FBI raids home of Philadelphia Proud Boys’ vice president to gather info about Capitol attack plans
Aaron Whallon Wolkind's lawyer believes the raid was part of the FBI's efforts to build a case against Proud Boys president Zach Rehl, who was arrested in March on charges related to the insurrection.
The FBI raided the home of the vice president of the Proud Boys’ Philadelphia chapter on Friday, seizing his computer, phone, and other electronics to gather information on the Jan. 6 attack at the U.S. Capitol, his lawyer said Monday.
Aaron Whallon Wolkind, 37, woke up around 4 a.m. Friday to more than a dozen federal agents, dressed in riot gear and accompanied by an armored vehicle and battering ram, swarming his Newark, Del., home, and ordering through a loudspeaker that he exit with his hands in the air, his lawyer Jonathon Moseley wrote in a court filing.
Wolkind exited and was handcuffed but not arrested or charged with any crimes. Agents “took all of his computer and computer devices and phones, including an old broken phone,” Moseley said. His girlfriend was also handcuffed but not arrested.
Wolkind was not in D.C. during the Jan. 6 riot, Moseley said. He believes the search and seizure was to gather information in the case against Zach Rehl, the self-described president of the Philadelphia Proud Boys, whom Moseley also represents. Rehl was arrested in March on charges he conspired with other leading members of the organization to attack the Capitol and has been in custody in Philadelphia pending trial since.
Details of the raid became public over the weekend, after Moseley filed a motion for bail in Rehl’s case and used the raid to support his contention that the government does not have sufficient evidence against Rehl to deny him bail and keep him in custody.
The search warrant permitted agents to seize records and information related to people who “collaborated, conspired, or assisted,” or “communicated about matters” including their whereabouts, during the attack on the Capitol on Jan. 6, or the “legitimacy of the 2020 presidential election,” the filing says. They could also collect “clothing items” associating Wolkind with the Proud Boys, it said. The offenses cited on the warrant are the same criminal charges Rehl is facing, Moseley said.
Moseley argued that the raid on Wolkind — Rehl’s Proud Boys partner and close friend — shows the prosecution lacks enough evidence to hold Rehl.
“The goal was to find evidence they don’t have on Rehl,” he wrote.
Prosecutors have alleged that Rehl played a central role in directing the Proud Boys’ actions during the deadly insurrection, alongside Joseph Biggs, a Proud Boys organizer from Florida, and Ethan Nordean, of Washington state, whom authorities have described as the organization’s “de facto leader” on Jan. 6.
Excerpts of internal group conversations filed by prosecutors in May paint Rehl as not only standing beside Biggs and Nordean as they stormed the Capitol building, but also as one of a small inner circle selected weeks in advance to help lead the charge.
» READ MORE: Prosecutors put Philly Proud Boys president Zach Rehl at heart of Jan. 6 planning in new Capitol riot filing
The three men’s lawyers have maintained the men planned to “rally” in support of President Donald Trump and had no preplanned intention of committing violence or breaching the Capitol perimeter. Moseley said that political leaders like Trump had far greater influence on people on Jan. 6 than Rehl had.
In an interview, Moseley said Proud Boys like Wolkind had provided information about antifascists to the FBI in the past, and said if they intended to charge him, he expected that would have happened on Friday when officers were deployed.
After agents searched Wolkind’s home, agents “interrogated” him inside, Moseley said in the filing, but Wolkind “refused to say anything without the advice of an attorney.” Agents left with the electronics and he was released.
For now, Moseley said of Wolkind, “I think he’s gone camping to let things calm down for a few days.”
Staff writer Jeremy Roebuck contributed to this article.