Proud Boy who led storming of US Capitol riot jailed

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Dominic Pezzola seen smashing a window with a police shield in a photo submitted as evidence by prosecutors
By Bernd Debusmann Jr
BBC News, Washington

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 on Friday.

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

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.

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 violent actions 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.”

During the trial, a combative Pezzola had repeatedly downplayed his actions during the riot, arguing that 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.

WATCH: When the Proud Boys marched on the Capitol on 6 January, 2021

“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.”

In an interview with the Washington Post after his conviction, Pezzola called the trial a “complete sham” and repeated fringe claims that the riot was “set-up” by federal officials and informants.

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