A Proud Boys leader from Kernersville facing charges in the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol will remain in federal custody after a judge ruled Wednesday that he posed a continuing threat to public safety.
Charles Joseph Donohoe, 33, was arrested in March on a six-count indictment alleging he actively helped plan the attack and participated in it, setting up new encrypted messaging chats to evade law-enforcement detection, providing instructions and helping lead a surge up the Capitol steps that overwhelmed law-enforcement officers.
U.S. District Judge Timothy Kelly made the ruling after a hearing that started Wednesday morning and two days after a federal judge released video footage to a media coalition that included CNN. That video footage shows Donohoe carrying a riot shield allegedly stolen from a Capitol police officer by another Proud Boys member, Dominic Pezzola. The video shows Donohoe and Pezzola carrying the riot shield through a crowd while another man asks Pezzola whether he stole the shield. Pezzola is heard saying that he did.
Federal prosecutors allege that Pezzola later used that riot shield to break a window in the Capitol building, allowing rioters to enter.
Another video shows Donohoe standing at the edge of the Capitol steps, with a red-white-and-blue neck gaiter covering his face, among a crowd preparing to surge up the steps. Kelly cited those videos as well as statements Donohoe is alleged to have made in Telegram messages before and after the attack as reasons why he needed to remain in custody.
Donohoe is the president of the Piedmont chapter of the Proud Boys, a far-right group known for its pro-Western ideology and violent clashes with others at events. He and three other men were indicted together – Ethan Nordean of Auburn, Wash.; Joseph Biggs of Ormond, Fla.; and Zachary Rehl of Philadelphia. All are leaders of Proud Boys.
Federal prosecutors have portrayed Donohoe, a U.S. Marine veteran who served two tours in Iraq and worked as a private military contractor in Afghanistan, as having a leadership role in Proud Boys similar to a senior lieutenant. They have said Donohoe created a new chat room on Telegram on Jan. 4, the day Proud Boys national chairman Enrique Tarrio was arrested. He also made statements on Telegram, urging people to move to the new chat rooms so that he could destroy or “nuke” the older messages.
They said he 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 on Jan. 6. He also said until Nordean and Rehl showed up, he had the keys, which prosecutors said indicated a leadership role.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Jason McCullough also pointed to statements he made after the attack in which Donohoe said he “felt like a complete warrior” and that “we stormed the Capitol unarmed and we took it over unarmed.”
Lisa Costner, Donohoe’s attorney, was appealing an earlier decision by U.S. Magistrate Judge G. Michael Harvey to have Donohoe remain in custody. She argued that Donohoe did not enter the U.S. Capitol and there’s no evidence that he assaulted law-enforcement officers or damaged property.
She argued that the Telegram messages don’t provide any proof that there was a plan to attack the U.S. Capitol. At most, she said, they show plans to go to Washington, D.C.
But Kelly, noting something Harvey said in his decision, said that there is usually no explicit documentation of a criminal conspiracy. But you can make inferences by the way that people act, he said.
Kelly said Donohoe mentioned the fear that people involved could get “gang charges,” suggesting that Donohoe knew what he was doing was criminal. And Donohoe, he said, made efforts to evade law-enforcement detection by attempting to destroy encrypted communications.
He acknowledged that Donohoe did not assault anyone or damage property but said Donohoe is shown in video appearing to push his way up the Capitol steps. That was part of an overall effort to overwhelm law-enforcement officers whose job was to protect the building, he said.
Prosecutors also have noted that Donohoe was among a crowd that advanced toward the Capitol over trampled barricades.
Kelly took particular note of statements that Donohoe is purported to have made after the attack: “It’s never too late.” Donohoe made that statement in response to someone else who said that it was too late because Biden won the election. Kelly also noted this other statement Donohoe made: “Facial recognition don’t mean s*** when you got a .556 green tip.” The green tip appears to be a reference to a kind of armor-piercing bullet, prosecutors have said.
“On this record, Mr. Donohoe is not someone for whom this is over,” Kelly said.
Donohoe’s next court date in U.S. District Court in Washington, D.C. will be on July 15.