Four alleged leaders of the Proud Boys have been indicted in connection with the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol over allegedly conspiring, including in discussions on encrypted messaging apps, to obstruct the certification of President Biden’s Electoral College victory.
The indictment unsealed Friday charges the defendants — Ethan Nordean, Joseph Biggs, Zach Rehl and Charles Donohoe — with six counts, including obstruction of an official proceeding, obstruction of law enforcement, destruction of government property and conspiracy.
According to the indictment, Nordean is the president of his local Proud Boy chapter in Washington state; Biggs is a Proud Boy member and organizer in Florida; Rehl is the president of a local chapter of the group in Philadelphia; and Donohoe is the president of his local Proud Boy chapter in North Carolina. Nordean and Biggs had previously been charged by complaint.
The defendants are the latest with ties to the Proud Boys, a far-right extremist group, to face conspiracy charges over their alleged roles in the Jan. 6 storming of the Capitol by Trump supporters.
This indictment, however, paints a more detailed picture of alleged discussions among members of the group in the runup to Jan. 6.
Two days before Congress met to certify the results, Washington, D.C., police arrested the Proud Boys chairman, Enrique Tarrio.
Prosecutors allege that after Tarrio’s arrest, Donohoe expressed concern that encrypted communications that included Tarrio were now compromised and in the hands of police.
Donohoe then created a new channel, called “New MOSD,” on an encrypted messaging app that included his co-defendants. Donohoe also, according to the indictment, “took steps to destroy or ‘nuke’ the earlier channel.”
Donohoe posted a message that same day to the new channel in which he says: “Hey have been instructed an listen to me real good! There is no planning of any sorts. I need to be put into whatever new thing is created. Everything is compromised and we can be looking at Gang charges.” He then added, “[S]top everything immediately” and “this comes from the top.”
Later that day, an individual identified in court documents only as an unindicted co-conspirator posted: “[W]e had originally planned on breaking the guys into teams. Let’s start divvying them up and getting baofeng channels picked out,” referring to channels on handheld radios.
The following day, the indictment says, a new encrypted messaging channel called “Boots on the Ground” was set up for Proud Boys in Washington. Some 60 people were in the channel, including the four defendants, prosecutors say.
That evening, Biggs posted a message to the channel that said he was trying to get a sense of their numbers so they can “go over tomorrow’s plan.”
Rehl told the channel he was on his way to Washington and was bringing radios with him. He added that there was a person who would program the devices later that evening.
The unindicted co-conspirator allegedly posted a message telling the group not to wear the group’s traditional black and yellow colors and to use good judgment “until further orders.”
“Rufio is in charge, cops are the primary threat, don’t get caught by them or BLM, don’t get drunk until off the street,” the unindicted co-conspirator wrote, according to court documents. (Nordean is also known as Rufio Panman.)
That same evening, Biggs allegedly posted a message that read: “We have a plan. I’m with Rufio.”
The indictment alleges that the members of the encrypted messaging channels were told to meet at the Washington Monument at 10 a.m. on Jan. 6.
Proud Boys did show up at the monument at 10, including the defendants, according to the indictment. From there, the group marched to the Capitol with Nordean, Biggs and Rehl near or at the front of the crowd.
Once there, the indictment says, the defendants “charged toward the capitol by crossing over the barriers that had been violently disassembled and trampled by the crowd moments before.”
Biggs, Nordean and Rehl all entered the Capitol, the indictment says.
The indictment alleges that the defendants then celebrated the events of Jan. 6 later on social media and in their encrypted chats.
The Proud Boys are not the only extremist group to see its members charged with conspiracy in connection with the Capitol riot. Members of the Oath Keepers, a far-right paramilitary group, are also facing conspiracy charges.
So far, more than 300 people have been charged in connection with the Capitol breach. Prosecutors say at least 100 more could still be charged.