Washington — Members of the far-right Proud Boys, Dominic Pezzola and Ethan Nordean, were sentenced Friday for their roles in the Jan. 6, 2021, riot.
Nordean, one of the leaders of the group, was sentenced to 18 years in prison after he was convicted of seditious conspiracy — tying the Oath Keepers’ Stewart Rhodes for the longest sentence so far in the Jan. 6 prosecutions.
“I think it’s a tragedy how you got from A to B,” U.S. District Judge Timothy Kelly told Nordean during sentencing. “Maybe your upbringing was better … no criminal record.”
The Justice Department said in a release that Nordean and Pezzola “participated in every consequential breach at the Capitol,” leading a group of Proud Boys onto the Capitol grounds, resulting in the dismantling of barricades, breaching of the Capitol building, assaults on police and destruction of property.
Nordean apologized for his actions in court Friday, noting that “people were seriously hurt and some people lost their lives.”
But he also maintained that he had the safety of others in mind on Jan. 6. “I had to face the sobering truth. I came as a leader,” he said. “I came to keep people out of trouble and to keep people safe.”
Nordean’s wife and sister both spoke in court while crying.
“While we all miss Ethan, his daughter misses him the most,” his wife Cory Dryden said.
Pezzola, who became one of the more recognizable faces of the Jan. 6 Capitol attack after video showed him smashing a Capitol window with a riot shield, was sentenced to 10 years in prison.
“What happened that day didn’t honor our founders,” Judge Kelly said during Pezzola’s sentencing.
Pezzola was convicted of numerous felony counts stemming from his involvement in the breach — including obstruction of an official proceeding and destruction of government property. Unlike his co-defendants, including Proud Boys leader Enrique Tarrio, Pezzola was acquitted by a jury of the most severe charge of seditious conspiracy.
Despite his acquittal on this charge, prosecutors asked Judge Kelly to sentence Pezzola to 20 years in prison, a request the judge denied during Friday’s hearing.
Unlike Pezzola’s Proud Boys co-defendants Tarrio, Ethan Nordean, Zachary Rehl and Joseph Biggs, whom prosecutors characterized in a sentencing filing as leaders of the Jan. 6 mob, Pezzola was “an enthusiastic foot soldier” and one of the “most violent members on January 6, 2021.”
He gathered with more than 100 members of the group including Nordean, Rehl and Biggs at the Washington Monument ahead of the Capitol attack and marched to the Capitol. According to evidence presented at trial, Pezzola then attacked law enforcement, stole a riot shield and used the shield to break a Capitol window before entering the building.
In a selfie video he took from inside the Capitol Crypt during the attack, Pezzola proclaimed, “I knew we could take this motherf***** over if we just tried hard enough.”
Prosecutors said that “the image of Mr. Pezzola smashing the window will be one of the images that Americans think of…” They also said that Pezzola had “prepared himself to be fighting a civil war,” pointing out that he at one point “forcibly ripped the shield” from a police officer’s hand.
Pezzola — one of only two of the five Proud Boys co-defendants to take the stand in his own defense — urged the court in his own sentencing memorandum to send him to prison for 5 years.
“I’m taking the stand today to take responsibility for my actions on January 6,” he said from the stand during the month-long trial, but also looked to blame law enforcement for the violence that day. His attorneys argued during the trial that there had been no conspiracy among the group of Proud Boys.
But as Pezzola walked out of courtroom after sentencing, he lifted his fist and yelled, “Trump won!”
Minutes earlier, nearly in tears, Pezzola told the judge he’d given up politics. His wife, daughter and mother were in the courtroom at the time, and each addressed the judge during Pezzola’s sentencing.
Pezzola’s wife, Lisa Magee, said that her daughters “have become victims and harassment, bullying at school.” His daughter said, “Take a look at my father, and then take a look at me. I am everything good … I’m a college student, a scientist… I don’t do drugs, I don’t drink, and he contributed to that.”
Magee also said that she’s been “financially destroyed by this, adding that “it’s a struggle for me to find out how I am going to feed them. I have had to rely on the generosity of strangers.”
His mother called Pezzola “a wonderful child” and said he “never gave me any trouble.”
Pezzola’s sentence comes just a day after Judge Kelly sentenced Biggs and Rehl to 17 and 15 years in prison respectively. Both men were found guilty of seditious conspiracy.
Tarrio faces his sentencing Tuesday.