A U.S. district judge challenged prosecutors’ allegations that key leaders of the Proud Boys planned in advance to threaten Congress and battle police in the Jan. 6 Capitol riot, saying Tuesday that he had not yet seen a clear “invocation to violence” in their communications, reports the Washington Post. At a hearing, U.S. District Judge Timothy J. Kelly of Washington said despite evidence that the Proud Boys leaders planned, fundraised and organized scores of members to converge on the Capitol with radios and protective gear in expectation of violence, it is less clear whether charged conspirators plotted beforehand to thwart police and disrupt Congress, or whether individual members opportunistically drove the chaos. After a two-hour hearing, Kelly said he would decide Friday whether to jail two men as public threats pending trial: alleged Proud Boys “thought leaders” and organizers Ethan Nordean, 30, of Seattle and Joseph Randall Biggs, 37, of Ormond Beach, Fla.
Prosecutors cast members of the Proud Boys, a far-right group with a history of violence, and the Oath Keepers — a network of groups founded in 2009 on the premise that the federal government is evolving toward dictatorship — as would-be revolutionaries drawn to President Donald Trump’s calls to “get wild” in Washington. Investigators say Nordean and Biggs led the group on a march around the Capitol, before several members allegedly led some of the earliest and most aggressive efforts to charge police lines and smash through windows and doors. Nordean and Biggs also allegedly knocked over a police barrier, sending a signal to their followers and igniting the violence despite being unarmed and not participating in any assaults themselves. The suspects’ defense attorneys denied any wrongdoing on behalf of their clients and argued that the Proud Boys were only planning to protect Trump supporters after street fights erupted during demonstrations in Washington and other cities last year, not to criminally invade the Capitol.