Charles Donohoe, Proud Boys leader, agrees to testify against others in Jan. 6 Capitol riot

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

Court records filed Friday show he has already provided numerous insights into the group’s plans and their intention to disrupt the congressional electoral vote confirmation.

Charles Donohoe, 34, of Kernersville, NC, admitted to both organizing the pro-Trump attack on Congress and assaulting law enforcement officers. Donohoe is the first charged among six of the Proud Boys’ leaders, including longtime chairman Enrique Tarrio, to admit to both reporting an attack on Congress and assaulting law officers.

Proud Boy pleads guilty to felony charge in Capitol riot

Tarrio pleaded not guilty earlier this week to charges of conspiracy to obstruct an official proceeding and six other felonies. He has been ordered held in jail until trial along with six other defendants.

Those other defendants include Donohoe, who has been jailed since March of last year. He pleaded guilty to conspiracy to obstruct an official proceeding and assaulting police officers.

In December 2020, according to court documents filed Friday, Tarrio appointed Donohue as one of the members of the “Ministry of Self Defense,” a leadership group within the Proud Boys making preparations for Jan. 6.

In a newly filed statement of offense, prosecutors said that “Donohoe understood that the purpose of the rally in Washington, DC, on January 6, 2021, was to stop the certification of the Electoral College vote.” The “MOSD” leadership was broken into a three-person “marketing” council, to recruit more members, and an “operations” group. Donohoe was part of the marketing group, the statement of offense says, and it soon expanded to at least 65 members.

As early as Jan. 4, prosecutors said, “Donohoe was aware that members of the MOSD leadership were discussing the possibility of storming the Capitol. Donohoe believed that storming the Capitol would achieve the group’s goal of stopping the government from carrying out the transfer of presidential power. Donohoe understood that storming the Capitol would be illegal.”

Proud Boys conspired in multiple encrypted channels ahead of Jan. 6 riot, fearing criminal gang charges, US alleges

Donohoe hadn’t planned to be in DC on Jan. 6, the statement of offense says. But after Tarrio was arrested on Jan. 4, 2021, for burning a Black Lives Matter banner stolen From a DC church, Donohoe decided to travel to Washington because he “believed that Tarrio’s arrest could create a leadership void for the MOSD,” according to the filing, which is also signed by Donohoe.

On the morning of Jan. 6, the Proud Boys marched away from the Ellipse before President Donald Trump began his speech, and did not return. Instead, they went to the Capitol shortly after 10 a.m., the statement of offense says, and Donohoe posted that his group numbered “200-300 PBs.” Co-defendants Ethan Nordean and Joseph Biggs mustered the group, the statement says, and “Donohoe understood that Nordean and Biggs were searching for an opportunity to storm the Capitol.”

By 1 pm, the Proud Boys were being instructed in messages to “Push inside!” Donohoe reposted the message to other group leaders. Donohoe admitted throwing two water bottles at police trying to prevent the mob’s advance. At 1:37 pm, Donohoe took a picture of co-defendant Dominic Pezzola holding a riot shield that had been snatched from police.

Donohoe then found another Proud Boy who “initiated an altercation at the front of the crowd,” the statement says. “Donohoe pushed forward to advance up the concrete stairs toward the Capitol. The crowd overwhelmed law enforcement who were attempting to stop their advance.” About 140 police officers were injured during the onslaught, and five people died in the attack or immediate aftermath.

Donohoe was struck by pepper balls fired by police and had to back off, but he later celebrated the storming of the Capitol, the statement says, writing in the MOSD message group, “we stormed the capitol unarmed” and “took it over unarmed. ”

Nordean, Biggs and Pezzola have all pleaded not guilty.

Donohoe is the third member of the Proud Boys group to plead guilty. On Wednesday, Jeffery Finley, president of the West Virginia Proud Boys chapter, acknowledged being part of an effort to help Trump supporters overwhelm police outside the Capitol, and pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor of trespassing on restricted grounds, but did not agree to cooperate with the government.

Donohoe is the second Proud Boy to agree to testify against his co-defendants. In January, Matthew Greene of Syracuse, NY, admitted coordinating with other New York-based members of the extremist group at the front of the Capitol mob and pleaded guilty to felony conspiracy, also hoping for a reduced sentence in exchange for his cooperation. As a result of their deals, no sentencing dates were set for Donohoe or Greene, the pending outcome of their testimony in both trials and grand jury hearings.

The conspiracy charge Donohoe pleaded to carry a sentencing range of 97 to 121 months, but given credit for acceptance of responsibility and entering an early plea reduced Donohoe’s sentencing ranges from 70 to 87 months. If Donohoe supplies additional cooperation, prosecutors may ask US District Judge Timothy Kelly to reduce his sentence further. The longest sentence issued so far in the Capitol breach investigation has been 63 months, to Robert S. Palmer, for assaulting police.

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Andrew Naughtie

News reporter and author at @websalespromo