By Sarah N. Lynch
WASHINGTON (Reuters) – A former singer for the punk rock band The Misfits who was in Washington on the day of the U.S. Capitol riot has emerged as a possible trial witness as defense lawyers seek to undermine the prosecution’s bid to prove conspiracy charges against some members of the right-wing Proud Boys group.
Michale Graves, the lead singer of the veteran band from 1995 to 2000, said a Proud Boys member asked him to play some songs for a private concert planned for the afternoon of Jan. 6. That was the day of the Capitol attack that left five people dead, including a police officer.
Graves, who said he became a member of the Proud Boys last year, told Reuters he did not think the group was capable of planning an invasion of the Capitol, as prosecutors have said.
“These guys have a hard time getting an order together for McDonalds,” Graves, whose legal name is Michael Emanuel, said in an interview.
Lawyers representing Ethan “Rufio” Nordean, a prominent figure in the Proud Boys and one of the defendants charged with conspiracy, said in a court filing on Monday that he had planned on holding what they called a “carefree music party” on Jan. 6 that would have featured Graves.
Though this party never occurred, defense lawyers said planning for such an event scheduled for a time when the riot actually was still taking place contradicted the notion that the group had a plan to “topple the government” that day.
Defense lawyers said 1,500 messages exchanged by members of the Proud Boys on Jan. 5 and Jan. 6 on the Telegram messaging app – collected as evidence by the FBI – also cast doubt on the existence of a conspiracy.
A Justice Department spokeswoman declined to comment on the defense filing or on Graves’ account of concert plans.
Prosecutors at a hearing on Thursday are set to ask a judge to order Nordean detained pending trial. They have failed in two prior requests for Nordean’s pretrial detention. Evidence cited in the new defense filing could be raised at the hearing.
Proud Boys members were among those in a mob of supporters of former President Donald Trump who stormed the Capitol on the afternoon of Jan. 6. Prosecutors have accused Nordean and other right-wing figures of conspiring to take the Capitol by force to prevent Congress from certifying President Joe Biden’s election victory.
Graves, 46, said he traveled to Washington and performed music at a Jan. 6 rally organized by a group called “Latinos for Trump” held before the Capitol attack unfolded.
Graves said he met up with Nordean one day earlier. Graves said Nordean asked him to play a private concert on Jan. 6 between 3 p.m. and 4 p.m. at a house that the Proud Boys had rented to boost the morale of the group’s members after its leader, Enrique Tarrio, was arrested on Jan. 4 on gun charges.
Graves said he agreed to perform, but that he and his manager later “ghosted” his Proud Boy friends on Jan. 6 and left Washington as chaos engulfed the Capitol.
Arturo Santaella, who serves as manager for Graves and joined him in Washington on Jan. 5 and Jan. 6, vouched for his account of the events.
“They are not this well-oiled machine,” Santaella said of the Proud Boys.
In the court filing, defense lawyers said Telegram messages show the group was in disarray during the attack.
One message read: “Ummm I don’t think the plan was to attack … damage, and attempt to control the building.”
“This is so unorganized!” another message read. “Where is our order?”
(Reporting by Sarah N. Lynch; Editing by Andy Sullivan and Will Dunham)