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Proud Boys leader from N.C. pleads not guilty to U.S. Capitol riot charges. Detention hearing scheduled.
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Proud Boys leader from N.C. pleads not guilty to U.S. Capitol riot charges. Detention hearing scheduled.

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Charles Joseph Donohoe, a Kernersville resident and Proud Boys leader who is facing charges in the Jan. 6 U.S. Capitol riot, will have a hearing Monday to determine if he should remain in federal custody.

He appeared Tuesday in U.S. District Court in Washington, D.C. for a hearing in which he was officially notified of the charges he is facing. Those charges include conspiracy, obstruction of an official proceeding, destruction of government property and disorderly conduct in a restricted building or grounds.

Donohoe, 33, was charged along with three other men — 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.

A hearing was also held Tuesday on motions that federal prosecutors filed asking a judge to revoke pre-trial release for Nordean and Biggs. U.S. District Judge Timothy Kelly did not make a decision and took the matter under advisement. Kelly also presided over Donohoe’s hearing on Tuesday. Federal prosecutors are also seeking to revoke pre-trial release for Rehl, but that motion has not been heard.

Donohoe pleaded not guilty to all charges on Tuesday. He appeared via video conferencing. Lisa Costner, a Winston-Salem criminal defense attorney, represented him.

Federal prosecutors have 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 the charges. Indictments allege that Donohoe 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.

In their motion, prosecutors said, “Donohoe played a direct role in unleashing violence on the Capitol.” After the attack, prosecutors said, Donohoe celebrated and declared in the Telegram messaging app that Jan. 6 made him “feel like a complete warrior.” Prosecutors also said he told others in messages that “We stormed the capitol unarmed...and we took it over unarmed.”

Prosecutors have not presented any evidence that Donohoe actually entered the U.S. Capitol, but in their motion, 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.”

Donohoe is a former U.S. Marine who served two tours in Iraq.

The Southern Poverty Law Center calls the Proud Boys a hate group and cites the group for anti-Muslim and misogynistic rhetoric.

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 also allege that Donohoe went past barriers and into the Capitol’s restricted perimeter and made his way to the front of the group. And Donohoe is shown on video carrying a riot shield that Proud Boys member Dominic Pezzola stole from a Capitol Police officer. 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.”

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@mhewlettWSJ

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