Nordean, also known as Rufio Panman, was charged with attempting to obstruct Congress’s certification of President-elect Joe Biden’s electoral college victory, punishable by up to 20 years in prison, as well as additional counts, the Justice Department said.
In a 12-page affidavit, an FBI agent alleged a string of confrontational communications aimed in part at police and “this corrupt system” by Nordean and the Proud Boys, a far-right group with a history of violence. President Donald Trump also famously told the group to “stand back and stand by” when asked during a presidential debate to condemn white supremacists and the Proud Boys in particular.
The group has since come under heavy law enforcement scrutiny, and one leader, Henry “Enrique” Tarrio, was arrested on his way to attend the Jan. 6 Trump rally for allegedly burning a Black Lives Matter banner torn down from a historic D.C. church during a previous demonstration. Tarrio has pleaded not guilty.
The FBI and U.S. prosecutors have also charged nearly a dozen members of the Proud Boys in the Capitol riot, including several accused of leading some of the most destructive, aggressive and early efforts to stampede police and break in to the building.
Information about an attorney for Nordean was not immediately available.
Since Jan. 6, Tarrio has called for a halt on participating in marches. Tarrio has denied that the Proud Boys organized any violence at the Capitol.
In a Proud Boys live-stream video taken at the Capitol shortly before it was stormed, someone who authorities say appears to be Nordean can be seen shouting at police through a bullhorn, “You took our boy in, and you let our stabber go.” The statement appears to be a reference to Tarrio’s arrest and the dismissal of charges against another man initially accused of being involved in a melee in which four people, including Proud Boys members, were stabbed after a pro-Trump march on Dec. 12.
An FBI charging document details what it presented as growing resentment between the Proud Boys and law enforcement.
On Dec. 27, Nordean allegedly asked on social media for donations of “protective gear” and “communication equipment,” saying, “Things have gotten more dangerous for us this past year.”
He posted a video on the Parler social media platform that same day, captioned, “Let them remember the day they decided to make war with us,” the affidavit stated. The affidavit also said he was showing himself and other members in military-style tactical gear and the phrase “Back the YELLOW,” referring to the group’s black and yellow colors.
Eight days later, the FBI said, Nordean “echoed,” or shared, a post of a photograph of himself and another group leader that it identified only as Individual A, captioned, “And fight we will.”
Nordean included a link to his podcast “Rebel Talk with Rufio,” in which the two Proud Boys members discussed Individual A’s stabbing outside Harry’s Bar in downtown Washington, which had become a gathering spot for the Proud Boys.
Archived Parler records show Nordean conducted the podcast with Jeremy Bertino, of Locust, N.C., who was injured in the stabbings, the FBI said.
“We [the Proud Boys] are looked at almost like the soldiers of the right wing. People are looking to us to lead the way . . . we gladly will step up and take our place where they want us. This stuff is real. We are in a war,” Bertino said, the FBI alleged.
Nordean later continued, “The police are starting to become a problem,” adding in frustration, “we’ve had their back for years,” the affidavit charged. Nordean defended the Proud Boys’ efforts to “protect the community,” saying, “We’re never going to look good doing it, because violence doesn’t look good.”
He then discussed what he called “blatant, rampant voter fraud” in the presidential election, and said the Proud Boys would “bring back that original spirit of 1776 of what really established the character of what America is,” the FBI said.
“Democracy is dead? Well, then no peace for you. No democracy, no peace,” Nordean said, according to charging papers.
The day before the riots, according to charging papers, Nordean posted, “Funny thing is that they don’t realize is, is we are coming for them. You’ve chosen your side, black and yellow teamed with red, white and blue against everyone else.”
Photographs and digital videos taken that day also show Nordean near the front of crowds that stormed the building and entering it after rioters forced entry, the FBI said. Bertino has not been charged in the Capitol riots, and he could not be immediately reached for comment.
After the breach, Nordean continued, posting the caption“if you feel bad for the police, you are part of the problem . . .” with a photo of a U.S. Capitol Police officer dosing rioters with pepper spray.
Separately on Wednesday, U.S. authorities announced an indictment with new accusations against two previously charged men, self-described Hawaii Proud Boys founder Nicholas R. Ochs, 34, and Nicholas DeCarlo, 30, of Burleson, Tex. A seven-count indictment accuses the men of conspiring to plan, raise money and travel to Washington to disrupt Congress, posting images and video of the incursion in real-time, and defacing the U.S. Capitol’s Memorial Door with the words “MURDER THE MEDIA,” the name of their social media video collective.
An attorney for Ochs did not immediately respond to requests for comment. DeCarlo attorney Blake Burns cited potential problems with the government’s case with regard to the more serious charges against DeCarlo, adding, “We have the greatest justice system in the world, so I would like to ask everyone . . . to reserve judgment until the process has come to a resolution.”
Correction: An earlier version of this article incorrectly reported that Jeremy Bertino was recorded with Nordean outside the Captiol on Jan. 6 and Bertino’s place of residence. It has been updated.
Peter Hermann and Tom Jackman contributed to this report.