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Judge orders two Proud Boys leaders held in custody over Capitol attack

Jada Butler
·2-min read
<span>Photograph: Carolyn Kaster/AP</span>
Photograph: Carolyn Kaster/AP

A federal judge has ordered two leaders of the far-right Proud Boys group to be detained in jail pending trial for their involvement in the 6 January attack on the Capitol in Washington DC.

Both were indicted in one of many Proud Boys conspiracy cases to stem from the investigation into the assault on the building that followed a pro-Donald Trump rally.

Related: Millions of Americans think the election was stolen. How worried should we be about more violence?

Ethan Nordean of Washington state and Joseph Biggs of Florida, along with two other Proud Boys regional leaders, are charged with conspiring to stop the certification of the 2020 election – and with organizing and leading dozens of Proud Boys to the Capitol.

Many of those followers were among the first to breach the building and cause damages in scenes of violence that shocked the world and led to five deaths.

“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 US district judge Timothy Kelly said as he explained his decision on Monday. “It’s no exaggeration to say the rule of law … in the end, the existence of our constitutional republic is threatened by it.”

The judge’s decision to detain the pair is a reversal of an earlier notion to release them after the Department of Justice argued for pre-trial detention based on new accusations in an updated indictment filed by prosecutors in March.

The judge cited profanity-laced social media posts and encrypted messages sent by the defendants, in which Biggs said it was time for “war” if Democrats “steal” the election and Nordean called for militia groups to contact him.

Though the evidence does not point to the defendants using direct physical violence against others on the day, Kelly said, their communications and movements before, during and after the riot showed they played a part in planning and leading the efforts that day, celebrated the events of the day and have not expressed remorse.

Nordean will be detained in Seattle as opposed to DC after the judge granted his defense attorney’s request to cease the transfer, arguing: “Capitol defendants have been violently assaulted in DC jail.”

Another alleged co-conspirator, Charles Donohoe, is set for his own detention hearing later on Monday afternoon.