WASHINGTON — A regional president of the right-wing Proud Boys group is pleading guilty to charges stemming from the insurrection at the U.S. Capitol, splitting with the organization’s former chairman Enrique Tarrio and other members who are due to go on trial later this year.
Charles Donohoe, president of the “Western Chauvinist” group’s North Carolina chapter, agreed to cooperate with prosecutors as part of the plea agreement, the Justice Department said in a court filing on Friday in Washington.
According to the filing, Donohoe will admit he conspired with other Proud Boys members to obstruct an official proceeding and assault or resist police officers last year as thousands of supporters of former President Donald Trump stormed the Capitol to stop Joe Biden’s victory from being certified by Congress.
“Donohoe believed that storming the Capitol would achieve the group’s goal of stopping the government from carrying out the transfer of presidential power,” prosecutors said in the Friday filing. “Donohoe understood that storming the Capitol would be illegal.”
Donohoe’s plea deal is a major boost for the government, which has much at stake in proving the sprawling conspiracy case against the Proud Boys members. It’s among the most serious criminal cases stemming from the riot, which forced lawmakers to flee, injured 140 police officers and caused more than $1.5 million in damage.
Trump has said Jan. 6 defendants are being “persecuted,” while the Republican National Committee has called the riot “legitimate political discourse.”
The Justice Department has charged more than 750 people with crimes stemming from the riot, including dozens of members of right-wing militia groups like the Oath Keepers and Three Percenters, many of whom are preparing for group trials later this year.
In December, Donohoe and other Proud Boys members lost their bid to dismiss the criminal case against them after a judge ruled the First Amendment right to free speech didn’t protect their actions on Jan. 6, 2021. The motion had been filed by Donohoe and other regional Proud Boys leaders, Ethan Nordean, Joseph Biggs and Zachary Rehl.
Tarrio pleaded not guilty to all charges in the case earlier this week. The government had added Tarrio to the case months after it was filed against other members, prompting the judge to delay a trial that had been set to start in May.
Donohoe joined the group in 2018, prosecutors said. He traveled to Washington with Tarrio and other “rally boys” on Dec. 12, 2020, when groups from the right and left clashed in the streets, resulting in a Proud Boys member from North Carolina being stabbed, court filings show.
Tarrio took a Black Lives Matter flag from a historic church that night and burned it in the street, leading to his arrest.
His testimony will likely shed light on the planning for Jan. 6 by the group. According to evidence already compiled by prosecutors in the case, Donohoe on Dec. 27 created an encrypted messaging group to recruit participants, posting a message that said, “This government is run FOR the People, BY the People. ... Congress needs a reintroduction to that fact.”
After Tarrio’s arrest, Donohoe was worried about a “leadership void” and wanted to “assist the group,” prosecutors said in the court filing.
Donohoe and other other regional leaders then directed dozens of participants and discussed the possibility of storming the Capitol, the prosecutors said Friday.