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2 Proud Boys Ordered Jailed Pending Trial In Capitol Riot Conspiracy Case

Proud Boy members Joseph Biggs (left) and Ethan Nordean, carrying a megaphone, walk toward the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6. A federal judge ordered them detained pending trial given the conspiracy charges against them.
Carolyn Kaster
Proud Boy members Joseph Biggs (left) and Ethan Nordean, carrying a megaphone, walk toward the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6. A federal judge ordered them detained pending trial given the conspiracy charges against them.

A federal judge on Monday ordered two alleged leaders of the far-right extremist group the Proud Boys detained pending trial on conspiracy and other charges tied to the deadly Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol.

U.S. District Judge Timothy Kelly found that the evidence presented so far in the case weighs in favor of jailing Ethan Nordean and Joseph Biggs ahead of their trial. Both men had been released, but the government renewed its request to have them returned to custody after they were indicted.

Nordean and Biggs along with two other alleged Proud Boy leaders — Zach Rehl and Charles Donohoe — are facing six counts, including obstruction of an official proceeding, obstruction of law enforcement, destruction of government property and conspiracy.

Prosecutors allege the men conspired to disrupt Congress' certification of the Electoral College count on Jan. 6.

"The defendants stand charged with seeking to steal one of the crown jewels of our country in a sense by interfering with the peaceful transfer of power," the judge said. "I won't belabor the point, but it's no exaggeration to say the rule of law, the durability of our constitutional order, and, in the end, the very existence of our republic is threatened by such conduct."

The case is one of the most closely watched to emerge from the Capitol riot investigation.

Kelly walked through the evidence presented so far in support of the government's allegations against Nordean and Biggs, including numerous social media posts after the presidential election and later encrypted communications regarding planning for Jan. 6. Much of that evidence was not available when the men were initially released from custody.

Ultimately, Kelly said, a combination of factors — the nature and circumstances of the alleged offense, the defendants' leadership roles and the potential danger they pose to the community — weighed in favor of detention.

Nordean and Biggs are both alleged to have entered the Capitol on Jan. 6 along with other Proud Boys when the mob of Trump supporters overwhelmed police and stormed the building. Neither defendant, however, stands accused of fighting with law enforcement that day.

Kelly said the men possess leadership and organizational skills that could pose a potential threat in the future, including in the period ahead of their trial. Because of that, the judge said, they could evade any conditions of release that he could think of to try to limit their contacts with the outside world.

The government says Nordean is the president of his local Proud Boys chapter in Washington state, while Biggs is a self-described Proud Boys organizer in Florida. Rehl and Donohoe are also allegedly presidents of their respective Proud Boys chapters.

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Ryan Lucas covers the Justice Department for NPR.

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