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Kernersville Proud Boys leader appeals for release on charges he helped plan Capitol attack
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Kernersville Proud Boys leader appeals for release on charges he helped plan Capitol attack

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Charles Joseph Donohoe, a Proud Boys leader from Kernersville, is appealing a decision that keeps him in federal custody pending trial on charges connected to the Jan. 6 insurrection at the U.S. Capitol, according to a court document filed Tuesday.

Donohoe, 33, was arrested in March on a six-count indictment alleging that he helped plan the attack and participated in it. Federal prosecutors said Donohoe, president of the Piedmont chapter of the Proud Boys, set up new encrypted messaging chats to evade law-enforcement detection, provided instructions to Proud Boys members and helped lead a surge up the Capitol steps that overwhelmed law-enforcement officers.

Proud Boys is a far-right group and its members have gotten into violent clashes at protests.

On June 23, U.S. District Judge Timothy Kelly upheld a prior ruling from a federal magistrate judge to keep Donohoe in federal custody until his trial.

Donohoe’s attorney, Lisa Costner, filed a notice of appeal in U.S. District Court in Washington, D.C. that Donohoe would be appealing to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit. Donohoe is currently being held in the Orange County Jail, according to court documents.

Donohoe and three other men — Ethan Nordean of Auburn, Wash.; Joseph Biggs of Ormond, Fla.; and Zachary Rehl of Philadelphia — were indicted together on charges that include destruction of government property and obstruction of an official proceeding. Nordean, Biggs and Rehl are also leaders of Proud Boys.

Federal prosecutors have portrayed Donohoe, a U.S. Marine veteran who served two tours in Iraq and served as a private military contractor in Afghanistan, as having a leadership role in Proud Boys similar to a senior lieutenant.

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According to prosecutors, on Jan. 4, the day Proud Boys national chairman Enrique Tarrio was arrested, Donohoe created a new chat room on Telegram and told other members to move to that new chat room so that he could destroy or “nuke” the older messages.

They also said Donohoe was part of a small group of Proud Boys called the “Ministry of Self-Defense” and that he provided instructions to members in the days before the attack that they should not wear Proud Boys colors and gave logistics on where they would meet Jan. 6.

Prosecutors also point to video footage showing Donohoe carrying a riot shield that another Proud Boys member, Dominic Pezzola, is alleged to have stolen from a Capitol Police officer. Prosecutors allege that, later, Pezzola used that riot shield to break a window in the Capitol building that allowed rioters to enter. Another video shows Donohoe standing at the edge of the Capitol steps, with a red-white-and-blue gaiter covering his face, among a crowd preparing to surge up the steps.

Prosecutors also have cited statements Donohoe made after the Jan. 6 attack, including this one: “We stormed the capitol unarmed...and took it over unarmed...The people are (expletive) done...Wait when joe biden tells us we are all criminls.”

In hearings and court documents, Costner has said that prosecutors have not produced any solid evidence that shows Donohoe playing an active role in planning. More importantly, she argued, the text messages don’t show Proud Boys planning any kind of attack but only shows them organizing for an event in Washington, D.C.

She also noted that prosecutors have no evidence that Donohoe assaulted law-enforcement officers, destroyed federal property or even entered the Capitol. She has described certain statements Donohoe made after the attack, such as feeling like a “complete warrior,” as braggadocio made in the moment and not evidence that he was an active participant.

Costner also has pointed to Donohoe’s actions in the days after the attack — he returned to work at the Brewers Kettle in Kernersville, took care of his son and helped in a search for a missing Davidson County girl. Those are not the actions, Costner argued, of a man trying to evade law-enforcement officers.

It’s not clear when the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit will take up Donohoe’s appeal or when the court will issue a decision.

Donohoe’s next court date in U.S. District Court in Washington, D.C., is July 15.

336-727-7326

@mhewlettWSJ

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