harvey said, describing private messages obtained by prosecutors. “There’s no evidence in the record that the defendant or co-conspirators saw Jan. 6 or even the transfer of power to the Biden administration … as the end of that struggle.”

In fact, when one associate texted the group that Biden’s ascension would make their efforts futile, Donohoe replied, “‘No it’s not. It’s never too late. Ever,’” Harvey noted, reading from the messages.

The ruling is a victory for prosecutors as they continue to build the conspiracy case against the Proud Boys, a violent right-wing nationalist group that has supported Trump. The government is also pursuing a similar case against the Oath Keepers, a network of anti-government militias that has also largely aligned with Trump. Dozens of members of both groups have been charged for breaching the Capitol on Jan. 6, and the government has continued to disclose new details of their plans in the ongoing cases.

Prosecutors charged Nordean, Biggs, Donohoe and a fourth Proud Boys leader, Zach Rehl of Philadelphia, with the conspiracy, and numerous other members of the group have been charged in separate indictments.

Donohoe, they say, provided specialty radios to members of the group so they could communicate during the Capitol siege, and he also urged the group’s members to “nuke” a set of Telegram messages to avoid detection. Donohoe also raised concerns in one of those messages about the possibility of “gang charges,” after the Proud Boys’ national chair, Enrique Tarrio, was arrested on Jan. 4, prosecutors allege.

“It’s clear that the defendant and others did not want law enforcement to know what the plan was,” Harvey said.

Donohoe also excitedly informed members of the group during the Capitol breach that he and another Proud Boys member, Dominic Pezzola, had obtained a police riot shield. Images and video provided by prosecutors showed Donohoe helping Pezzola carry the shield. Pezzola would later use it to smash a Capitol window, prompting the earliest breach of the building by the pro-Trump mob.

Harvey emphasized that he reached this conclusion despite the fact that Donohoe does not appear to be a flight risk and that he has a “stable” family life, including a supportive family and a 4-year-old son.

Although he doesn’t consider Donohoe to be a top leader of the Proud Boys, he compared Donohoe to a “trusted senior lieutenant” whom leaders relied upon to deliver messages to rank-and-file members.

Harvey’s decision comes despite his deep skepticism of the government’s case against Donohoe, which he expressed repeatedly during a detention hearing on Wednesday. Harvey wondered whether it would be possible for Donohoe to be treated as an ongoing threat to the public now that Biden had been sworn in and the effort to stop the 2020 election certification had passed.

“That is done. It’s over,” Harvey said. “Is there something else that we should be concerned about with respect to the Proud Boys, this group?”

Josh Gerstein contributed to this report.

Continue

About the author

Lisa

Leave a Comment