A federal judge has refused to dismiss an indictment accusing four alleged leaders of the far-right Proud Boys of plotting to attack the US Capitol to prevent Congress from attesting President Joe Biden’s election victory.
U.S. District Judge Timothy Kelly on Tuesday rejected defense attorneys’ arguments that four men — Ethan Nordion, Joseph Biggs, Zachary Rehl and Charles Donohoe — have been charged with conduct that violated the First Amendment’s right to free speech. is protected.
Kelly said defendants have several nonviolent ways to express their opinion about the 2020 presidential election.
Kelly wrote in his 43-page ruling, “The defendants, as they argue, are not accused of anything such as burning flags, wearing a black band, or merely participating in picketing or protests.” “Furthermore, even though there were some expressive aspects to the alleged conduct, it lost whatever First Amendment protection it might have had.”
In March Nordion, Biggs, Rachel and Donohoe were indicted on charges including conspiracy and obstructing official proceedings. All four are in jail while they await a hearing in May.
Defense attorneys also argued that the handicap fee did not apply to their clients’ cases because Congress’s certification of the Electoral College vote was not an “official proceeding.” Kelly disagreed.
Earlier this month, another judge in the District of Columbia federal court upheld the use of the same obstruction charge by prosecutors in a separate case against two riot defendants.
The case against Nordian, Biggs, Rehl and Donohoe is the focus of the Justice Department’s wider investigation into the January 6 uprising. More than three dozen people charged in the Capitol siege have been identified by federal officials as Proud Boys leaders, members or associates, including at least 16 defendants charged with conspiracy.
Last Wednesday, a New York man pleaded guilty to attacking the US Capitol along with fellow members of the Proud Boys. Matthew Green is the first Proud Boys member to publicly plead guilty to conspiring with other members to prevent Congress from authenticating the Electoral College vote. He agreed to cooperate with the authorities.
Members of another extremist group have been accused of plotting to carry out coordinated attacks on the Capitol, including more than 20 people linked to anti-government pledges.
Nordian from Auburn, Washington, was president of the Proud Boys chapter and a member of the group’s national “Council of Elders”. Biggs, of Ormond Beach, Florida, is a self-described Proud Boys organizer. Rehl was the president of the Proud Boys chapter in Philadelphia. According to the indictment, Donohoe of Cairnsville, North Carolina, also served as the president of his local chapter.
Lawyers for the four men declined to comment on Tuesday’s decision.
On the morning of January 6, members of the Proud Boys met at the Washington Monument and marched to the Capitol before President Donald Trump addressed thousands of supporters near the White House.
The indictment says that just before Congress convened a joint session to certify the election results, a group of Proud Boys chased a crowd of people breaking barriers at the pedestrian entrance to the Capitol grounds. Several proud boys also entered the Capitol building after the mob forced them to break windows and open the doors.
More than 700 people have been indicted for federal crimes related to the Capitol riot. At least 165 of them have confessed to the crime, most of which carry a maximum sentence of six months in prison for misdemeanor.