A former Marine who cooperated with the government in the prosecution of fellow members of a far-right group for their involvement in the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the U.S. Capitol was sentenced Tuesday to three years and four months in prison.
Charles Donohoe, 35, a former top leader in the Proud Boys, has been in jail since he was arrested in March 2021. He pleaded guilty last year to felony conspiracy and assault charges related to the Capitol attack and may be eligible for release in a couple of months because he will get credit for the time he has already served, The Associated Press reported.
Information on Donohoe's cooperation was redacted from court records, but his case is one of many involving a veteran attempting to disrupt the 2020 presidential election.
Donohoe's sentencing comes months after Proud Boys leader Enrique Tarrio was sentenced to 22 years in prison for his involvement in the riot, the longest sentence related to Jan. 6 handed out to date. The DoJ described Donohoe as Tarrio's "trusted lieutenant;" the Marine veteran was also president of a Proud Boys chapter in North Carolina.
"I knew what I was doing was illegal from the very moment those barricades got knocked down," Donohoe said at his hearing this week, according to the AP.
Prosecutors said that Donohoe was instrumental to the Proud Boys operation as an on-the-ground leader acting as the organization's "eyes and ears" at the Capitol on Jan. 6. He would relay real-time information back to a Proud Boys group chat designated "Ministry of Self Defense," or MOSD.
"Oops! Looks like we just stormed the Capitol building!" he wrote in the chat, according to court records. More than 100 members of the Proud Boys marched on the Capitol, the AP reported.
"Donohoe was a trusted member of the Proud Boys' MOSD who leveraged his skills and experiences gained while serving this country in order to help lead the Proud Boys' efforts to prevent the peaceful transfer of presidential power," said Jon Lewis, a research fellow with George Washington University's Program on Extremism.
"As we have seen in many cases of veteran participation in January 6, the very characteristics which Donohoe is lauded for developing in the Marines made him a valued and high-ranking member of the Proud Boys," Lewis said. "While his plea deal and cooperation distinguishes Donohoe's case from his Proud Boy leadership co-defendants who were recently sentenced following trial convictions, Donohoe's position as a member of the seditious conspiracy's inner circle is clear from the evidence set forth in the court records."
Once near the Capitol, Donohoe joined in scuffles with law enforcement, throwing water bottles at a police line and handling a stolen police shield, according to court records. Police eventually fired a pepperball, which scared off Donohoe and sent him back to his hotel, records state.
Donohoe joined the Marine Corps in 2006 and deployed twice to Iraq, according to court records. He was honorably discharged in 2010, going on to work for private military companies and the State Department as a contractor though "he struggled with adjusting to civilian life," the records added.
A Military.com investigation into efforts by extremist groups to recruit veterans found that the time after leaving military service is often a particularly unstable one for service members, which may allow those groups to take advantage of veterans looking for community after serving.
The George Washington Program on Extremism said that more than 100 rioters with known military connections, mostly veterans, have been charged for their involvement with the Jan. 6 riot -- about 12% of all defendants in the case. Some of the most notable sentences have been against veterans, including those in the far-right group the Oath Keepers and its leader, Army veteran Stewart Rhodes.
"It took Charlie time to understand the nature of his wrong," Ira Knight, Donohoe's defense attorney, said of his actions at the Capitol and involvement with the Proud Boys, as quoted by the AP.