In new court papers filed Friday, federal prosecutors say Charles Joseph Donohoe, a Kernersville resident and Proud Boys leader, played a pivotal role in leading his fellow Proud Boys in the Jan. 6 U.S. Capitol riot.
He also assisted another Proud Boys member in carrying a riot shield stolen from a police officer on Jan. 6 and sought to destroy electronic messages afterward, prosecutors said.
Documents also allege that, celebrating afterward, Donohoe said he felt like a “complete warrior.”
Federal prosecutors filed a motion in U.S. District Court in Washington, D.C., arguing that Donohoe should remain in federal custody while he awaits trial on charges connected to his alleged role. Indictments allege that Donohoe, 33, helped people dismantle barriers and force their way into the Capitol on Jan. 6. The purpose was to stop the U.S. Congress from certifying President Joe Biden’s win in the 2020 presidential race. FBI agents arrested Donohoe in Kernersville on March 17.
“As alleged in the indictment, Donohoe played a direct role in unleashing violence on the Capitol,” prosecutors said in court papers. “After the attack, he celebrated, declaring in Telegram messages that January 6 made him ‘feel like a complete warrior’ and that he celebrated that ‘We stormed the capitol unarmed ... and we took it over unarmed.”
Prosecutors also said in court papers that they don’t have any evidence that Donohoe actually entered the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, but they said Donohoe poses a threat to public safety because he is a “person who had the ability to organize and command a group of men to further a criminal conspiracy.”
Lisa Costner, who represented Donohoe during his appearance in federal court in Winston-Salem, could not immediately be reached for comment on Friday.
VIDEO: Charles Donohoe talks about his beliefs in this 2019 video
Donohoe is a former U.S. Marine who served two tours in Iraq. An indictment unsealed on March 19 named him and three other men, all members of the Proud Boys, a far-right group. Members have engaged in violent confrontations, and in one event, Proud Boys members burned a Black Lives Matter banner in Washington, D.C. The Southern Poverty Law Center calls Proud Boys a hate group and cites the group for anti-Muslim and misogynistic rhetoric.
The other men named as co-defendants are Ethan Nordean, 30, of Auburn, Wash.; Joseph Biggs, 37, of Ormond, Fla.; and Zachary Rehl, 35, of Philadelphia. Donohoe is the president of the Piedmont chapter of the Proud Boys.
According to the court documents, Donohoe “took personal control over efforts to plan for the January 6 event.” After Proud Boys national chairman Enrique Tarrio was arrested on Jan. 4, Donohoe created a new chat group in the Telegram messaging app because he was afraid Proud Boys members would be compromised after law enforcement seized Tarrio’s phone, federal prosecutors said. Not only did Donohoe create a new chat group, he also told other Proud Boys members to leave the earlier chats so that he could “nuke” or destroy them, prosecutors said.
He also reiterated messages from other Proud Boys leaders that members should not wear colors associated with Proud Boys and communicated logistics about where members would meet on Jan. 6 and how they would communicate.
Prosecutors made these allegations against Donohoe:
On Jan. 6, Donohoe arrived early at the Washington Monument, where he told others that he “had the keys” until Nordean and Rehl arrived.
Donohoe and others gathered near the pedestrian entrance to the Capitol grounds just before 1 p.m. Jan. 6. The crowd there overwhelmed law-enforcement officers and trampled the first set of barriers. An unindicted co-conspirator said on one of the Telegram channels: “Storming the capital building right now!”
Donohoe went past the barriers and into the Capitol’s restricted perimeter and then made his way to the front of the group.
Proud Boys member Dominic Pezzola stole a riot shield from a Capitol Police officer, and Donohoe was shown on video carrying that riot shield with Pezzola. Donohoe sent a message to the Telegram messaging group, saying, “Got a riot shield!”
Donohoe was there when rioters made a final push to reach the Capitol, pushing through law-enforcement officers in an effort to go up the stairs to the west terrace of the Capitol building. Pezzola was then able to use the riot shield he had stolen to break a large window. Breaking that window allowed the rioters to get into the building.
More than an hour later, at 3:38 p.m., Donohoe announced over Telegram, “We are regrouping with a second force.” But that plan failed, according to another message from Donohoe where he said the National Guard and “DHS agents” were coming.
Donohoe celebrated the events at the Capitol, saying over Telegram, “I stood on that front line the entire time and pushed it twice.”
Then after the Jan. 6 event, as other Proud Boys members were being arrested, he asked over Telegram, “Want me to nuke it?” He was directed to destroy communications. Ten minutes later, he was told, “That didn’t nuke it lol” and then “you gotta nuke it.” A few minutes later, Donohoe wrote, “Hmmm.”
A detention hearing has not yet been scheduled. Donohoe is currently in federal custody in Washington, D.C.