A handpicked lieutenant to Proud Boys leader Henry “Enrique” Tarrio was sentenced Tuesday to 4o months of incarceration and will be released soon from prison after cooperating with federal prosecutors against co-conspirators convicted of plotting to keep Donald Trump in office through violence at the Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021.
Charles Donohoe, 35, a Proud Boys organizer from Kernersville, N.C., did not testify at the trial of Tarrio and others found guilty of seditious conspiracy earlier this year, but he was originally indicted with them and charged with plotting to stop Congress’s certification of Joe Biden’s 2020 presidential election victory.
Donohoe is the first key cooperator with the group to face sentencing. Prosecutor Jason McCullough urged U.S. District Judge Timothy J. Kelly to “send an important message” to deter future criminal conspiracies to commit political violence, and to encourage plotters to abandon and expose such plans to authorities.
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“I knew what I was doing was illegal from the very moment those barricades got knocked,” Donohoe told the court, apologizing to his family, law enforcement officers and “America as a whole” for his actions, the Associated Press reported.
“Mr. Donohoe fully accepts responsibility for his acts and decisions, and he is committed to never repeating them,” Assistant Federal Defenders Lisa Costner and Ira Knight said in sentencing papers. “He wholly acknowledges his responsibility for the role he played in the events of January 6, and he regrets his actions and words.”
Donohoe pleaded guilty in August 2022 to plotting to obstruct an official proceeding and to assaulting or impeding officers. He faced a recommended 70-month prison term according to federal guidelines and court sentencing officers.
But prosecutors sought roughly half that — 35 to 43 months — after the former Marine who deployed to Iraq and who served as a contractor protecting CIA operatives in Afghanistan admitted his role communicating with and organizing other Proud Boys members on the ground in Washington.
Details of Donohoe’s cooperation were redacted in a government sentencing memo requesting leniency. However, his actions with the Proud Boys included “nuking” the encrypted chats used by a leadership group after Tarrio’s arrest on Jan. 4, 2021 and setting up a new group. He sent a real-time video report to leaders in a “Ministry of Self Defense” (MOSD) group that men had “stormed the Capitol building.” Donohoe also admitted throwing water bottles at police, the basis of an assault charge important to the prosecutions of Tarrio and deputies Ethan Nordean, Joe Biggs and Zach Rehl.
Earlier on Jan. 6, Donohoe wrote to members that he “had the keys” and was temporarily in charge of the group gathering near the Washington Monument until Biggs and Nordean arrived. Later, he helped Tarrio co-defendant Dominic Pezzola carry a stolen police riot shield through the crowd that Pezzola used to break into the Capitol. Donohoe never entered the building, having turned around and returned to his hotel, but he continued to serve “as the group’s eyes and ears,” McCullough said, posting messages about “regrouping with a second force” and then warning that National Guard troops were arriving.
Donohoe joined the Proud Boys in 2018, became a regional leader and was asked by Tarrio to join the MOSD group on December 2021, before breaking ties with the group and pleading guilty, the defense said.
Kelly said his sentence in the middle of prosecutors’ request means that Donohoe will be released “very soon” after good-time credits and the 33 months he has already served since his arrest in March 2021. By contrast, Kelly sentenced Tarrio to 22 years in prison in September — the longest term handed down in the Capitol siege. Nordean, Biggs and Rehl got 18, 17 and 15 years, respectively.
“There’s no getting around that you helped organize a group of others that showed up at the Capitol that used violence to disrupt Congress” from fulfilling its constitutional duty to certify the election winner, Kelly said, “There’s nothing patriotic about it, no matter how much you or anybody else didn’t like how the process” was going.
But the judge said no other defendant combined Donohoe’s degree of “very serious conduct” with his “extensive effort — in many different ways — to make amends.”
In addition to Donohoe’s cooperation, Kelly cited his military service to his country, his upbringing as an Eagle Scout and high school wrestling team captain, and the support of more than a dozen family and friends who filled nearly half the courtroom. The judge also acknowledged what the defense said was Donohoe’s reading of more than 1,000 books while jailed pretrial in North Carolina, the physical and emotional abuse and neglect he endured as a child, and his struggle with alcoholism and post-traumatic stress disorder as an adult.
“You’re someone who decided to use their time and their talents for their country,” the judge said. He wished Donohoe luck upon release but added, “I don’t think you’re going to need luck because you’ve got all the ingredients here to put this behind you.”