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Proud Boys formed smaller group for Jan. 6, prosecutors say

Investigators have yet to establish who formulated the plan to storm the Capitol grounds and enter the building.
Image: Proud Boys members Ethan Nordean, Zachary Rehl and Joseph Biggs
Proud Boys members Ethan Nordean, left, Zachary Rehl and Joseph Biggs walk toward the Capitol in Washington, on Jan. 6.Carolyn Kaster / AP

WASHINGTON — The far-right Proud Boys designated a small group of members to plan and carry out their activities at the Capitol on Jan. 6, according to newly filed court documents that provide additional information about the group's inner workings.

But investigators have yet to establish who formulated the plan to storm the Capitol grounds and enter the building.

In late December, prosecutors said, Proud Boys Chairman Enrique Tarrio announced the creation of a special chapter within the organization, calling it the Ministry of Self Defense. Its members included Tarrio and four men since charged with conspiracy in the Capitol siege — Ethan Nordean of Washington state, Joseph Biggs of Florida, Zachary Rehl of Pennsylvania, and Charles Donohoe of North Carolina.

The Ministry of Self-Defense subgroup "was not to have any interaction with other Proud Boys" coming to Washington on Jan. 6, prosecutors said.

The FBI previously said Biggs messaged, "We have a plan," the night before the riot, but court documents have not said what that plan was.

Biggs was accused of leading Proud Boys members on Jan. 6 from the Washington Monument to the Capitol, where one of their followers was accused of breaking a window, allowing hundreds more people to stream in.

The new information comes from material the FBI said it found on Nordean's cellphone, including thousands of encrypted messages exchanged through the Signal, WhatsApp and Telegram platforms, the court documents said.

In the latest filing, prosecutors said messages exchanged around the time of the riot "revealed a plan to storm the Capitol and to let the crowd loose."

However, the messages offered in support of that allegation are more general and do not refer to a specific plan. One person texted, "I want to see thousands of normies burn that city to ash today." Another said, "I will settle with seeing them smash some pigs to dust."

Donohoe texted, "I'm leaving with a crew of about 15 at 0830 to hoof it to the monument no colors," an apparent reference to the Washington Monument and an earlier agreement that Proud Boys members would not wear their usual distinctive clothing.

Two weeks after the Capitol riot, the messages said, Nordean had lost his devotion to Donald Trump. The court documents said he sent a series of messages that read, "F--- you trump you left us on the battle field bloody and alone."

Lawyers for Nordean and Biggs have asked a federal appeals court to reverse a lower court ruling that ordered the two men held in jail pending trial.

"They are not accused of assaulting or harming anyone that day," the appeal said. "They did not threaten or bully anyone. They carried no weapons. They did not steal."