WASHINGTON, D.C. (WGHP) – Charles Donohoe of Kernersville helped to plan and execute the breach of the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021, and he was right there at the front of the line when the first person trampled over the barrier outside, shattered windows into the building and then broke open the doors to let inside the thousands who wanted to overturn the legislative process of certifying the 2020 presidential election, the indictment says.
All of this became much clearer in the new indictment, released this month, in which Donohoe, 34, is one six men charged with being the first to breach the Capitol perimeter in the early afternoon of Jan. 6 and leading a group of Proud Boys into the chambers of the U.S. Senate and the U.S. House, threatening the violent overthrow of the government as lawmakers affirmed President Joe Biden’s decisive victory on Nov. 3.
Those court documents label Donohoe as the president of the local chapter of Proud Boys, which describes itself as a “pro-western fraternal organization for men who refuse to apologize for creating the modern world; aka Western Chauvinists.”
He is named in seven of eight counts against the six, including Proud Boys Chairman Enrique Tarrio, 38, of Miami, who are charged with conspiracy to obstruct and disrupt official proceedings.
The indictment, re-certified by a federal grand jury on Feb. 14, also charges the group with aiding and abetting obstruction, civil disorder and aiding and abetting civil disorder, destruction of government property, aiding and abetting that destruction, and two counts of assaulting, resisting and impeding government officers. There is an eighth charge against Dominic Pezzola of Rochester, New York, for robbery of personal property.
All six – Ethan Nordean of Auburn, Washington; Joseph Biggs of Ormond Beach, Florida; and Zachary Rehl of Philadelphia are the other three – remain in custody. Donohoe’s trial had been set for mid-May but likely will be postponed. He is next expected in court on April 5.
Donohoe, Nordean, Biggs and Rehl were indicted a year ago and arrested on March 17, 2021. Donohoe was arraigned on April 6, 2021. The superseding indictment against him was returned on March 6.
Five people have died during or after the attack on Jan. 6, and about 140 police officers were injured. A bipartisan House committee continues to investigate the events that led to that violence and the people behind it.
More than 800 people have been charged with crimes, and more than 150 have pleaded guilty, most recently James Little of Claremont, N.C. Politico reported that as of Jan. 1, more than 75 had been sentenced, but that number has grown.
Little, who admitted to parading, demonstrating or picketing in a Capitol building, is one of 19 North Carolinians to have been charged with crimes for the insurrection, six of them from the Piedmont Triad. Three of those area residents have pleaded guilty, and a fourth, Laura Steele of Thomasville, is scheduled for a jury trial on April 19.
How this began
The indictment presents only one side of the activities and includes no response from Donohoe or the five others who have been charged. Each has separate court proceedings, and trial dates in federal court remain in flux.
But this indictment describes in much richer detail the activities that prosecutors say the six men undertook before and on Jan. 6, enumerating a process of planning and organizing a group to protest at the Capitol and then leading the efforts by thousands to break into the building and disrupt the certification process.
Tarrio is described as using his leadership position with Proud Boys to post messages attacking President Biden’s defeat of incumbent Republican Donald Trump, mimicking Trump’s defiant claims of a stolen election and describing how people were “at war” with Biden. “No Trump…No peace. No quarter,” the indictment said he wrote to his members. He said the Proud Boys wouldn’t go quietly.
Members of the group were said to have attended the “Million Maga Rally” in Washington in December, and when the “Stop The Steal” rally was announced for Washington in January, the Proud Boys started to plan their actions, the indictment said.
Donohoe is described with four of the others as being leaders of a new subgroup called the “Ministry of Self Defense” – or MOSD – that was formed from “hand-selected members” of the Proud Boys. An encrypted messaging group was created, and Donohoe is alleged to have been a key facilitator in communicating with the members of MOSD.
The conspiracy charge against Donohoe, Tarrio and the other four Proud Boys describes how they brought together members of their organization, instructed them not to wear their organization’s typical yellow-and-black outfits and, with encrypted messaging and using handheld radios, directed their group onto the Capitol grounds and breaking through barricades and windows to enter the building, where officers were assaulted and property was destroyed.
Their planning and communication were described as beginning in earnest on Dec. 19 and focused on the Capitol, the document said. The leadership of MOSD was divided into three teams, with Donohoe and two others who were unnamed in the indictment, apparently identified to the grand jury, were designated as being a “regional leader.”
On Dec. 27 Donohoe is alleged to have sent a recruitment message to the “MOSD Prospect Group” about Jan. 6. “They want to limit the presence so they can deny Trump has the People’s support,” he wrote. “We can’t let them succeed. This government is run FOR the People, BY the People. … Congress needs reintroduction to that fact.”
‘We the People’
In late December, as recruitment for the MOSD intensified, Tarrio is said to have communicated with an unidentified informant who told the grand jury about a plan called “1776 Returns” that described how the group would occupy “crucial buildings,” including the House and Senate office buildings near the Capitol, on Jan. 6 to “show our politicians We the People are in charge.”
Donohoe, Tarrio and others participated in a video call with potential members of MOSD, the document said, and reinforced that these recruits must follow the directions of the leadership, that this was “a completely different operation” from the demonstrative marches in which the Proud Boys sometimes had participated.
