Proud Boys leader Ethan Nordean was released after a federal judge in Washington declared the government had only presented “weak” evidence tying him to specific acts of violence during the Capitol attack.

Chief District Court Judge Beryl Howell noted that prosecutors had retreated from some of their claims about Nordean, including that he’d directed Proud Boys members to split into different squads to attack the Capitol from varying entrances.

“That’s a far cry from what I heard today. The government has backtracked,” Howell said during a hearing on Wednesday.

“There’s no allegation that the defendant caused injury to any person…. He never personally caused damage to any particular property,” Howell said. “He was a leader of a march down to the Capitol. Once they got there, it is not clear what leadership role this defendant took at all to people inside the Capitol…. The dearth of evidence about his direction is significant here.”

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Howell called the issue of whether or not Nordean should be detained a “close case” and noted that she was disturbed by his rhetoric and lack of remorse after the attack. She ordered that Nordean be released to home detention with GPS monitoring in his home area of Seattle. Nordean can return to Washington, D.C., only for court hearings and, with permission, to meet his lawyers.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Jason McCullough called Nordean’s behavior an “intended act.” “This was not just an affection for three-corner hats and saltwater taffy. It was an interest in bringing about violent action,” McCullough said.

The judge said the government might eventually be able to prove Nordean’s ordered violence, perhaps with testimony from others charged in the riot who chose to cooperate. However, according to Howell, the government had little to work with beyond the theory and Nordean’s history of “offensive in extreme” social media posts.

“The government has made repeated factual claims about Ethan’s actions and then backs away from them without any support,” Nordean’s attorney, Nicholas Smith, said. “It’s just not there.”

Proud Boys’ Ethan Nordean Was Given ‘War Powers’ To Lead Capitol Insurrection, FBI Says

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