Proud Boys Leader Turns Rat

A key planner of the Capitol riot has agreed to testify against others in exchange for a lighter sentence.

NPR (“Proud Boy leader pleads guilty to Jan. 6 conspiracy, agrees to cooperate with DOJ“):

The leader of a North Carolina chapter of the far-right Proud Boys group pleaded guilty Friday to conspiracy in connection with the violent assault on the U.S. Capitol, and has agreed to fully cooperate with the government in its ongoing investigation into the deadly events of Jan. 6, 2021.

Charles Donohoe entered his plea at a virtual hearing in federal court in Washington, D.C. The 34-year-old is one of six senior Proud Boys, including the group’s chairman, to be charged with conspiring to obstruct Congress’ certification of Joe Biden’s election victory.

The case against the Proud Boys leaders is one of the highest-profile prosecutions to emerge from the Justice Department’s probe into the Capitol riot. Donohoe’s cooperation with investigators, as outlined in his plea deal, could significantly boost prosecutors’ case against the remaining defendants and possibly spur others to cut their own agreements and cooperate.

Under the deal, Donohoe pleaded guilty to conspiring to obstruct an official proceeding, and assaulting, resisting or impeding an officer. The government agreed to drop the remaining counts against him in the indictment.

[…]

Donohoe joined the leadership of a new Proud Boys chapter called the Ministry of Self Defense on Dec. 20, 2020, according to the statement of offense that accompanied his plea. The chapter, known as MOSD, focused on national rallies, including the Jan. 6, 2021 one in Washington D.C..

Several of Donohoe’s co-defendants — Henry Enrique Tarrio, Ethan Nordean, Joseph Biggs, Zachary Rehl — had top leadership roles in MOSD, the court papers say. Donohoe worked on a regional level to recruit trusted Proud Boys into this specialized chapter.

As early as Jan. 4, 2021, “Donohoe was aware that members of MOSD leadership were discussing the possibility of storming the Capitol,” according to the court papers.

“Donohoe believed that storming the Capitol would achieve the group’s goal of stopping the government from carrying out the transfer of presidential power,” the statement of offense reads, which Donohoe testified under oath in court was correct and accurate. “Donohoe understood that storming the Capitol would be illegal.”

The document contains information about the alleged steps Donohoe and the other defendants took leading up to Jan. 6, including exchanging text messages on the eve of the rally about their plans.

While Donohoe was not given details, which were known by several of his co-defendants, he gleaned that the goal was to interfere with the certification of the Electoral College vote, according to the document.

“Donohoe understood from discussions that the group would pursue this through the use of force and violence, in order to show Congress that ‘we the people’ were in charge,” it says.

On the morning of Jan. 6, Donohoe met up with a 100 or so Proud Boys at the Washington Monument. From there, they marched to the Capitol, where the Proud Boys were among the first to push past police lines guarding the complex. Donohoe threw two water bottles at a line of police.

[…]

This case is one of several brought against members of the far-right group over the Jan. 6 attack. In all, nearly 50 people with links to the Proud Boys have been charged so far in the Capitol riot investigation.

Two members of the group, Jeffrey Finley of West Virginia and Ricky Willden of California, pleaded guilty in their own respective cases this week as well.

WaPo (“Proud Boys leader admits plan to storm Capitol and will testify against others“):

A North Carolina man who was one of the leaders of the far-right Proud Boys as they assaulted the Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021, pleaded guilty Friday to two felony counts with a minimum sentence of nearly six years in prison and agreed to cooperate against other defendants in hopes of getting a lighter sentence.

Court records filed Friday show he has provided numerous insights into the group’s plans and intention to disrupt the electoral vote confirmation. Prosecutors have now secured convictions and the cooperation of defendants in probes into two groups, the Proud Boys and the Oath Keepers, accused of planning violence on Jan. 6.

