Authorities have arrested two organizers of the far-right group Proud Boys and charged them with conspiracy in a new indictment that was unsealed on Friday. According to prosecutors, the men used paramilitary equipment, handheld radios and encrypted messaging applications to coordinate with other Proud boys before and during the attack.
Authorities sued Zach Rehl, 35, from Pennsylvania and Charles Donohoe, 33, from North Carolina, saying both men were presidents of their local Proud Boys chapters. They were named as co-conspirators in a new criminal complaint that also charged two other Proud Boys leaders: Joseph Biggs, an army veteran and self-described organizer of the Proud Boys, who was arrested in January, and Ethan Nordean, a member of a Proud Boy’s leadership group is known as the Elders, and also a president of his local chapter. Was Nordic accused earlier this month.
Prosecutors said the four defendants participated in an encrypted chat with at least 60 other people during the attack, and some used programmed handheld radios to communicate in real time.
The Proud Boys, a nationalist group that they call “Western chauvinists”, have loudly supported former President Trump, and law enforcement agencies and former members have said Mr Trump encouraged their actions after him told the group is to “step down and stand by” in a presidential debate in September.
With the arrests of Donohoe and Rehl, federal prosecutors have now indicted at least 16 Capitol rioters who they said were linked to the Proud Boys in court documents.
Prosecutors described the defendants’ social media posts back in the fall, indicating they believed the election had been stolen from Mr. Trump.
On November 5th, Biggs posted on social media, “It’s time to wage war if they steal this s ***.”
Later that month, Rehl wrote, “Hopefully the firing squads are for the traitors trying to steal the American people’s elections.”
Court documents show the men began planning trips to Washington and crowdfunding sites began to pay for expenses like “protective gear and communications” and “travel expenses for upcoming Patriot events”. A travel expense campaign raised over $ 5,500 in donations between December 30 and January 4.
Prosecutors said all four defendants reiterated the message at different times that group members should avoid wearing the Proud Boys’ typical colors, black and yellow. The government said they were “trying to avoid detection by law enforcement”.
The day before the attack, prosecutors said a new encrypted message channel called “Boots on the Ground” was set up for communications by Proud Boys members in DC, which included over 60 users including Nordean, Biggs, Rehl and Donohoe.
The night before the attack, someone posted a message asking members to meet at the Washington Monument at 10 a.m. on January 6. The message read: “Details will be given at the preliminary meeting!”
Biggs wrote in an encrypted chat that he had just spoken to the chairman of the Proud Boys. “We have a plan,” he said.
On the day of the attack, prosecutors said Nordean, Biggs, Rehl and Donohoe were part of a crowd that dismantled and stormed several police barricades and entered the U.S. Capitol.
Nordean and Biggs used a megaphone to lead the group, prosecutors said, and several men in the group, including Biggs and Rehl, were holding walkie-talkie-style communication devices. Biggs and Rehl entered the Capitol through a door that had been opened by another Proud Boys member. Dominic Pezzolasaid prosecutors.
In one video, prosecutors say Biggs sees Biggs entering the Capitol less than 20 seconds after breaking a door through the crowd. In the video he said, “This is great!”
After the attack, the four accused celebrated on social media and in encrypted chat messages, the prosecutors said.
Rehl wrote in a message: “I am proud of what we achieved yesterday, but we have to start planning and we are starting planning for a Biden presidency.”
Donohoe said: “We stormed the capital unarmed.” He added, “And we took it unarmed.”
The four defendants were charged with six crimes, including conspiracy and charges of obstruction of due process, obstruction of law enforcement, destruction of state property and disorderly behavior in restricted areas.
To date, more than 20 defendants have been charged with Capitol conspiracy, including ten members of the extremist Oath Guards group accused as a co-conspirator and accused of coordinating before and during the attack.