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WASHINGTON, Feb 4 ― The US Justice Department arrested and charged a top member of the Seattle chapter of the far-right Proud Boys group yesterday over allegations he had a role in the storming of the US Capitol on January 6 by pro-Trump followers.
Prosecutors said that 30-year-old Ethan Nordean, also known as Rufio Panman, could face up to 20 years in prison if he is convicted on a charge of impeding an official government proceeding. He also faces other charges, including aiding and abetting.
It was not immediately known who was representing Nordean and he was due to make an initial appearance in a federal court in Washington state yesterday afternoon.
Nordean is the self-proclaimed “Sergeant of Arms” for the Seattle chapter of the Proud Boys, an extremist group that describes itself as a “pro-Western fraternal organization for men who refuse to apologise for creating the modern world,” prosecutors said.
Nordean was arrested only hours after Canada named the Proud Boys a terrorist entity, saying that while the group has never mounted an attack in Canada, domestic intelligence forces have become increasingly worried about it.
The Proud Boy's founder, Gavin McInnes, is a Canadian who lives in the United States.
Nordean is the latest member of the group to be charged after the riot at the US Capitol, which left five people dead and delayed Congress from certifying President Joe Biden's election victory.
Biden’s administration has warned that domestic extremism is a growing threat following the Capitol rampage, a sharp departure from the way former president Donald Trump regarded extremist groups such as the Proud Boys and Oath Keepers.
In a September pre-election debate with Biden, Trump told the Proud Boys to “stand back and stand by.”
The FBI has been looking particularly closely at the Proud Boys, the Oath Keepers and other far-right groups and anti-government militias as they investigate the Capitol riots.
Earlier yesterday, Reuters reported that the Justice Department is in the early stages of exploring whether it might be able to charge members of far-right groups involved in the storming of the Capitol under a federal law usually used against organised crime, according to two law enforcement sources.
Last month, the government secured an indictment against two other Proud Boy members ― Dominic Pezzola and William Pepe ― on charges they conspired to impede Capitol Police on the day of the riots.
Prosecutors have also separately charged several other group members including Nicholas Ochs, the leader of the Proud Boys Hawaii Chapter and Joseph Biggs, whom prosecutors say was photographed alongside Nordean as they marched along Constitution Avenue on January 6. ― Reuters
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