WASHINGTON — US prosecutors alleged for the first time that a Washington state leader of the Proud Boys was nominated by members of the group to take charge of the Capitol breach on Jan. 6 and carried out a plan to split into groups to break into the building from as many points as possible.
In a 24-page filing, prosecutors on Monday asked a federal judge in Washington, D.C., to keep Ethan Nordean, 30, of Seattle, in jail pending trial, appealing a lower court’s Feb. 8 release order.
Nordean was ’'nominated from within to have ‘war powers’ ’' to lead activities at the Capitol after the group’s chairman, Henry ’'Enrique’' Tarrio, was arrested by D.C. police upon arriving in the city two days earlier, assistant US attorneys James B. Nelson and Jason B.A. McCullough alleged. They do not state whether Nordean and/or others were formally selected to lead events that day.
The prosecutors also asserted that Nordean led the group by positioning Proud Boys members — carrying encrypted two-way Chinese-made Baofeng radios and wearing military-style gear — at an entrance to the Capitol grounds that was guarded by only a handful of Capitol Police officers and spreading out others to different locations to avoid triggering police interest.
’'By blending in and spreading out, Defendant and those following him on January 6 made it more likely that either a Proud Boy — or a suitably-inspired ‘normie’ [nonmilitant Trump supporter] — would be able to storm the Capitol and its ground in such a way that would interrupt [Congress’s] Certification of the Electoral College vote,’' prosecutors said.
A detention hearing for Nordean initially set for Tuesday was rescheduled for Wednesday afternoon.
Nordean, known as Rufio Panman online, was arrested Feb. 3 on charges of aiding and abetting the destruction of government property, obstructing an official proceeding, trespassing, and disorderly conduct on restricted Capitol grounds. The charges include an offense of violence and a charge defined as a federal crime of terrorism — destroying property to intimidate or coerce the government — that’s punishable by up to 10 years in prison, prosecutors said.
Nordean’s attorneys in Washington, D.C., David B. Smith and Nicholas D. Smith, argued in a court motion for his release that it is not clear any damage attributed to Nordean would amount to more than a misdemeanor or that his alleged conversation or association with other charged individuals amounted to ’'aiding and abetting.’'
The FBI and US prosecutors have charged nearly 20 members or associates of the Proud Boys in connection with the breach, and they have accused several members of leading some of the most destructive, aggressive, and early efforts to stampede police and break into the building.
The far-right group has a history of violence, and Canada has designated it a terrorist entity.