A federal judge sentenced Proud Boy member Dominic Pezzola to 10 years behind bars Friday, four months after he was found guilty on obstruction and other charges relating to the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the U.S. Capitol.
Pezzola was found not guilty on the most serious charge of the trial, seditious conspiracy, unlike his four Proud Boy co-defendants this past May. But he played a key role in the riot as the first person to smash through a Capitol window using a stolen police shield, and prosecutors argued he should spend 20 years behind bars.
Four other members of the far-right street-fighting group were found guilty in March on seditious conspiracy charges: Ethan Nordean, Joseph Biggs, Zachary Rehl and the gang’s chairman, Enrique Tarrio. All five were accused of scheming to stop the peaceful transfer of presidential power after the 2020 election.
Nordean is expected to be sentenced later on Friday. Prosecutors argued he should spend 27 years behind bars for leading a group of nearly 200 men to the Capitol grounds.
Dominic Pezzola, who used a police shield to break into the U.S. Capitol, walks with other rioters outside the Senate chamber on Jan. 6, 2021.
Judge Kelly sentenced Biggs and Rehl on Thursday to 17 and 15 years, respectively.
Tarrio’s sentencing was scheduled to take place Wednesday but was abruptly canceled and rescheduled for Sept. 5, reportedly due to the judge falling ill.
The founder of the far-right Oath Keepers group, Elmer Stewart Rhodes, claims the longest sentence handed down to a Capitol rioter — 18 years — after being found guilty of seditious conspiracy and other charges last year.
Like the Oath Keepers trials, the Proud Boys’ trial allowed the government to lay out its argument that the extremist groups planned extensively for violence on Jan. 6, 2021, holding meetings and text-messaging one another.
The group of Proud Boys did not even take time to listen to then-President Donald Trump’s speech near the White House — prosecutors say they had already turned their focus on the Capitol.
Dominic Pezzola in an FBI photo.
Prosecutors described Pezzola in a sentencing memo as “an enthusiastic foot soldier” in the conspiracy to disrupt Congress, which was at the time officially certifying the results of the 2020 presidential election. Nordean, prosecutors said, was attempting to “lead a revolution against a government he viewed as illegitimate.”
Like other rioters, the Proud Boys viewed themselves as akin to American Revolution soldiers.
About 2 p.m. that day, Pezzola used a riot shield he’d forcefully taken from a U.S. Capitol Police officer to break a window on the northwest side of the Capitol. The breach allowed pro-Trump protesters to begin streaming into the building, where they came dangerously close to running into members of Congress and then–Vice President Mike Pence.
Ethan Nordean is seen at the Jan. 6, 2021, Capitol riot.
A woman described in court documents as Pezzola’s common-law wife told investigators that Pezzola was not interested in politics before the COVID-19 pandemic. In a journal entry, Pezzola said he had come to see the political landscape as a “battle between good and evil” that required people like him to “stand up and take back our god given liberties just like our Founders did.”
Nordean repeatedly voiced support for politically motivated violence in the weeks leading up to the Capitol attack. In mid-November 2020, he said on a podcast that politicians who said Biden had won were “evil scum” who deserved “to die a traitor’s death.”
A Capitol Police riot shield became a piece of evidence in the Proud Boys’ trial.
Prosecutors said Nordean acted like “the general of an army” the day of the riot, leading “his men” across trampled police barricades.
Pezzola took the risky step of testifying at the group’s trial. He did not deny his actions.
“I got caught up in all the craziness,” he said, per The Washington Post. “I broke one pane of glass — one.”
He said he had only wanted the government to listen to him.
In a video taken from inside the Capitol, Pezzola can be heard saying: “I knew we could take this motherfucker over if we just tried hard enough! Proud of your motherfucking boy!”
As Nordean put it in his own post-riot video, which was entered into evidence: “Seventeen-seventy-fucking-six, bitch!”