Proud Boys Ethan Nordean and Dominic Pezzola jailed for US Capitol riot

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  • By Bernd Debusmann Jr
  • BBC News, Washington

Video caption,

Watch: Footage shows Pezzola breaching Capitol on 6 January

Two members of the far-right Proud Boys group have been jailed for leading the US Capitol riot.

Dominic Pezzola, 46, who was convicted of assaulting police and obstructing an official proceeding, was sentenced to 10 years in prison.

Ethan Nordean, 33, who led the group’s march on Congress on 6 January 2021, was sentenced to 18 years for a more serious seditious conspiracy charge.

The former head of the group, Enrique Tarrio, will be sentenced next week.

Pezzola, a 46-year-old former US Marine, fought with officers during the raid on Congress on 6 January 2021.

He was convicted of assaulting police and obstructing an official proceeding.

A selfie video taken on the day of the riot shows Pezzola smoking what he described as a “victory cigar” in the Capitol building.

During Friday’s sentencing, an emotional Pezzola expressed some remorse for his actions. His wife, daughter and mother all addressed the judge, with his mother describing him as having been a “wonderful child” that “never gave me any trouble”.

Pezzola’s wife said that her daughters have become victims of harassment and bullying at school.

But once the prison term had been handed down and the judge had left the room, Pezzola shouted: “Trump won!”

The Proud Boys – which started as a “drinking club” seven years ago – saw themselves as Donald Trump’s foot-soldiers and were among the first to march on the Capitol on the day of the riot.

Trump supporters overran police lines and stormed the building in a bid to prevent Congress from ratifying Joe Biden’s election victory.

Pezzola and Nordean went to trial alongside Tarrio and US military veterans Joe Biggs and Zachary Rehl.

On Thursday, Biggs and Rehl were sentenced to 17 and 15 years in prison respectively.

Tarrio is due to be sentenced next week. He faces up to 33 years in prison.

Of the five, Pezzola was the only one acquitted of seditious conspiracy, a charge applied to defendants for plotting to overthrow the government or use force “to prevent, hinder, or delay the execution of any law of the United States”.

Image source, US Department of Justice

Image caption,

Dominic Pezzola seen smashing a window with a police shield in a photo submitted as evidence by prosecutors

Prosecutors, however, argued that Pezzola’s violence at the riot warranted a stiff sentence.

“Pezzola’s actions and testimony leave no doubt that he intended to influence or affect the conduct of government by intimidation or coercion,” prosecutors wrote in a sentencing memo. “He committed crimes of terrorism on January 6.”

On Friday, Judge Timothy Kelly told Pezzola he had “played a significant role” in the Capitol riot, even if he was not in a leadership role in the Proud Boys.

“It was a national disgrace, what happened,” Judge Kelly said.

During the trial, a combative Pezzola had repeatedly downplayed his actions during the riot, arguing the crowd were “trespassing protesters” rather than an “invading force”.

He also told jurors that his actions that day were explained by his reverting to military training when he saw police use non-lethal munitions to try to disperse the crowd.

Image source, Getty Images

Image caption,

Joe Biggs (right) with Enrique Tarrio at a rally in 2019

“In the military and Marine Corps, you don’t ever turn around and run away,” Pezzola said.

“You’re conditioned not to think about the flight response. You’re conditioned to run toward the danger.”

More than 1,100 have been arrested on riot-related charges, resulting in 630 guilty pleas and over 110 convictions.

The longest prison sentence prior to today – 18 years – was doled out to Oath Keepers founder Stewart Rhodes in May.

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