In addition to the plea by Proud Boys member Charles Donohoe and an earlier plea by another defendant, an Alabama member of the Oath Keepers pleaded guilty last month to seditious conspiracy, admitting to taking part in a plan developed by group founder Stewart Rhodes to oppose by force the inauguration of President Biden, including taking part in the Capitol breach.

[…]

Donohoe had not planned to be in Washington on Jan. 6, the statement of offense said. But after Tarrio was arrested on Jan. 4 for burning a Black Lives Matter banner stolen from a local church, Donohoe decided to travel to Washington because he “believed that Tarrio’s arrest could create a leadership void” for the Ministry of Self Defense, according to the filing, which was signed by Donohoe.

On the morning of Jan. 6, the Proud Boys marched away from the Ellipse before Trump began his speech and did not return. They went to the Capitol shortly after 10 a.m., the statement said, and Donohoe posted that his group numbered 200 to 300 Proud Boys members. Defendants Ethan Nordean and Joseph Biggs mustered the group, and “Donohoe understood that Nordean and Biggs were searching for an opportunity to storm the Capitol.”

By 1 p.m., the Proud Boys were being instructed in messages to “push inside!” Donohoe reposted the message to other group leaders. 

This further confirms my prior sense that the Proud Boys and other extremist organizations were at the forefront of the break-in and violence of January 6.

The main new-to-me details here are the dates: the leaders didn’t get together until December 20, less than three weeks before the event, and didn’t even discuss the possibility of storming the Capitol until January 4—two days ahead of the vote count. Given that one would have expected the Capitol to be rather well-protected that day (it turns out, not so much) that’s some half-assed planning to say the least. They left themselves no time for detailed reconnaissance or operational planning, much less rehearsal. Hell, they barely had time to get the word out to their people to get to the Capitol.

It’s also noteworthy that Donahue’s faction alone “numbered 200 to 300.” If, as a rough estimate, the other five factions were the same size, that’s 1200-1800. Then again, if the faction leader can’t get closer than “200 to 300” to estimating the size of his group, that speaks to either their unreliabilty, the poorness of his leadership, or both.

UPDATE: I posted this in the comments below in response to frustration that DOJ hasn’t gone after Trump and his cronies but it bears noting here: Cases tend to work bottom up. We’ve got a guilty plea from a senior lieutenant who has agreed to testify against the top of the Proud Boy food chain. He has every incentive to give him up, since his sentence is contingent. That, in turn, gives DOJ leverage over Tarrio, who will almost certainly be enticed in a similar fashion to testify against Trump-connected officials. We’ll see where it leads.

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James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.

Comments

  1. MarkedMan says:

    . They left themselves no time for detailed reconnaissance or operational planning, much less rehearsal.

    I assume you are being sarcastic here? These right wing marching morons are little more than dangerous man-boys, playing violent dress up and goading each other into ever more extreme displays of bravado. But when the going gets tough they turn into the blubbering whiners, throwing everyone under the bus. If you think about how a 13 year old boy often acts when caught, before they have developed a mature moral sense, that’s pretty typical of how such faux he-men will act when the hammer comes down.

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  2. Sleeping Dog says:

    That the DoJ is rounding up the Pitiful Boys is nice, but the info that needs to be spilled from them is not ratting on each other, but who were the WH contacts, what congress critters were involved, who in TFG’s greater campaign was in contact.

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  3. CSK says:

    And in a related matter, Donald Trump told the WaPo this past Wednesday that he would have joined the marchers on the Capitol “in a minute,” but the Secret Service wouldn’t let him do so.

    Bullshit. Bullshit, bullshit, bullshit.

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  4. James Joyner says:

    @Sleeping Dog:

    That the DoJ is rounding up the Pitiful Boys is nice, but the info that needs to be spilled from them is not ratting on each other, but who were the WH contacts, what congress critters were involved, who in TFG’s greater campaign was in contact.

