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Federal prosecutors say judge was right to keep Charles Donohoe detained
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Federal prosecutors say judge was right to keep Charles Donohoe detained

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Federal prosecutors said in court papers that a judge was right to keep Proud Boys leader Charles Donohoe in federal custody while awaiting trial for charges in connection to the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol.

Donohoe, 33, of Kernersville, was charged, along with three other men, in a six-count indictment in U.S. District Court in Washington, D.C. He is alleged to have played an active role in planning the attack, including creating new encrypted messaging chats to keep law-enforcement authorities off their track. Ethan Nordean of Auburn, Wash.; Joseph Biggs of Ormond, Fla.; and Zachary Rehl of Philadelphia are Donohoe’s co-defendants.

On Jan. 6, hundreds of people, fueled by lies that former president Donald Trump won the election and that there was rampant election fraud, stormed the U.S. Capitol, attacked law-enforcement officers and damaged property in an attempt to stop the U.S. Congress from certifying the presidential election.

On June 23, U.S. District Judge Timothy Kelly upheld an earlier ruling from a magistrate judge that Donohoe posed a great enough threat to public safety that he should remain in federal custody pending his trial. Donohoe’s attorneys have filed an appeal in the U.S. Court of Appeals in Washington, D.C. The court has already upheld decisions to keep Nordean and Biggs held in federal custody. Rehl is still in federal custody and has not appealed a federal judge’s decision to keep him in federal custody.

Lisa Costner, Donohoe’s attorney, argued in court papers filed with U.S. Court of Appeals that federal prosecutors have presented no evidence that Donohoe actively helped plan an attack or participated in the attack and said that statements he made during and after the attack were simply Donohoe bragging or making exaggerated comments in the heat of the moment.

Critically, she said, there’s no evidence that Donohoe helped the crowd overwhelm law-enforcement officers or that he even went into the Capitol building. And Costner also said that after the attack, Donohoe went home, cared for his son and worked a job he had at The Brewer’s Kettle in Kernersville. Costner said he even helped in find a missing teenage girl in Davidson County and was interviewed by a television station about his efforts.

Federal prosecutors say in court papers filed Wednesday that Donohoe didn’t just happen to go to Washington, D.C. They allege that Donohoe, president of the Piedmont chapter of the Proud Boys, “helped organize and lead a group of Proud Boys members who stormed the United States Capitol.”

Specifically, they pointed to Telegram messages in which he passed along instructions about logistics on Jan. 6 and where he exhorted members not to wear Proud Boys colors. They allege that Donohoe set up a new encryption messaging channel after Proud Boys national chairman Enrique Tarrio was arrested on Jan. 4. Prosecutors said Donohoe was afraid that federal agents would seize Tarrio’s phone.

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He also made statements indicating that he had a leadership role on Jan. 6 and that indicated in one message that members could be facing “gang” charges if anything was compromised.

Federal prosecutors also allege that Donohoe was part of a group that walked toward the Capitol building and trampled over barriers and that Donohoe is seen on video pushing up the Capitol steps in an apparent effort to overwhelm law-enforcement officers guarding the doors.

At 1:37 p.m. on Jan. 6, Donohoe is seen with a riot shield that another Proud Boys member, Dominic Pezzola, is alleged to have stolen from a Capitol police officer. Donohoe sent out a statement on Telegram: “Got a riot shield!” At 2:13 p.m., prosecutors allege, Pezzola used that same riot shield to break a window on the northwest side of the Capitol building.

Rioters were able to force an adjacent door open and get into the Capitol building after Pezzola allegedly broke the window, prosecutors said.

Prosecutors also said that at 3:38 p.m., Donohoe sent a message indicating that he left the Capitol building grounds and that he and others were “regrouping with a second force.” That regrouping never happened because he later stated that National Guard and Department of Homeland Security agents were coming, according to court documents.

Hours later, Donohoe said on Telegram: “I stood on that front line the entire time and pushed it twice.” He also said that he felt like a “complete warrior.”

Prosecutors argue that Kelly made the right choice in keeping Donohoe in custody.

Costner argued that federal probation officers had recommended pre-trial release conditions that are extremely restrictive. If released, Donohoe would be on 24-hour lockdown at his grandmother’s house and would not be allowed access to social media and have limited use of cellphones and computers.

It is unclear when the federal appellate court would make its decision.

336-727-7326

@mhewlettWSJ

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