A leader of the Proud Boys pleaded guilty on Friday to two felony charges in one of the most prominent criminal cases against an organized far-right group that participated in the US Capitol attack on January 6, 2021.
Charles Donohoe, 34, is the first person in the Proud Boys leadership to plead guilty and to assist the Justice Department’s investigation against the pro-Donald Trump group.
He pleaded guilty to conspiracy to obstruct an official proceeding and assaulting an officer and could provide vital information to prosecutors about what the top members of the organization had planned for the attack.
Donohoe, who led the Proud Boys North Carolina chapter, could face more than seven years in prison according to the plea hearing read aloud in court, and agreed to pay $2,000 in restitution for damage done to the Capitol.
Prosecutors have gained momentum recently in their investigation into the Proud Boys. Prosecutors cracked the phone of Proud Boys leader Enrique Tarrio in March and have said in court that there is new evidence that could lead to additional charges or arrests in that case.
The head of the West Virginia chapter of the Proud Boys pleaded guilty on Wednesday and sad that he looked to Donohoe, Tarrio, and others as leaders on January 6, and another Proud Boys member is slated to plead guilty later Friday.
Five other alleged leaders of the Proud Boys – Ethan Nordean, Joseph Biggs, Zachary Rehl, Tarrio and Dominic Pezzola – have pleaded not guilty.
According to court records, Donohoe helped to recruit members and lead the Proud Boys on January 6.
Prosecutors say that Donohoe was a member of a small national leadership group of Proud Boys, self-entitled the Ministry of Self Defense. The group, which was established by Tarrio, was for “national rally planning” and included “hand selected members,” according to court documents. Donohoe, Tarrio, Biggs, Nordean and Rehl and others had an encrypted messaging channel entitled “MOSD Leaders Group,” where they created the plan for January 6.
The MOSD leaders held calls for prospective members, prosecutors say, and emphasized that members should “follow the commands of leadership.”
Two days before the riot, Tarrio was arrested in DC and instructed the members to carry out what they had planned for January 6, prosecutors say. Within an hour of Tarrio’s arrest, Donohoe deleted the MOSD Leaders Group message and warned others that “everything is compromised” because investigators might search Tarrio’s phone.
“Well at least they won’t get our boots on the ground plan because we are one step ahead of them,” Donohoe messaged, according to court documents.
On January 6, the Proud Boys leaders, outfitted with radios for communicating, met at the Washington Monument and marched together to the Capitol. They were among the first to breach Capitol grounds, and Donohoe sent a message that they were “trying” to push inside.
A video from January 6 shows Donohoe carrying a police riot shield, and pushing with a crowd past police and up the Capitol steps.
After the mob left the building Donohoe celebrated, according to court documents, messaging other Proud Boys that “We stormed the capitol unarmed” and “we took it over unarmed,” court filings say.
This story has been updated with additional details.