About 65 people ultimately were part of MOSD, and communications between Jan. 1 and Jan. 6 described routinely how they would gather, how they would proceed and what they expected from the police at the Capitol. “What would they do [if] if 1 million patriots stormed and took the capital building, Shoot into the crowd?” one asked rhetorically.
The communications described how the MOSD Leaders Group would wait until Jan. 4 to define their plans for the day but agreed that all the other stages for the Stop the Steal rally were irrelevant. The Capitol was where they should be.
Careful with plans
Tarrio was arrested in Washington on Jan. 4 and charged with destruction of property related to stealing a “Black Lives Matter” banner in December and possessing two large capacity magazines of ammunition.
He was released late on Jan. 5 and ordered to leave the District of Columbia, the indictment said, but before he did he went to an underground parking garage, where he met with Elmer Stewart Rhodes III, the founder and leader of Oath Keepers, another antigovernment group, who was arrested in January and charged with seditious conspiracy for his role on Jan. 6. He remains in federal custody. The indictment against Donohoe says one of the participants who attended the meeting between Tarrio and Rhodes mentioned “the Capitol.”
After Tarrio was arrested, Donohoe created a new encrypted message platform for MOSD leaders that did not include Tarrio, the indictment said. He told the others that “each one of us should personally clear our history of that MOSD chat.” They figured that police would have Tarrio’s communications and wanted to avoid details being disclosed.
“Well at least they won’t get our boots on ground plans because we are one step ahead of them,” Donohoe said in responding a message from Rehl, the document said. He then created an encrypted message for the other members of MOSD and said they were “nuking that one” (the original message group) and that he had removed everyone. The new group was about 90, the indictment said.
At 7:15 on Jan. 4, Donohoe is said to have posted this message on the “New MOSD Members Group:” “Hey have been instructed and listen to me real good! [sic] 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. … Stop everything immediately. … This comes from the top.”
In the evening of Jan. 5, messages went out to group, instructing them to gather at the Washington Monument at 10 a.m. the following day. There was a reminder to avoid the black-and-gold colors. There would be radios. There was a reminder of the danger of getting caught by police. A radio frequency was shared. Donohoe relayed all of that in encrypted messages, the document said. The plans were in place.
On Jan. 6
At 10 a.m. on Jan. 6, about 100 Proud Boys, including Donohoe and the other five leaders, gathered at the Washington Monument as planned. Tarrio was back after going to Baltimore overnight when court officials had told him to leave D.C.
The group then “marched around the Capitol,” passed the First Street pedestrian entrance that was marked as “area closed.” That entrance was protected by a “handful of Capitol Police officers,” the document stated. Donohoe was part of a group that moved to the east side of the Capitol and then back to the west. At about noon, Donohoe posted a message on an encrypted group that said, “WE ARE WITH 200-300 PBS [Proud Boys].”
He was with the group that went back to the First Street entrance at about 12:53 p.m. Officers were on hand. Metal barricades about waist-high were in place. The Proud Boys used a megaphone to chant in unison.
Then, seconds before 12:53, the document said, Biggs was approached by an unidentified person who put his arm around him, said something to him and then, with Donohoe and the others nearby, crossed the barrier that restricted access to the Capitol grounds.
This was the first breach of the Capitol grounds on Jan. 6, the document said.
That removed barricade also became the point of access for Donohoe, Nordean, Biggs, Rehl and Pezzola, who assembled he crowd and charged toward the Capitol and crossed the barriers themselves.
Biggs recorded himself as saying, “American citizens are storming the Capitol – taking it back right now. … This is such history! This is insane. We’ve gone through every barricade thus far.”
Donohoe and the Proud Boys leaders moved to the front of the crowd, the indictment said, where some of them tore down and trampled across the black metal fence erected to separate the police officers and moved into the west plaza, where they confronted officers in riot gear.
The MOSD communications implored the group to “push inside” and to look for eggs or rotten tomatoes to throw at police. Donohoe, the document states, threw two water bottles at a line of law enforcement officers attempting to stop the throng’s advance.
He and Pezzola grabbed a riot shield from officers and carried it through the West Plaza, where they posed for a photo with the shield. Others moved more toward the building and posted messages about storming the Capitol, which they said they had taken back. “January 6 will be a day in infamy,” Biggs posted.
They went to the concrete stairs to the upper West Terrace, and about 2:13 p.m. Pezzola used the riot shield to break a window of the Capitol, the document said. He entered the building through that window. Others followed, and they forced open a door from the inside. At 2:14, MOSD members moved inside, just minutes before the Senate suspended its certification of the Electoral College’s vote.
Biggs posted a video from inside and said, “We’ve taken the Capitol.” Some of the Proud Boys left the building and then re-entered through the Columbus Doors on the east side, the document said. He and others entered the Senate chamber, which had been evacuated. Donohoe’s whereabouts no longer were documented in the indictment.
At 2:57 p.m., Tarrio posted a message on social media that read, “1776 … Revolutionaries are now at the Rayburn Building.”
He was talking about the House of Representative’s office building, the indictment said, fulfilling what had been outlined in the “1776 Returns” plan he had received on Dec. 30.