    Cases tend to work bottom up. We’ve got a guilty plea from a senior lieutenant who has agreed to testify against the top of the Proud Boy food chain. He has every incentive to give him up, since his sentence is contingent. That, in turn, gives DOJ leverage over Tarrio, who will almost certainly be enticed in a similar fashion to testify against Trump-connected officials. We’ll see where it leads.

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  5. Sleeping Dog says:

    @James Joyner:

    I realize that. As we approach a year and a half from the event, it will be satisfying to some of the ‘suits’ doing a perp walk.

    Reading this AM about Ali Alexander, who, hasn’t been accused of any subversive activity, but was an organizer of a rally to be held at the capitol, agreeing to testify before the grand jury, was nice to read. One step closer to TFG.

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  6. Mimai says:

    Proud Boys Leader Does The Right Thing.

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  7. EddieInCA says:

    @Mimai:

    Proud Boys Leader Leader Takes Responsibility

    FTFY

    2
  8. EddieInCA says:

    @Mimai:

    What Mimal says!

  9. Mimai says:

    @EddieInCA: That works too!

    1
  10. Mimai says:

    @EddieInCA: Also, this…because I can’t help myself 🙂

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  11. Michael Reynolds says:

    Pussy.

    Billy Woolfenden. That’s the name of my erstwhile crime partner who I did not give up at any point in 22 years on the run. (He’s dead now, so, no longer an issue). Funny, you’d think with a personal arsenal, enough ammo to defend the Alamo, tactical gear, body armor, bear spray and much manly strutting about he’d be tougher than a kid book author.

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  12. gVOR08 says:

    While Donohoe was not given details, which were known by several of his co-defendants, he gleaned that the goal was to interfere with the certification of the Electoral College vote, according to the document.

    Oh yeah, he was a top leader in the conspiracy. In fifteen months DoJ has worked up to the Proud Boys flunky level. Another couple years maybe they’ll get to John Eastman’s secretary. The mills of the DoJ grind slowly, but they grind exceedingly slowly.

  13. Flat Earth Luddite says:

    Oh, this guy is gonna have SOOOOOO much fun doing time in a federal facility. The local clubs (especially the neo-Nazis, IIRC) just love them some rat stew.

    Personally, I’m betting on him “suiciding” within the first 30 days out of protective custody. And this lad’s going straight into PC on confinement. And make no mistake, that’s where they’ve got him stashed now.

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  14. Lounsbury says:

    @Sleeping Dog: real life is not a Hollywood movie. Real development takes much more time than people have patience for…

    Better well prepared and documented cases, than PR grandstanding.

  15. Barry says:

    James: “I posted this in the comments below in response to frustration that DOJ hasn’t gone after Trump and his cronies but it bears noting here: Cases tend to work bottom up. ”

    James, there are three huge differences because Jan 6:
    1) This is far more serious than 9/11, and should be literally receiving the overwhelming majority of the DoJ/FBI’s attention.
    2) There’s some serious time limits here – the GQP will likely control Congress in less than 10 months, and they overwhelmingly support the attempted coup.
    3) This crime has more people recording more evidence than any other such crime in history. There should be enough evidence to quickly convict hundreds of people and to give them 20 year sentences. What is the stiffest sentence given? 5 years? How many convicted? A dozen or so?

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  16. OzarkHillbilly says:

    @Barry: 1) 2) 3)… Tell me you haven’t had much exposure to the justice system without saying you haven’t had any exposure to the justice system.

    Seriously, it grinds slow and relentlessly. Mostly all but the rich in it’s path. It’s how you end up with an above average income white woman saying she will never face any consequences for her actions then expressing shock at looking at a few months shock time in jail/prison and declaring herself the most unjustly persecuted person in the history of mankind.

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  17. wr says:

    @Michael Reynolds: “Funny, you’d think with a personal arsenal, enough ammo to defend the Alamo, tactical gear, body armor, bear spray and much manly strutting about he’d be tougher than a kid book author.”

    Maybe the personal arsenal, ammo, tactical gear, body armor, bear spray and strutting should be taken as an admission he knows he’s not tougher than a kid book author…