Proud Boy, sentenced to 10 years for US Capitol attack, says ‘Trump won’

WASHINGTON (Reuters): A member of the far-right Proud Boys yelled “Trump won” as he left a Washington courtroom on Friday after being sentenced to 10 years in prison for his role in the Jan. 6, 2021, assault on the U.S. Capitol by supporters of Donald Trump.

Dominic Pezzola did not play a leadership role in the group and was the only defendant of five to be acquitted of seditious conspiracy. He was convicted of other felonies, including obstructing an official proceeding and assaulting police.

“You personally played a significant role in the events that day,” U.S. District Judge Timothy Kelly said, before handing down a sentence that was about half the length of what prosecutors had sought. “It was a national disgrace, what happened.”

Kelly noted that Pezzola was a new member of the group and had been acquitted of seditious conspiracy, but also took note of Pezzola’s actions.

A second sentencing hearing for defendant Ethan Nordean, a leader of the group who was convicted of seditious conspiracy and other crimes, will take place later on Friday.

Kelly on Thursday ordered two other former Proud Boys leaders, Joseph Biggs and Zachary Rehl, to serve 17 years and 15 years in prison, respectively.

Thousands of Trump supporters attacked the Capitol following a speech in which the Republican falsely claimed that his November 2020 election defeat was the result of widespread fraud. Trump has continued to make those false claims even as he leads the Republican race for the 2024 nomination to challenge Democratic President Joe Biden.

Five people including a police officer died during or shortly after the riot and more than 140 police officers were injured. The Capitol suffered millions of dollars in damage.

The government had sought a 20-year prison term for Pezzola and is seeking a 27-year term for Nordean.

Although Pezzola was found not guilty of sedition, prosecutors said his assault on former Capitol Police Officer Mark Ode, in which he stole Ode’s riot shield and used it to smash at a window at the Capitol, helped to justify a lengthy prison term.

“He was an enthusiastic foot soldier in that conspiracy,” Erik Kenerson, a prosecutor, told the judge on Friday.

Pezzola’s attorneys had asked that their client be sentenced to around five years in prison, and said in their sentencing memo that he has already served about three years in jail awaiting trial. Steven Metcalf, one of Pezzola’s attorneys, told the judge that Pezzola was caught in the “heat of the moment.”

“I stand before you with a heart full of regret,” Pezzola said in an emotional speech before the judge, in which he apologized to Ode and directed rueful comments to his wife and two daughters. “I never should’ve crossed the barrier at the Capitol that day.”

Nordean’s attorney, Nick Smith, plans to argue for a lower sentence within the range of 15-21 months.

“Nordean walked in and out of the Capitol like hundreds of Class B misdemeanants,” Smith wrote. “When the government does distinguish Nordean’s actions from any other January 6 defendant’s, it relies on characterization, not facts.”

More than 1,100 people have been arrested on charges related to the Capitol assault. Of those, more than 630 have pleaded guilty and at least 110 have been convicted at trial.

Former Proud Boys Chairman Enrique Tarrio will be sentenced on Sept 5. The government is asking for a 33-year sentence.