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Proud Boys leader from Forsyth conspired to storm U.S. Capitol, newly unsealed indictment alleges
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Proud Boys leader from Forsyth conspired to storm U.S. Capitol, newly unsealed indictment alleges

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Charles Joseph Donohoe — Proud Boys leader who once earned an Eagle Scout Award — conspired for at least a month to storm the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6 and even eliminated an encrypted messaging channel after the national Proud Boys leader was arrested two days before the insurrection, according to an indictment unsealed Friday.

The indictment also said Donohoe, 33, helped people dismantle barriers and force their way into the Capitol. 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 Wednesday. Court papers say that Donohoe lives in Kernersville, though some public records indicate a Winston-Salem address.

Donohoe is a U.S. Marine who served two tours in Iraq. According to a Winston-Salem Journal article, he earned an Eagle Scout Award in 2006 for building an equestrian therapy area for what was then known as the Children’s Home on Reynolda Road.

Federal investigators have increasingly been cracking down on Proud Boys members for their alleged role in the Jan. 6 insurrection that resulted in U.S. legislators and other officials evacuating the U.S. Capitol.

Federal prosecutors say that rioters assaulted 139 law enforcement officers and caused millions of dollars in property damage. Five people died, including a Capitol police officer. Two people have been charged with assault in connection with that police officer’s death.

Donohoe, wearing a dark blue jail jumpsuit, appeared in U.S. District Court Friday afternoon, along with his attorney, Lisa Costner. He signed papers waiving a detention hearing in federal court in Winston-Salem.

U.S. Magistrate Judge Joi Elizabeth Peake ordered the case transferred to federal court in Washington, D.C. Donohoe will remain in federal custody but will be transferred to Washington, D.C. The detention hearing is scheduled to be held on Wednesday, but that may change.

An indictment unsealed Friday names Donohoe and three other men, all members of Proud Boys.

Prosecutors say Proud Boys members attend rallies, protests and other events. Members have engaged in violent confrontation, and, in one event, Proud Boys members burned a Black Lives Matter banner in Washington, D.C., that had been hanging on a predominantly Black church. The Southern Poverty Law Center says Proud Boys is a hate group and cites the group for anti-Muslim and misogynistic rhetoric.

The indictment has several charges against Donohoe and three other Proud Boys members, including conspiracy, destruction of government property and obstruction of an official proceeding. The other men were 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.

Nordean and Rehl are presidents of their local Proud Boys chapters, and Biggs is a Proud Boys member and self-described organizer of Proud Boys events, according to the indictment.

Plans for the Jan. 6 “Stop the Steal” protest were announced Dec. 19, 2020. On Dec. 29, 2020, Enrique Tarrio, national chairman of the Proud Boys, said on social media that Proud Boys members would turn out in record numbers at the Jan. 6 event. He also urged members not to wear the traditional colors of the Proud Boys — black and yellow — so that they could blend in with the crowd. Donohoe, Nordean, Biggs and Rehl reiterated that message, the indictment alleges.

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In January, Tarrio was taken into custody on an outstanding warrant, alleging that he had burned a Black Lives Banner in Washington, D.C., in December 2020. On Jan. 4, Donohoe told members that he was concerned that law-enforcement officers would find encrypted messages about the planned protest on Tarrio’s phone, the indictment said. As a result, Donohoe created a new encrypted messaging channel, called “New MOSD.” He also destroyed the old channel. The new channel included Donohoe and the three other men.

Donohoe also sent a message on “New MOSD,” which read: “Hey have been instructed and listen to me real good! There is no planning of any sorts. I need to be put into whatever new thing is created. Everything is compromised and we can be looking at Gang charges.” Later, he said, “Stop everything immediately ... This comes from the top.”

That same day, the indictment said, someone else, described as an unindicted co-conspirator, posted to that channel: “We had originally planned on breaking the guys into teams. Let’s start divvying them up and getting baofeng channels picked out.” Baofeng is a brand of walkie-talkies designed for people to communicate privately with each other.

A new encrypted messaging channel, “Boots on the Ground” was created on Jan. 5, which had 60 users, including Nordean, Biggs, Rehl and Donohoe.

All four men communicated in the days before the Jan. 6 protest, including having conversations about getting radios and logistics.

On Jan. 6, Donohoe was among a group at the First Street pedestrian entrance to the U.S. Capitol at 12:53 p.m. Shortly after, Donohoe joined in crossing over the barriers to that entrance “that had been violently disassembled and trampled by the crowd.”

As Donohoe and others marched with the crowd, they faced other barriers. Around that time, Donohoe, Nordean, Biggs and Rehl were receiving encrypted messages that people were “storming” the Capitol.

All four men then went toward the west plaza of the U.S. Capitol. Nordean and Biggs shook a metal barricade, with Capitol police officers standing on the other side until the two men and others in the crowd were able to knock it down. Donohoe joined with others, according to the indictment, and went through the barricade.

Nordean, Biggs and Rehl went to the front of the crowd and when they got to the police line, Biggs took a video, saying “We’ve just taken the Capitol.”

Around 2 p.m., the indictment said, Donohoe “assisted the crowd’s effort to advance upon a flight of stairs toward the Capitol. The crowd overwhelmed law enforcement officers who were attempting to stop the crowd from advancing.”

It’s unclear from the indictment when Donohoe is accused of forcing his way into the Capitol, but at 3:38 p.m., as some rioters were leaving, Donohoe announced on another encrypted messaging channel, that his group was “regrouping with another force.”

Afterward, all four men posted on social media about the event. This is what Donohoe said, according to the indictment: “We stormed the capitol unarmed.” Then, he added, “And we took it over unarmed.”

WATCH NOW: Charles Donohoe talks about his beliefs in this 2019 video

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@mhewlettWSJ

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