2 Sep 2023

Proud Boy Dominic Pezzola who stormed US Capitol jailed for 10 years

7:52 am on 2 September 2023
WASHINGTON, DC - JANUARY 6: Trump supporters clash with police and security forces as people try to storm the US Capitol on January 6, 2021 in Washington, DC. Demonstrators breeched security and entered the Capitol as Congress debated the 2020 presidential election Electoral Vote Certification. (photo by Brent Stirton/Getty Images) (Photo by BRENT STIRTON / GETTY IMAGES NORTH AMERICA / Getty Images via AFP)

Trump supporters clash with police and security forces as people try to storm the US Capitol on 6 January 2021 in Washington, DC. Photo: Brent Stirton / Getty Images via AFP

By Bernd Debusmann Jr, BBC News

A Proud Boy who led the US Capitol riot by smashing his way into the complex with a police shield before he filmed himself puffing a celebratory cigar has been sentenced to 10 years in prison.

Dominic 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.

Another Proud Boy, Ethan Nordean, faces sentencing on a more serious seditious conspiracy charge.

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 three other members of the organisation, including former chairman Enrique 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".

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.

"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."

The second Proud Boy due to be sentenced on Friday, Ethan Nordean, was considered a leader in the organisation.

During the trial, prosecutors said he helped organise the group before and during the riot, including by asking for donations for communications equipment and "protective gear".

More than 1100 have been arrested on riot-related charges, resulting in 630 guilty pleas and more than 110 convictions.

The longest prison sentence so far - 18 years - was doled out to Oath Keepers founder Stewart Rhodes in May.

This story was originally published by the BBC.

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