WASHINGTON – A federal judge ordered Proud Boys leader Charles Donohoe to remain in jail pending trial, rejecting his defense attorneys' arguments that the North Carolina man isn't a danger to the public and didn't have a leadership role in planning the violent attack on the Capitol on Jan. 6.
"Mr. Donohoe is charged with interfering in the nation's peaceful transfer of power," U.S. District Judge Timothy Kelly said during a detention hearing Wednesday, adding that the charges are "gravely serious matters that favor detention."
Donohoe, of Kernersville, North Carolina, is among several Proud Boys leaders who were charged with conspiring to disrupt a joint session of Congress to count state-certified Electoral College votes. Others include Ethan Nordean and Joseph Biggs whom Kelly had previously ordered to remain in jail pending trial. The Justice Department has so far charged more than 500 people for their alleged involvement in storming the Capitol on Jan. 6.
More than 30, including several members or affiliates of the Proud Boys, an extremist group with ties to white supremacy whose members describe themselves as "Western Chauvinists," and the Oath Keepers paramilitary group have been indicted for conspiracy.
Prosecutors said Donohoe, president of a Proud Boys chapter in Kernersville, and other leaders "were heavily involved" in planning and marshalling members of the group leading up to and in the aftermath of the attack. Prosecutors also said Donohoe was among those who trampled barriers on the east side of the Capitol and overwhelmed police officers.
Donohoe's attorney, Lisa Costner, sought to revoke a magistrate judge's earlier order to keep Donohoe in jail and urged Kelly to allow her client to stay at home pending trial. She disputed that Donohoe was in any leadership role in planning the events at the Capitol and described him as a family man with a stable job and strong ties to his community.
"The chances of Mr. Donohoe being able to interfere with democracy while on home detention is nonexistent," Costner said.
Videos released in Capitol conspiracy case
A video released Monday shows Donohoe standing behind several people and appearing to surge forward, as the group pushed against a line of officers and forced their way in.
"When the crowd surges forward, he surges forward as well," Jason McCullough, an assistant U.S. attorney in Washington, D.C., said. McCullough added that Donohoe, a former U.S. Marine, was "lending his trained body" to overwhelm Capitol Police officers. "And after the fact, he celebrates it."
Another video showed Donohoe and a co-defendant carrying a riot shield believed to have been stolen from a police officer. A third showed members of the group, clad in bulletproof vests, standing on the east side of the Capitol. One can be heard saying, "Let's f------ take the Capitol!"
The videos, released after a coalition of media organizations, including USA TODAY, sought access, were among key evidence prosecutors used in a conspiracy case against Donohoe and other Proud Boys members.
Prosecutors said Donohoe continued to "engage in violent rhetoric" after Jan. 6 that suggested future attempts to storm the building again. After a Proud Boys member lamented it would be "too late" after President Joe Biden had taken office, Donohoe replied, "No, it's not. It's never too late, ever," according to encrypted messages exchanged on the Telegram app.
"Facial recognition doesn't mean s--- when you got a 5.56 green tip," Donohoe added, apparently referring to armor-piercing ammunition for assault rifles. The FBI used facial recognition software to identify some of the suspects in photos and videos from Jan. 6.
Donohoe's attorney says he was 'emotional'
Costner, Donohoe's attorney, urged the judge to not put too much stock on her client's words. She said Donohoe was expressing emotions in the "rush of the moment," but his comments don't prove any sinister plan.
"Being emotional about an event is certainly one thing," Costner said. "Someone engaging in a pattern (of making threats) … that's something entirely different and that's not what you see."
Costner, who asked the judge to place Donohoe on home detention pending trial, argued that Telegram messages showed some coordination to go to Washington, D.C. to gather and express disappointment in the election results, but they don't prove her client planned to disrupt the certification of the vote.
"There's nothing illegal about being unsatisfied with the election … nothing illegal about expressing that and nothing illegal about a plan to assemble," she said.
Costner also disputed the possibility of Donohoe going back to the Capitol, saying he promptly traveled back home to North Carolina and went back to work.
Still, Kelly was not convinced, noting evidence of Donohoe's capabilities and efforts to hide communications from investigators.
The Justice Department has so far reached plea agreements with a several defendants, including two people affiliated with the Oath Keepers.
Other defendants, Jessica and Joshua Bustle, Bryan Ivey, Ronnie Presley and Robert Reeder, have also pleaded guilty.
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Proud Boys leader Charles Donohoe charged in Capitol riot to stay jailed