Judge refuses to dismiss charges against alleged proud boy counts
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A federal judge on Tuesday refused to dismiss an indictment accusing four alleged leaders of the far-right Proud Boys of plotting to attack the U.S. Capitol in order to prevent Congress from certifying President Joe Biden’s electoral victory.
U.S. District Judge Timothy Kelly has dismissed defense attorneys’ arguments that the four men – Ethan Nordean, Joseph Biggs, Zachary Rehl and Charles Donohoe – are accused of behavior protected by the right to free speech of the First Amendment.
Kelly said the defendants have many non-violent means of expressing their views on the 2020 presidential election.
“The defendants are not, as they contend, charged with anything like burning flags, wearing black armbands or participating in simple sit-ins or protests,” Kelly wrote in her 43-page decision. “Further, even though the conduct complained of was expressive, it lost any First Amendment protection it might have had.”
Nordean, Biggs, Rehl and Donohoe were charged in March with charges of conspiracy and obstructing due process. The four of them remain in jail pending a trial scheduled for May.
Defense attorneys also argued that the obstruction charge did not apply to their clients’ businesses because congressional certification of the Electoral College’s vote was not an “official process.” Kelly disagreed.
Earlier this month, another District of Columbia federal court judge confirmed prosecutors’ use of the same obstruction charge in a separate case against two rioting defendants.
The case against Nordean, Biggs, Rehl and Donohoe is at the center of the Justice Department’s sprawling investigation into the January 6 insurgency. More than three dozen people indicted in the Capitol seat have been identified by federal authorities as leaders, members or associates of the Proud Boys, including at least 16 accused of conspiracy.
Last Wednesday, a man from New York pleaded guilty to storming the United States Capitol with other members of the Proud Boys. Matthew Greene is the first Proud Boys member to plead publicly guilty to conspiring with other members to prevent Congress from certifying the Electoral College vote. He agreed to cooperate with the authorities.
Other members of extremist groups have been charged with conspiring to carry out coordinated attacks on the Capitol, including more than 20 people linked to the anti-government Oath Keepers.
Nordean, of Auburn, Wash., Was chairman of the Proud Boys branch and a member of the group’s national “Elders Council”. Biggs, of Ormond Beach, Fla., Is a self-proclaimed organizer of the Proud Boys. Rehl, of Philadelphia, and Donohoe, of Kernersville, North Carolina, were presidents of their Proud Boys locals, according to the indictment.
On the morning of January 6, members of the Proud Boys gathered at the Washington Monument and marched to Capitol Hill before President Donald Trump finished addressing thousands of supporters near the White House.
Just before Congress called a joint session to certify the election results, a group of Proud Boys followed a crowd of people who passed through barriers at a pedestrian entrance to Capitol Park, according to the indictment. Several Proud Boys also entered the Capitol building after mobs smashed windows and forced doors.
More than 700 people have been charged with federal crimes related to the Capitol Riot. At least 165 of them have pleaded guilty, most of them to offenses punishable by up to six months in prison.
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