A high-ranking Proud Boys leader pleaded guilty on Friday over his alleged involvement in the Jan. 6 Capitol assault. The plea—the first from a core group of Proud Boys accused of planning the attack—comes amid a recent wave of guilty pleas from Proud Boys involved in the riot.
Charles Donohoe, leader of the far-right group’s North Carolina chapter, pleaded guilty to conspiring to obstruct an official proceeding and assaulting an officer. Donohoe is expected to assist the Justice Department in its ongoing investigation of the Proud Boys and their involvement in the Jan. 6 attack.
He is also the third Proud Boy to plead guilty this week, part of a growing crop of Jan. 6 cooperation deals with members of paramilitary groups.
As part of his plea, Donohoe admitted that he was a leader of a core Proud Boys group called the Ministry of Self Defense (MOSD), which convened for the express purpose of discussing an attack on the Capitol.
“Donohoe believed that storming the Capitol would achieve the group’s goal of stopping the government from carrying out the transfer of presidential power,” the DOJ wrote in a statement following his guilty plea on Friday. “Donohoe understood from discussions that the Proud Boys would pursue their objective through the use of force and violence.”
The MOSD’s discussions are central to DOJ’s case against the Proud Boys. Prosecutors allege that Proud Boy leadership planned their attack in the MOSD chat group, even egging each other on while the attack was underway. Donohoe’s cooperation agreement could shed new light on the chat group and its members, many of whom are also facing conspiracy charges. Among the named MOSD members were Donohoe, the Proud Boys’ then-chairman Enrique Tarrio, as well as Proud Boy leaders Ethan Nordean, Joe Biggs, and Zachary Rehl.
Dominic Pezzola, the Proud Boy accused of first breaking into the Capitol with a stolen police shield, was also an MOSD member, having recently been “fast-tracked into membership in the Proud Boys by Tarrio,” a statement of offense in Donohoe’s case reads.
Tarrio, Nordean, Biggs, Rehl, and Pezzola have pleaded not guilty to charges in the Jan. 6 attack. But a recent surge in Proud Boy plea deals suggests the group’s solidarity is crumbling.
On Thursday, a California Proud Boy associate pleaded guilty to assaulting a police officer on Jan. 6. Ricky Willden, a California man, confessed to spraying a chemical agent at Capitol police and hurling the canister at them when it was empty.
On Wednesday, West Virginia Proud Boys leader Jeffrey Finley also pleaded guilty to illegally entering the Capitol. Court documents from Finley’s case show that he communicated with other Proud Boy leadership during the attack via a chat channel called “Boots on the Ground.”
Other Proud Boys have previously taken pleas related to the Capitol attack. In December, Matthew Greene pleaded guilty to a conspiracy charge in the case, and agreed to cooperate with investigators. Another man, James Giannakos, was not directly charged in the Capitol attack, but came under investigation after he left voicemail threats against a prosecutor who had been involved in a case against Tarrio.
A search of Giannakos’s home revealed a Capitol police shield, an officer’s body camera and helmet, as well as various combat equipment. South Carolina’s The State reported that court records show Giannakos is being investigated in connection to the Jan. 6 riot, but that he has not been charged in the case. He took a plea deal related to the phone threats, and agreed to cooperate on other criminal cases, including the Capitol riot case.