A leading member of the Proud Boys was ordered to be released Wednesday when federal prosecutors failed to convince a judge he was a danger to the public while he awaits trial in the U.S. Capitol riots on Jan. 6.
Thirty-year-old Ethan Nordean, self-described "Sergeant of Arms" of the far-right group the Proud Boys, allegedly led members as they charged the Capitol building on Jan. 6. He was arrested in the state of Washington less than one month later on multiple charges including disorderly conduct on Capitol grounds and knowingly entering restricted grounds. Chief Judge Beryl Howell said prosecutors failed to support their assertion that Nordean was a leader in the attacks and she thought he seemed to follow the crowds, Reuters reported.
Prosecutors alleged Nordean helped plan that attack, ordering his subordinates to split up into teams and to break into the Capitol building from multiple entry points to stop Congress from certifying the 2020 presidential election results, NPR has reported.
"What the government said in its original papers was that he directed the Proud Boys with specific plans, telling them to split up into groups and attempt to break in to the Capitol building," Howell said. "That's a far cry from what I heard at the hearing today."
Nordean will be released and sent home to Washington, where he will be required to spend most of his time confined to his home. Nearly 20 people with ties to the Proud Boys have been charged by the Department of Justice in the weeks following the insurrection attempt, Reuters reported. Howell said other members of the group have been released and are awaiting trial and she must be consistent.
A government court filing earlier this week says Nordean was granted "war powers" and elected to lead after Proud Boys leader Enrique Tarrio was arrested on Jan. 4. The change of command order allegedly was disseminated among the ranks and on Jan. 6, Nordean could be seen leading the Proud Boys from the front, bullhorn in hand.
In a motion to release Nordean from custody, his lawyers argued the prosecution's claims don't hold water.
"The government cites a laundry list of Nordean's social media posts before and after January 6," Nordean's lawyers wrote. "Not a single one of these—often featuring vague comments about "patriots" and the "stolen election"—shows that Nordean planned or intended to commit a crime on January 6."