Justice Department unveils further charges in Capitol riot

Washington DC, USA Published: Feb 04, 2021, 09:50 PM(IST)

This is a file photo when a mob of supporters of ex-President Donald Trump attacked the US Capitol in Washington, US. Photograph:( Reuters )

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The Justice Department continued building cases Wednesday against people accused of storming the Capitol, arresting a leader of the far-right group the Proud Boys and charging two men with conspiracy in an effort to block certification of President Joe Biden’s victory in the election

The Justice Department continued building cases Wednesday against people accused of storming the Capitol, arresting a leader of the far-right group the Proud Boys and charging two men with conspiracy in an effort to block certification of President Joe Biden’s victory in the election.

Ethan Nordean, self-described “sergeant of arms” of the Seattle chapter of the Proud Boys, was arrested Wednesday morning, federal prosecutors said. He had been under investigation for more than a week after prosecutors named him in court papers as a chief organizer of a mob of about 100 other members of the group that marched through Washington on Jan. 6, ending at the Capitol building.

Separately, Nicholas DeCarlo, a 30-year-old Texas man, and Nicholas Ochs, a founder of Hawaii’s chapter of the Proud Boys, were charged with conspiring with one another and unnamed co-conspirators to stop the certification of Biden’s Electoral College win as part of last month’s riot at the Capitol, according to the indictment.

The case against DeCarlo and Ochs was announced by John Demers, head of the Justice Department’s national security division, the U.S. attorney in Washington and the FBI’s Washington field office.

Their indictments highlighted the government’s effort to bring more serious charges against some of the scores of people who were initially charged with lesser crimes after the attack. The two men had earlier been charged with unlawful entry and obstructing an official proceeding.

DeCarlo and Ochs were charged in an indictment with conspiring with others to create a plan to stop Congress, raising money online to fund travel to Washington to carry out their plan, crossing state lines to obstruct Congress and forcibly storming the Capitol building.

Combined with the separate charges against Nordean, the indictment against Ochs and DeCarlo underscored the increasingly prominent role that the Proud Boys are accused of playing in the assault.

Leaders of the Proud Boys have sought to distance themselves from the riots, even as federal investigators scrutinize them as they seek to determine the full scope of the group’s involvement.

In the indictment against DeCarlo and Ochs, prosecutors said the men carved the words “MURDER THE MEDIA” into the Capitol’s Memorial Door.

The case is part of a strike force created by Michael Sherwin, the U.S. attorney in Washington, to examine violent actions that targeted members of the news media, the Justice Department said. Sherwin said at a recent news conference that it was “the height of hypocrisy” to attack journalists while invoking the First Amendment to justify illegally entering the Capitol.

DeCarlo was also seen in photos taken inside the Capitol during the riots wearing a shirt and hat that said “MT Media,” which investigators said stands for “Murder the Media.”

Prosecutors say that Nordean, carrying a bullhorn, led a 100-person mob and entered the Capitol with another top-ranking Proud Boys leader, Joseph Biggs, who is also facing charges in connection with the attack.

In a criminal complaint against Nordean, prosecutors said he and other Proud Boys “were planning in advance to organize a group that would attempt to overwhelm police barricades and enter” the Capitol.

The 21-page complaint also said that, before marching on the building, Nordean had a brief exchange with another man charged in the assault, Robert Gieswein, of Woodland Park, Colorado, who has been accused of being a member of the far-right militia the Three Percenters.

Nordean, 30, of Auburn, Washington, was near the front of a crowd of rioters that confronted an outnumbered detachment of Capitol Police officers Jan. 6, prosecutors said. Moving past the officers, prosecutors said, he and other members of the Proud Boys forced their way into the building.

Before the attack on the Capitol, Nordean gave hints of an “intent to organize a group that intended to engage in conflict,” according to a news release issued Wednesday by the U.S. attorney’s office in Washington.

In late December, for example, he posted a message asking for donations of “protective gear” and “communications equipment,” prosecutors said. About a week later, prosecutors added, Nordean posted a video online, discussing what he described as “blatant rampant voter fraud” and saying that the Proud Boys were going to “bring back that original spirit of 1776 of what really established the character of what America is.”

After the assault, prosecutors say, Nordean continued writing inflammatory messages.

On Jan. 8, they said, he posted a photo on social media showing a police officer spraying pepper spray. The caption read, “If you feel bad for the police, you are part of the problem.”

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