19 December 2023

Ex-Proud Boys leader sentenced to three years in prison for Capitol riot plot

19 December 2023

A former leader of the far-right Proud Boys extremist group was sentenced on Tuesday to more than three years behind bars for joining a plot to attack the US Capitol nearly three years ago.

Charles Donohoe was the second Proud Boy to plead guilty to conspiring with other group members to obstruct the January 6, 2021, joint session of Congress for certifying US President Joe Biden’s electoral victory.

His sentence could be a bellwether for other Proud Boys conspirators who agreed to co-operate with federal prosecutors.

I knew what I was doing was illegal from the very moment those barricades got knocked down

Donohoe, 35, of Kernersville, North Carolina, apologised to his family, the police officers who guarded the Capitol on January 6, and “America as a whole” for his actions.

“I knew what I was doing was illegal from the very moment those barricades got knocked down,” he said.

District Judge Timothy Kelly sentenced him to three years and four months in prison. Donohoe could be eligible for release within two months because he gets credit for the jail time he has already served since his March 2021 arrest.

The judge said Donohoe seems to be doing everything in his power to make amends for his crimes.

“I think you’ve got all the ingredients here to put this behind you,” he said.

Donohoe was president of a local Proud Boys chapter in North Carolina. He was a lieutenant of former Proud Boys national chairman Enrique Tarrio, who was sentenced to 22 years in prison — the longest prison term so far in a Capitol riot case.

In May, a jury convicted Tarrio and three other former Proud Boys leaders of seditious conspiracy charges for plotting to stop the peaceful transfer of presidential power from Donald Trump to Biden.

Donohoe agreed to co-operate with federal authorities when he pleaded guilty in April 2020 to two felony counts: conspiracy to obstruct an official proceeding and assaulting, resisting or impeding police. But he was not called to testify at the trial of Tarrio and other Proud Boys earlier this year.

Prosecutors recommended a prison sentence ranging from 35 to 43 months for Donohoe. Sentencing guidelines recommended a prison term ranging from 70 to 87 months.

“Donohoe and his co-conspirators organised and led a small army as they launched an attack on the heart of our democracy. They took these actions because they did not like the outcome of the election,” prosecutors wrote in a court filing.

It took Charlie time to understand the nature of his wrong

Donohoe acted as the “eyes and ears of the group on the ground” in Washington, DC, on January 6, Justice Department prosecutor Jason McCullough told the judge. But prosecutors argued that Donohoe deserves credit for his early acceptance of responsibility and co-operation with the investigation.

On the morning of January 6, Donohoe marched with more than 100 members of the Proud Boys to the Capitol. He did not enter the Capitol, but he threw two water bottles at officers confronting the mob outside the building.

Donohoe, a US Marine Corps veteran who served two deployments in Iraq, has “eagerly divorced himself” from the Proud Boys, said defence lawyer Ira Knight.

“It took Charlie time to understand the nature of his wrong,” Mr Knight said.

More than 1,200 people have been charged with Capitol riot-related federal crimes. Approximately 900 of them have pleaded guilty or been convicted by a judge or jury after trials. More than 700 have been sentenced.

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