Top Proud Boys member pleads guilty to US Capitol riot charges

Charles Donohoe has agreed to testify against others in the far-right Proud Boys group at the forefront of the 2021 Capitol riot.

Rioters loyal to President Donald Trump rally at the US Capitol in Washington
Rioters loyal to President Donald Trump rally at the US Capitol in Washington on January 6, 2021 [File: Jose Luis Magana/AP]

A leader of the far-right Proud Boys group pleaded guilty on Friday to charges related to the attack on the United States Capitol, a victory for prosecutors that could bolster their cases against members of the group.

Charles Donohoe, the leader of the group’s North Carolina chapter at the time of the Capitol attack, entered the guilty plea during court hearing on Friday in the District of Columbia.

Donohoe admitted to conspiracy to obstruct an official proceeding, and assaulting and impeding police officers.

He became the second member of the Proud Boys to plead guilty to conspiring with other group members to stop Congress from formally certifying Joe Biden’s 2020 election victory.

Under US sentencing guidelines, Donohoe faces a likely sentence of about six years in prison, with credit for time already served. He will be sentenced at a later court hearing.

Donohoe agreed to cooperate with prosecutors as they prepare for trial against other Proud Boys defendants. Donohoe, 34, was arrested in March 2021. He has been in custody since last year.

A member of the Proud Boys attends a "Let's Go Brandon Festival" rally
The Proud Boys group has supported Donald Trump and continues to demonstrate against President Joe Biden [File: Emily Elconin/Reuters]

Former President Donald Trump’s supporters stormed the seat of Congress that day in a bid to overturn his 2020 election defeat.

Donohoe and other Proud Boys were videotaped leading a crowd towards the Capitol during the riot. More than three dozen people charged in the Capitol siege have been identified by federal authorities as Proud Boys leaders, members or associates.

“Mr. Donohoe is charged with interfering in the nation’s peaceful transfer of power,” US District Judge Timothy Kelly said during a court hearing in June, adding that the charges are “gravely serious matters that favour detention”.

An indictment unsealed last month alleged that Proud Boys chairman Enrique Tarrio was deeply involved in recruiting members of the group and directing their actions in the days prior to the January 6 attack.

Tarrio’s attorney entered a not-guilty plea on his behalf during a hearing on Tuesday.

Matthew Greene, in New York, became the first Proud Boys member to plead guilty to conspiracy in December. He agreed to cooperate with authorities as part of a plea agreement.

On the morning of January 6, Proud Boys members met at the Washington Monument and marched to the Capitol before President Donald Trump finished addressing thousands of supporters near the White House.

About two hours later, just before Congress convened a joint session to certify the election results, a group of Proud Boys followed a crowd of people who breached barriers at a pedestrian entrance to the Capitol grounds, according to one of the indictments. Several Proud Boys also entered the Capitol itself after the mob smashed windows and forced open doors, the indictment says.

Since January 6, 2021, more than 775 people have been arrested in nearly all 50 states for crimes related to the breach of the US Capitol, officials said.

In a separate hearing on Friday, a different judge declined to postpone a trial scheduled for some members of the Oath Keepers group who joined in the Capitol breach. Those defendants are charged with seditious conspiracy, a rarely used law prohibiting attempts to overthrow the government.

Defence lawyers had requested the delay, saying they needed more time to review evidence. But US District Judge Amit Mehta cited his own scheduling conflicts and the need to bring cases to trial.

Lawyers also suggested that all 11 Oath Keepers defendants go on trial at the same time. Mehta said that proposal was logistically impossible in the federal court in the District of Columbia.

Source: News Agencies