Proud Boys Conspired on Encrypted Channels to Breach US Capitol, Prosecutors Allege

March 20, 2021 Updated: March 21, 2021

Leaders in the Proud Boys group conspired to breach the Capitol on Jan. 6 to interrupt and obstruct Congress’s certification of electoral votes, prosecutors allege, according to newly unsealed court documents.

Ethan Nordean, 30, is president of a Proud Boys Chapter in Washington state; Joseph Biggs, 37, of Florida, is a self-described Proud Boys organizer; Zachary Rehl, 35, is president of the Philadelphia chapter; and Charles Donohoe, 33, of Kernersville, North Carolina, heads the group’s chapter there.

The men allegedly communicated for weeks about the upcoming event using social media, which they also used to post anticipation of the day, according to the newly unsealed documents.

For instance, Biggs in one Nov. 5, 2020, post said, “It’s time for [expletive] War if they steal this [expletive].” Rehl about three weeks later said, “Hopefully the firing squads are for the traitors that are trying to steal the election from the American people.”

The men also solicited donations for gear and communications.

After the arrest of Proud Boys national chairman Enrique Tarrio on Jan. 4, the group allegedly turned to encrypted Telegram channels to continue conspiring to obstruct the joint session of Congress set to meet two days later, according to court papers.

In total, 60 members participated in one channel dubbed “Boots on the Ground,” including the four men charged.

On Jan. 5, Biggs wrote that he was trying to get a handle on the group’s numbers, adding, “So we can plan accordingly for tonight and go over tomorrow’s plan.” Later that evening, members were instructed not to wear colors when convening at the Washington Monument at 10 a.m. on Jan. 6. They later detailed what was said during a meeting they held.

Nordean, Biggs, and Rehl led the group, which included Donohue, that ended up gathering at the monument to the Capitol, and all three entered the building after clashing with law enforcement officers, according to court papers.

“We stormed the capitol unarmed, and we took it over unarmed,” Donohoe later wrote in a post.

All four men are charged with obstruction of law enforcement during an official proceeding, obstructing an official proceeding, conspiracy, and other counts.

Epoch Times Photo
Proud Boys members Zachary Rehl, left, and Ethan Nordean, left, walk toward the U.S. Capitol in Washington on Jan. 6, 2021. (Carolyn Kaster/AP Photo)

An attorney for Biggs declined to comment to The Epoch Times on March 20. An attorney for Nordean didn’t immediately return a request for comment. Rehl and Donohoe didn’t have lawyers listed on the court docket.

Nordean was freed earlier this month pending trial after he was arrested on Feb. 3. Biggs was taken into custody on Jan. 20 and was later released. Prosecutors asked the court on March 20 to order them detained until the trial, arguing the superseding indictment “highlights the grave danger” that they pose “to others and the community.”

It wasn’t clear whether Rehl and Donohoe were being held.

According to the George Washington University Program on Extremism, at least 20 defendants have links to the Proud Boys, a fraternal all-male group that has said its mission is to defend “Western civilization.”

“The number of conspiracy charges—alongside further evidence that Proud Boys affiliates planned their activities at the Capitol well in advance of January 6th—is likely to shape future prosecutions,” the program wrote in a preliminary assessment (pdf) of the Capitol Hill breach participants.

Another set of participants were part of the Oath Keepers, a militia group whose members are typically current or former law enforcement officers or members of the military.

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