First rioter to smash Capitol windows sentenced to 10 years in prison

A federal judge on Friday sentenced Proud Boy member Dominic Pezzola to 10 years in prison, four months after he was found guilty of obstruction and other charges related to the Jan. 6, 2021 attack on the US Capitol.

Pezzola, unlike his four Proud Boy co-defendants, was found not guilty last May on the most serious charge in the trial, seditious conspiracy. But he played a key role in the riots, becoming the first person to smash a Capitol window with a stolen police sign, and prosecutors argued he should serve 20 years behind bars.

Pezzola, who wore orange jail-display jumpsuits and sported a long beard, spoke before his sentencing and apologized for his actions on the day of the Capitol attack.

“I screwed up and let down the people who care most about me and depend on me the most,” Pezzola said, according to the statement Reporter in the courtroom.

Pezzola described his time in prison as an “emotional black hole” and apologized to his eldest daughter, who was not in the courtroom.

“I pray that the court will continue to be there for you in the future,” he said before his 10-year sentence.

He added that “there is absolutely no place for groups or politics in my future.”

US District Judge Timothy J. Kelly showed little sympathy for Pezzola.

“The reality is that you … smashed the window and poured people into the Capitol and threatened the lives of our lawmakers,” Kelly said. “I never thought I would see something like this in our country.”

Four other members of the far-right street fighter group were found guilty of seditious conspiracy in March: Ethan Nordean, Joseph Biggs, Zachary Rehl and the gang’s chairman, Enrique Tarrio. All five have been accused of plotting to prevent the president’s peaceful transfer of power after the 2020 election.

Nordean is expected to be sentenced later on Friday. Prosecutors argued that he should spend 27 years behind bars for leading a group of nearly 200 men to the Capitol grounds.

Dominic Pezzola, who broke into the US Capitol with a police sign, walks outside the Senate room with other rioters on January 6, 2021.
Dominic Pezzola, who broke into the US Capitol with a police sign, walks outside the Senate room with other rioters on January 6, 2021.

Manuel Balce Ceneta via Associated Press

Judge Kelly on Thursday sentenced Biggs and Rehl to 17 and 15 years in prison, respectively.

Tarrio’s sentencing was due to take place on Wednesday but was abruptly canceled and postponed to September 5, allegedly due to the judge’s illness.

The founder of the far-right Oath Keepers group, Elmer Stewart Rhodes, is seeking the longest sentence handed to a Capitol rioter – 18 years – after he was found guilty of riot conspiracy and other charges last year.

As in the Oath Keepers trials, the Proud Boys trial allowed the government to present its argument that the extremist groups planned violence in detail on January 6, 2021 by holding meetings and texting each other.

The Proud Boys group didn’t even take the time to listen to then-President Donald Trump’s speech near the White House — prosecutors say they already have their focus on the Capitol.

Dominic Pezzola in an FBI photo.
Dominic Pezzola in an FBI photo.

Prosecutors described Pezzola in a sentencing memo as an “enthusiastic foot soldier” in a conspiracy to disrupt Congress, which was then officially confirming the results of the 2020 presidential election. Nordean, according to prosecutors, tried to “lead a revolution against a government that he saw as illegitimate”.

Like other rioters, the Proud Boys considered themselves soldiers of the American Revolution.

Around 2 p.m. that day, Pezzola used a riot shield he forcibly removed from a US Capitol police officer to smash a window on the northwest side of the Capitol. The breach allowed pro-Trump protesters to pour into the building, where they came dangerously close to meeting members of Congress and then-Vice President Mike Pence.

Ethan Nordean is seen at the Capitol Riot on January 6, 2021.
Ethan Nordean is seen at the Capitol Riot on January 6, 2021.

Carolyn Kaster via Associated Press

A woman, described in court documents as Pezzola’s partner, told investigators that prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, Pezzola had no interest in politics. In a journal entry, Pezzola said he viewed the political landscape as a “battle between good and evil” that required people like him to “stand up and take back our God-given freedoms, just as our founders did.”

Nordean has repeatedly expressed support for politically motivated violence in the weeks leading up to the attack on the Capitol. In mid-November 2020, he said on a podcast that politicians who said Biden won were “evil scum” who deserved “to die a traitor’s death.”

A Capitol Police shield became evidence in the Proud Boys' trial.
A Capitol Police shield became evidence in the Proud Boys’ trial.

Chip Somodevilla via Getty Images

Prosecutors said Nordean behaved like “an army general” on the day of the riot, leading “his men” over trampled police barricades.

Pezzola took the risky step of testifying against the group at the trial. He did not deny his actions.

“I was caught up in all the madness,” he said. according to The Washington Post. “I broke a pane of glass – one.”

He said he just wanted the government to listen to him.

In video captured from inside the Capitol, Pezzola can be heard saying, “I knew we could take this bastard if we just try hard enough!” Proud of your damn boy!”

As Nordean put it in his own post-riot video filed in evidence, “Seventeen-seventy-fucking-six, bitch!”

During his sentencing hearing, Pezzola’s wife, Lisa Magee, cried as she made a statement in court.

“In no way do I condone Dominic’s actions that day,” she said. “Like I said on the witness stand, he’s a bloody idiot.”

Rick Schindler

Rick Schindler is a Worldtimetodays U.S. News Reporter based in Canada. His focus is on U.S. politics and the environment. He has covered climate change extensively, as well as healthcare and crime. Rick Schindler joined Worldtimetodays in 2023 from the Daily Express and previously worked for Chemist and Druggist and the Jewish Chronicle. He is a graduate of Cambridge University. Languages: English. You can get in touch with me by emailing:

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