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Proud Boys knew Capitol riot plans might be 'criminally culpable,' DOJ says

The DOJ says Joseph Biggs and Ethan Nordean, aka "Rufio Panman," pose a danger to society if they remain out on bond.

WASHINGTON — The Justice Department wants the pretrial release of two Proud Boys revoked, but it will have to convince a federal judge there’s substantial new evidence of their danger to society to achieve that.

Ethan Nordean and Joseph Biggs are two of four alleged Proud Boys leaders indicted as part of what the Justice Department has described as a planned effort to disrupt the certification of Electoral College votes on January 6.

Nordean, also known as “Rufio Panman,” is the self-described “sergeant of arms” of the Seattle Chapter of the Proud Boys. Biggs, a Florida resident, has claimed to have helped organize a number of Proud Boys events around the country, including the 2019 rally in Portland, Oregon, that drew members of the Proud Boys, Patriot Prayer and other right-wing groups.

Both men are currently out on pretrial release on home detention in Washington and Florida, respectively, and are forbidden from traveling outside of their home states without court approval.

Earlier this month, a federal grand jury indicted Nordean, Biggs and two other Proud Boys – Zachary Rehl and Charles Donohoe – on charges of conspiracy, obstruction of an official proceeding, obstruction of law enforcement and destruction of government property.  

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The Justice Department then filed a motion to revoke pretrial release for both Nordean and Biggs, arguing that the evidence included in the indictment warranted their return to custody.

Specifically, the Justice Department said in a filing Wednesday that messages between the four Proud Boys before the Capitol riot “begin with the premise that the Defendant and his co-Defendants might be criminally culpable for their plans.”

The Justice Department says an unindicted co-conspirator in the case advised fellow Proud Boys that they “shouldn’t be typing plans to commit felonies into your phone” and said that “if you’re talking about playing Minecraft you just make sure you don’t use your phone at all or even have it anywhere around you.”

According to the Justice Department, it’s common parlance for people online discussing criminal activity to refer to such activity as occurring “in Minecraft” to conceal the true nature of the activity.

RELATED | 'Everything is compromised' | Four Proud Boys leaders indicted on conspiracy charges in connection to Capitol riot

The Justice Department also released new messages from a group that included Nordean and Biggs. The messages talk about wanting to see “thousands of normies burn that city to ash,” in reference to D.C. on January 6, and “seeing them smash some pigs to dust” – an apparent reference to violence against law enforcement.

Federal prosecutors may have an uphill battle ahead of them, however. Messages alone may not be enough to convince a judge to reverse their decision, and, in Biggs’ case, the defense has submitted a letter from his probation officer saying he has “presented no concerns regarding compliance” since his release.

All sides were scheduled to appear for a hearing in federal court in D.C. on Thursday, but that hearing was moved to April 6 at 11:30 a.m.

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