Former Proud Boy members Ethan Nordean, Dominic Pezzola sentenced for role in Jan. 6 attacks

Nordean's sentence is tied for the longest in connection with the Capitol attack

September 1, 2023, 6:17 PM

Two former members of the far-right Proud Boys extremist group were sentenced Friday for their roles in the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol -- one of whom received a sentence that is tied for the longest in the Jan. 6 cases.

U.S. District Judge Timothy Kelly sentenced Ethan Nordean to 18 years in prison; former Proud Boy Dominic Pezzola was sentenced to 10 years in prison.

Nordean's sentence is tied for the longest for any defendant charged in connection with the Capitol attack. Oath Keepers leader Stewart Rhodes was sentenced to 18 years in prison in May.

In handing down the sentences for both Nordean and Pezzola, Judge Kelly accepted the government's recommendation to apply an enhancement that effectively labeled their crimes as acts of terrorism in seeking to influence the actions of government through threats and use of force.

Demonstrators attempt to enter the U.S. Capitol building during a protest in Washington, D.C., Jan. 6, 2021.
Eric Lee/Bloomberg via Getty Images, FILE

Prosecutors said both Nordean and Pezzola led rioters to the Capitol on Jan. 6 and engaged in acts that allowed the crowd to proceed: Nordean tore down fences, which allowed the first wave of rioters to continue advancing, and Pezzola used a stolen police riot shield to break through a window at the Capitol, allowing rioters to breach the building.

Ethan Nordean

Nordean, who had been convicted on charges of seditious conspiracy and several other felonies, was a "full and active participant of this conspiracy," prosecutors said Friday. He was someone other rioters turned to for advice during the events of Jan. 6, and prosecutors called him the "undisputed leader on the ground."

In addition to tearing down the fence that allowed fellow rioters to march toward the Capitol, Nordean -- a leader in the Proud Boys organization -- actively recruited men for Jan. 6 who "were prepared to engage in physical violence, if necessary," according to the sentencing memo.

His leadership that day contributed to his sentence of 18 years and three years of probation, Judge Kelly said. Prosecutors requested a 27-year sentence.

On Friday, Nordean's lawyer argued in court that his client "did not go in search for members of Congress" and that he did not assault a police officer like other rioters had on Jan. 6.

Nordean spoke in court and apologized for his actions and said he regretted what he did that day.

"No matter how we all tried to individually slice Jan. 6, we must all conclude it was a complete and utter tragedy," he said.

Dominic Pezzola

Like Nordean, Pezzola said he regretted his actions on Jan. 6. But then after receiving his sentence, shouted "Trump won!" on his way out of the courtroom.

In addition to a decade behind bars, Judge Kelly also sentenced Pezzola to three-year supervised release, along with a $700 fine.

While Pezzola was not a leader of the group, Judge Kelly said he was a prominent member who had influence on the events of Jan. 6.

In this Jan. 6, 2021 photo, rioters, including Dominic Pezzola, center with police shield, are confronted by Capitol Police officers outside the Senate Chamber inside the Capitol, Jan. 6, 2021, in Washington.
Manuel Balce Ceneta/AP, FILE

Pezzola was the only one of five Proud Boys acquitted of seditious conspiracy, but was convicted for other actions on Jan. 6 including obstructing an official proceeding and assaulting a federal officer.

Prosecutors had requested 20 years behind bars for Pezzola, arguing that he was among a small group that led the charge on the Capitol. Pezzola had previously testified that he used a stolen police riot shield to break through a window at the Capitol, which he -- and others -- used to enter the building.

Once inside, prosecutors say Pezzola "filmed a video of himself having a 'victory smoke in the Capitol,'" and saying he knew they could take over the Capitol if they tried hard enough.

Also, Pezzola and other rioters "violently and forcefully grabbed" an officer's shield and pulled him to the ground, according to prosecutors' sentencing memo. The officer had previously testified that he feared for his life when someone sprayed him with a chemical substance, people piled on top of him and a rioter used his helmet strap to choke him.

Prosecutors told the court that Pezzola was one of the most violent "enthusiastic foot soldiers in the conspiracy" that took place on Jan. 6. They added that he wasn't facing charges on his political affiliation, but on his conduct -- described as "some of the worst conduct in this conspiracy."

Demonstrators attempt to breach the U.S. Capitol after they earlier stormed the building in Washington, DC, Jan. 6, 2021.
Victor J. Blue/Bloomberg via Getty Images, FILE

Pezzola said he "got caught up in all the craziness" on Jan. 6. His lawyers argued to Judge Kelly that Pezzola "didn't know where he was going," and that he was in the Capitol for 23 minutes, and that during that time he fumbled with his phone.

His lawyers said Pezzola has taken responsibility for his actions on Jan. 6. They asked for a five-year sentence. Pezzola told the court he is a "changed and humbled man" who "messed up."

"I stand before you with a heart full of regret," he said.

But after his sentencing, he shouted his support for the former president.

"Trump won!," Pezzola said, fist raised, as he left the courthouse.

The sentences for Nordean and Pezzola came a day after two other prominent Proud Boys were sentenced in Judge Kelly's courtroom. Joseph Biggs, the former leader of the group's Florida chapter, and Zachary Rehl, the former leader of the Proud Boys' Philadelphia chapter, were sentenced to 17 years and 15 years in prison, respectively.

Former Proud Boys chairman Enrique Tarrio's day in court is approaching -- he is scheduled to be sentenced next Tuesday.

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