PHILADELPHIA (CN) — Though a federal magistrate said he does not consider the 35-year-old a flight risk, he agreed to hold off Friday on releasing the president of the Philadelphia Proud Boys chapter who is charged with organizing “boots on the ground” to breach of the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6.
Zachary Rehl appeared before the court in Philadelphia via video conference Friday, as is procedure due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
“This is a matter of grave importance,” U.S. Magistrate Judge Richard Lloret told the defendant. “I’ve granted you bond because I’m convinced that there are terms and conditions that can satisfy the government’s serious interest in seeing that you don’t pose a danger to the community.”
After Lloret granted bail at $50,000, however, he entered a stay so that the government can appeal.
“We’ll file papers right away,” Assistant U.S. Attorney Luke Jones said, emphasizing the outsized role that Rehl is charged with playing in the Capitol riots.
“He was not merely a participant, he was a leader,” Jones said of Rehl. “We are arguing that he poses a danger to society.”
The attack, devised in protest of the 2020 election results and fueled by former President Donald Trump’s baseless claims of election fraud, caused injuries to more than 130 police officers, one of whom died. Four Trump loyalists also died as a result of the siege.
As a resident of Philadelphia, Rehl made his initial proceeding int he Eastern District of Philadelphia after he was named in a six-count indictment unsealed last week in Washington last. Rehl is charged alongside three other leaders of the Proud Boys, a neo-fascist, far-right militant group. His accused co-conspirators are two other local chapter presidents — Ethan Nordean of Auburn, Washington, and Charles Donohoe of Kenersville, North Carolina — as well as Proud Boys organizer Joseph Biggs of Ormond Beach, Florida. At least 19 leaders, members or associates of the Proud Boys have been charged in federal court in connection with the insurrection.
Rehl’s indictment shares snippets of encrypted communications posted in a messaging channel “Boots on the Ground” that was created for the group the day before the riots. More than 60 Proud Boys leaders discussed the ransacking of the Capitol building in this virtual venue.
The document pegs Rehl in particular with celebrating after the event, writing: “I’m proud as f–k what we accomplished yesterday, but we need to start planning and we are starting planning, for a Biden presidency.”
Rehl was arrested last Wednesday after photos and videos flooded social media showing him among a crowd of Proud Boys organizers at the insurrection. In one piece of footage, Rehl is seen alongside two other Proud Boys leaders at the front of a crowd that marched through Washington and then stormed up to the Capitol building. Rehl was also identified in a photo that shows him with other Capitol insurrectionists, smoking and looking at his phone, in the office of Democratic Senator Jeff Merkley of Oregon.
Defense attorney Shaka Johnson emphasized in Friday’s hearing that his client is a former Marine who was honorably discharged and still suffers from tremors and ticks as a result of injuries he suffered during his time in the service.
“He had some opinions — he let those opinions be known,” Johnson said of his client’s role in the insurrection, maintaining that, while Rehl entered the Capitol, he was not directly responsible for the breach.
“He [was], like thousands of others were, there,” Johnson said.
Johnson built up Rehl’s image as a family man. Married. The father of a 16-year-old daughter, with a second child on the way. Johnson said that if released, Rehl and his wife would reside with his wife’s parents in northeast Philadelphia. He also emphasized his client was not a flight risk.
“He does not own a passport, and the last time that he was out of the country was two decades ago,” Johnson said. “He will not be going anywhere.”
Additionally, Johnson added that Rehl’s disability payments contribute “almost solely” to his family’s income.
Before entering the stay, Lloret said he would allow Rehl’s release on a $50,000 bond that leverages the defendant’s house in northeast Philadelphia. The judge said Rehl will not be able to leave the house except to attend prenatal classes with his pregnant wife and for matters related to his criminal trial.
Jones, the prosecutor, also asked the judge Friday to “hold the clock” between this hearing and the next hearing, a request Lloret granted pending corresponding paperwork submissions.
The Proud Boys describe themselves as a politically incorrect men’s club for “Western chauvinists.” On Jan. 4, two days before the insurrection, the group was dragged to court by a Washington church that said it was terrorized in December when Proud Boys vandalized their Black Lives Matter signs in an attempt to silence supporters of racial justice. Proud Boys chairman Enrique Tarrio was arrested Jan. 5 for allegedly burning a Black Lives Matter flag.