A former leader of the far-right Proud Boys extremist group was sentenced on Tuesday to more than three years behind bars for joining a plot to attack the U.S. Capitol nearly three years ago.
Charles Donohoe was the second Proud Boy to plead guilty to conspiring with other group members to obstruct the Jan. 6, 2021, joint session of Congress for certifying President Joe Biden’s electoral victory. His sentence could be a bellwether for other Proud Boys conspirators who agreed to cooperate with federal prosecutors.
Donohoe, 35, of Kernersville, North Carolina, apologized to his family, the law-enforcement officers who guarded the Capitol on Jan. 6 and “America as a whole” for his actions on Jan. 6.
“I knew what I was doing was illegal from the very moment those barricades got knocked,” he said.
U.S. District Judge Timothy Kelly sentenced him to three years and four months in prison. Donohoe could be eligible for release in a month or two because he gets credit for the jail time he already has served since his March 2021 arrest.
The judge said Donohoe seems to be doing everything in his power to make amends for his crimes.
“I think you’ve got all the ingredients here to put this behind you,” Kelly said.
Donohoe was president of a local Proud Boys chapter in North Carolina. He was a lieutenant of former Proud Boys national chairman Enrique Tarrio, who was sentenced to 22 years in prison — the longest prison term so far in a Capitol riot case.
In May, a jury convicted Tarrio and three other former Proud Boys leaders of seditious conspiracy charges for plotting to stop the peaceful transfer of presidential power from Donald Trump to Biden.
Donohoe agreed to cooperate with federal authorities when he pleaded guilty in April 2020 to two felony counts: conspiracy to obstruct an official proceeding and assaulting, resisting or impeding police. But he wasn’t called to testify at the trial of Tarrio and other Proud Boys earlier this year.
Prosecutors recommended a prison sentence ranging from 35 to 43 months for Donohoe. Sentencing guidelines recommended a prison term ranging from 70 to 87 months.
“Donohoe and his co-conspirators organized and led a small army as they launched an attack on the heart of our democracy. They took these actions because they did not like the outcome of the election,” prosecutors wrote in a court filing.
A New York man, Matthew Greene, was the first Proud Boys member to plead guilty to conspiracy. Greene’s sentencing hearing hasn’t been scheduled yet.
Donohoe acted as the “eyes and ears of the group on the ground” in Washington, D.C., on Jan. 6, Justice Department prosecutor Jason McCullough told the judge. But prosecutors argued that Donohoe deserves credit for his early acceptance of responsibility and cooperation with the investigation.
On the morning of Jan. 6, Donohoe marched with over 100 members of the Proud Boys to the Capitol. He didn’t enter the Capitol, but he threw two water bottles at officers confronting the mob outside the building.
Donohoe, a U.S. Marine Corps veteran who served two deployments in Iraq, has “eagerly divorced himself” from the Proud Boys, said defense attorney Ira Knight.
“It took Charlie time to understand the nature of his wrong,” Knight said.
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