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Winston-Salem Proud Boys leader due in court on Friday
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Winston-Salem Proud Boys leader due in court on Friday

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A Winston-Salem man who is a leader of the Proud Boys is scheduled to appear on Friday afternoon in U.S. District Court in Winston-Salem on charges connected to the Jan. 6 insurrection at the U.S. Capitol.

FBI agents took Charles Joseph Donohoe, 33, a U.S. Marine veteran, into custody in Kernersville on Wednesday morning, Shelley Lynch, a spokeswoman for the FBI office in Charlotte, said.

Proud Boys is a far-right extremist organization and is described as a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center because of anti-Muslim and misogynistic rhetoric.

Donohoe had an initial appearance on Wednesday and is scheduled for a status hearing on Friday, according to Lynne Klauer, a spokeswoman for the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Greensboro. Lisa Costner, his attorney, could not immediately be reached for comment on Thursday.

Donohoe was being held Thursday as a federal inmate in the Forsyth County Jail with no bond allowed, the Forsyth County Sheriff’s Office said.

The New York Times reported Wednesday that Donohoe and another man, Zach Rehl, president of the Proud Boys’ Philadelphia chapter, were charged with conspiring to interfere with law enforcement officers at the Capitol and with obstructing the certification of President Joe Biden’s electoral win, the Times reported.

Court documents detailing the allegations against Donohoe were not available on an online federal database. Shelia Miller, a spokeswoman for the U.S. Justice Department, said in an email that those court documents, which would include an indictment, are sealed.

At Donohoe’s initial appearance on Wednesday, U.S. Magistrate Judge Joi Elizabeth Peake ordered federal prosecutors to file a motion for a detention hearing by Friday morning. She ordered Donohoe to remain in custody and that a detention hearing be scheduled for March 24 in U.S. District Court in Winston-Salem.

Raw Story, an online news publication, reported that Donohoe is the president of the Piedmont North Carolina chapter of the Proud Boys.

The Raw Story article cited video shot by Eddie Block, a Proud Boy from California, that showed Donohoe on the front line of a group of Proud Boys marching toward the Capitol.

According to the New York Times, two other high-ranking Proud Boys — Ethan Nordean of Auburn, Wash., and Joseph Biggs of Ormond Beach, Fla. — have also been charged in the conspiracy. The recent arrests, the New York Times reported, are part of an increasing effort by federal prosecutors to crack down on Proud Boys for their alleged role in the Jan. 6 insurrection. Federal prosecutors have identified 13 Proud Boys members and charged them with participating in the Jan. 6 incident, the Times reported.

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Donohoe is a veteran of the U.S. Marines. He served from June 13, 2006 to June 12, 2010. He was a corporal and a rifleman and was deployed twice to Iraq — from August 2007 to February 2008 and from April 2009 to October 2009.

Donohoe talked about his military service during an appearance in February 2019 on an online show called “Leatherneck Reconnect.” The show follows two military veterans who are trying to connect with Marines with whom they served.

The video shows two hosts meeting at Camel City BBQ on Liberty Street. The hosts are told that they are supposed to go down to what is called “the secret room.” A clerk takes them downstairs to Kelly Days, a separate business, where they see Donohoe.

Later in the video, as his name flashes across the screen, Donahoe introduces himself to the camera and says his nickname is “Yut Yut.”

Donohoe says he has “top secret” clearance, then says he will probably lose it.

He says he’s from Winston-Salem and that the Marine Corps is in his blood.

“The only things I care about are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. And anyone who doesn’t agree with that, is a traitor and they deserve a traitor’s death.”

Steve Doumas, owner of Camel City BBQ, issued a statement on Facebook that he and the restaurant do not tolerate hate groups or terrorists.

“These two men came thru our restaurant to go to Kelly Days Bar in the basement of the 701 Liberty building,” he said. “They did not come as Proud Boys. They came as part of a retired armed forces outreach group called Leatherneck Reconnect. Their mission was helping veterans with PTSD. They did not present themselves as Proud Boys.”

He said there are no secret subversive groups and that Kelly Days was not a secret bar but a bar geared toward first-responders, such as firefighters and police officers.

Doumas said his restaurant welcomes all kinds of people.

“We’re a crew here made up of Latino, African-American, American Indian, LGBTQ. I could go on. That’s not virtue signaling,” he said. “That’s who we are. We are and always have been an inclusive local business.”

Kelly Days has been closed since September 2019, Doumas said. Kelly Jernigan, the owner of the bar, declined to comment on Wednesday, saying she doesn’t know Donohoe. A federal lawsuit filed by a group of black firefighters alleges that Jernigan, a captain in the Winston-Salem Fire Department, wrote an article for a web site with the title, “Less Diversity is Needed in the Fire Service.”

She is also accused of suggesting that authorities use German shepherd dogs to control Black Lives Matter protesters.



Journal reporter John Hinton contributed to this story.


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