Proud Boys Ethan Nordean, Dominic Pezzola Sentenced For Their Roles In Capitol Riot

Pezzola was sentenced to 10 years in prison. Nordean, the gang's most notorious bruiser, was sentenced to 18 years.

A federal judge sentenced two more high-ranking Proud Boys to prison on Friday over the far-right street gang’s outsize role in the planning and execution of the attack on the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021.

Dominic Pezzola, who breached the Capitol by smashing a window with a stolen police riot shield, was sentenced to 10 years behind bars in a D.C. District Court, four months after he was found guilty on obstruction and other charges related to the attack. Ethan Nordean, the gang’s most notorious bruiser ― known for numerous violent assaults at political rallies in the Donald Trump era ― was sentenced to 18 years in a second hearing Friday afternoon.

“Trump won!” Pezzola said while walking out of the courtroom after being hit with a decade behind bars.

Pezzola was found not guilty on the most serious charge of the trial, seditious conspiracy, unlike Nordean and three other Proud Boy co-defendants this past May. But he played a key role in the riot as the first person to smash through a Capitol window using a stolen police shield, and prosecutors argued he should spend 20 years behind bars.

Pezzola, who wore an orange prison-issued jumpsuit and sported a long beard, spoke before his sentencing and apologized for his actions the day of the Capitol attack.

“I messed up and I let the people who care and depend on me the most down,” Pezzola said, according to reporters in the courtroom.

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

“I pray for the court’s mercy to be there for you in the future,” he said before receiving his 10-year sentence.

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

U.S. District Judge Timothy Kelly offered little sympathy for Pezzola.

“The reality is you ... smashed that window and let people stream into that Capitol building and threaten the lives of our lawmakers,” Kelly said. “It’s not something I ever would have dreamed I would see in our country.”

Despite his ostensible remorse, as Pezzola was led away from court, he raised a fist in the air and shouted “Trump won!”

Four other members of the far-right street-fighting group were found guilty in May on seditious conspiracy charges: Nordean, Joseph Biggs, Zachary Rehl and the gang’s chairman, Enrique Tarrio. All five were accused of scheming to stop the peaceful transfer of presidential power after the 2020 election.

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

Dominic Pezzola, who used a police shield to break into the U.S. Capitol, walks with other rioters outside the Senate chamber on Jan. 6, 2021.
Dominic Pezzola, who used a police shield to break into the U.S. Capitol, walks with other rioters outside the Senate chamber on Jan. 6, 2021.
Manuel Balce Ceneta via Associated Press

During his sentencing, Nordean said he regretted not being a “better leader” the day of the Capitol attack.

“I would like to apologize for my lack of leadership that day,” he said.

Nordean joined Elmer Stewart Rhodes, the founder of the far-right Oath Keepers group, in having received the longest sentence handed down to a Capitol attacker. Rhodes was sentenced to 18 years after being found guilty of seditious conspiracy and other charges last year.

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

Tarrio’s sentencing was scheduled to take place Wednesday, but was abruptly canceled and rescheduled for Sept. 5, reportedly due to the judge falling ill.

Like the Oath Keepers trials, the Proud Boys’ trial allowed the government to lay out its argument that the extremist groups planned extensively for violence on Jan. 6, 2021, holding meetings and texting one another.

The group of Proud Boys did not even take time to listen to Trump’s speech near the White House that day — prosecutors say they had already turned their focus on the Capitol.

Pezzola in an FBI photo.
Pezzola in an FBI photo.
via Associated Press

Prosecutors described Pezzola in a sentencing memo as “an enthusiastic foot soldier” in the conspiracy to disrupt Congress, which that day was officially certifying the results of the 2020 presidential election. Nordean, prosecutors said, was attempting to “lead a revolution against a government he viewed as illegitimate.”

Like other rioters, the Proud Boys viewed themselves as akin to American Revolution soldiers.

At about 2 p.m. that day, Pezzola used a riot shield he’d forcefully taken from a U.S. Capitol Police officer to break a window on the northwest side of the Capitol. The breach allowed pro-Trump protesters to begin streaming into the building, where they came dangerously close to running into members of Congress and then-Vice President Mike Pence.

Ethan Nordean is seen at the Jan. 6, 2021, Capitol riot.
Ethan Nordean is seen at the Jan. 6, 2021, Capitol riot.
Carolyn Kaster via Associated Press

A woman described in court documents as Pezzola’s common-law wife told investigators that Pezzola was not interested in politics before the COVID-19 pandemic. In a journal entry, Pezzola said he had come to see the political landscape as a “battle between good and evil” that required people like him to “stand up and take back our god given liberties just like our Founders did.”

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

A Capitol Police riot shield became a piece of evidence in the Proud Boys' trial.
A Capitol Police riot shield became a piece of evidence in the Proud Boys' trial.
Chip Somodevilla via Getty Images

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

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

“I got caught up in all the craziness,” he said, per The Washington Post. “I broke one pane of glass — one.”

He said he’d only wanted the government to listen to him.

In a video taken from inside the Capitol, Pezzola can be heard saying: “I knew we could take this motherfucker over if we just tried hard enough! Proud of your motherfucking boy!”

As Nordean put it in his own post-riot video, which was entered into evidence: “Seventeen-seventy-fucking-six, bitch!”

During his sentencing, Pezzola’s partner, Lisa Magee, wept as she gave a statement to the court.

“In no way am I making excuses for Dominic’s actions that day,” she said. “As I said on the stand, he’s a fucking idiot.”

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