Proud Boys leader and member who broke Capitol window face Jan. 6 sentencing newsbhunt


Two of the most visible members of the Proud Boys, one who helped lead the far-right group’s march on the Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021, and one who enabled the first breach of the building by smashing a window with a stolen police shield, are set to be sentenced Friday morning by the federal judge who presided over the nearly five-month trial which led to their multiple felony convictions.

Ethan Nordean, 33, of Auburn, Wash., was tapped to head the “boots on the ground” in Washington after Proud Boys leader Henry “Enrique” Tarrio was banned from the city. Nordean and Joseph Biggs, a far-right online personality and associate of broadcaster Alex Jones, used megaphones to direct about 200 men away from a rally featuring then-President Donald Trump. Photos and videos show the two marching the group toward the Capitol long before Trump’s remarks, and then imploring both Proud Boys and the arriving crowd of Trump supporters to overrun the police and enter the Capitol after the electoral vote certification began at 1 p.m. on Jan. 6.

On Thursday, Biggs was sentenced to 17 years in prison by U.S. District Judge Timothy J. Kelly. A secondary leader of the group, Zachary Rehl of Philadelphia, received a 15-year term from Kelly.

Proud Boy leader Joseph Biggs sentenced to 17 years for Jan. 6 crimes

Video captured the moments when Dominic Pezzola, 46, of Rochester, N.Y., used a police riot shield to break through glass on the Capitol’s west terrace, enabling what prosecutors have said was the first breach of the building at 2:11 p.m. About 20 minutes later, Pezzola filmed a video of himself inside the Capitol, smoking a cigar and reveling.

Dominic Pezzola posted video of himself celebrating the breach with a “victory smoke” from inside the Capitol crypt on Jan. 6, 2021. (Video: U.S. Attorney’s Office District of Columbia | Telegram)

The prosecution is asking Judge Kelly to enhance the sentences of both men by ruling that their acts to disrupt the electoral college vote count qualify as terrorism. Kelly agreed to this request with Biggs and Rehl on Thursday. Doing so immediately raises the criminal history of any defendant to the highest level, which takes Nordean to a sentencing guidelines range of 27 to 34 years. Prosecutors are seeking a 27-year term for Nordean. The terrorism enhancement would give Pezzola a sentencing range of 17 to 22 years. Prosecutors are asking for a 20-year sentence.

Proud Boys revealed: Videos, secret chats show how Jan. 6 plot unfolded

The sentencing guideline ranges are optional, and most judges have gone below them in sentencing Jan. 6 defendants. Kelly, appointed by Trump in 2017, noted that Biggs faced a range of 30 years to life, and that “I probably never will sentence someone 15 years below the guidelines in my entire career” after this. But he said he believed the prosecutors’ recommended sentences “overstate” the crime.

The longest sentence given so far for Jan. 6 was to Stewart Rhodes, the leader of the Oath Keepers, a far-right, anti-government extremist group, who received an 18-year term for seditious conspiracy. Biggs was given the second-longest sentence. Prosecutors are asking for 33 years for Tarrio, who is scheduled to be sentenced on Tuesday.

The jury convicted Nordean of seditious conspiracy but acquitted Pezzola of the same charge. Pezzola had only joined the Proud Boys two months before Jan. 6 and had little involvement in the extensive messaging between the group’s leaders before the Capitol riot. Both men were convicted of obstruction of an official proceeding, conspiracy to prevent federal officers from doing their duties and destruction of government property over $1,000.

Four of the five defendants were acquitted of assaulting police, except Pezzola. He was also convicted of robbery for stealing a police shield. Capitol Police Officer Mark Ode testified at trial that as he was trying to help another officer who was being assaulted, Pezzola and other rioters “violently and forcefully grabbed” his shield and pulled him to the ground. The officer said he was sprayed with a chemical substance, multiple people fell on top of him, and someone used his helmet strap to try to choke him. Ode testified he struggled to breathe and thought he would not get out of the pile alive.

Prosecutors noted that Pezzola lied to the FBI and falsely accused Biggs of having a gun on Jan. 6, and did so again when he testified in his own defense at trial. On the stand, Pezzola said he went into the Capitol to get the government to listen to him, and he recorded the selfie video in an attempt to say something “profound.”

Dominic Pezzola, a member of the far-right group the Proud Boys, punches through a window on the western front of the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021. (Video: Brendan Gutenschwager via Storyful)

In an interview after his conviction, Pezzola called the trial “a complete sham.” He falsely claimed prosecutors used previously unseen videos during their closing arguments and claimed that Jan. 6 was “a setup … with feds and informants and antifa.”

Nordean was an enthusiastic, longtime member of the Proud Boys who rose to prominence in far-right circles in 2018 after video of him punching protesters in Portland, Ore., circulated online.

Nordean had tried and failed to become a Navy SEAL and became a bodybuilder and supplement salesman until he was hired by his father to work in the family restaurant.

Nordean used fiery rhetoric to denounce the 2020 presidential election and members of government in general. In a December 2020 podcast cited by prosecutors, Nordean said that when negotiation with the government fails, “the only thing left is force.”

Nordean and Biggs were at the front of the group which gathered at the Washington Monument around 10 a.m. on Jan. 6, and then marched away from the “Stop the Steal” rally toward the Capitol, evidence showed. As they neared the Capitol, “Nordean stalked the front of the line, marching back and forth as though he was the general of an army,” Assistant U.S. Attorneys Conor Mulroe and Jason McCullough wrote in their sentencing brief.

The group were recorded overwhelming Capitol police at the Peace Circle, tearing down a black fence at the perimeter and then charging up the steps into the building. “Nordean was there to use force against the government and lead what he viewed as a second American Revolution,” Mulroe and McCullough said.

The Proud Boys trial

Inside the Proud Boys trial: Proud Boy leader Joseph Biggs was sentenced to 17 years for his Jan. 6, 2021, crimes. In July, Proud Boys member ‘Milkshake,’ who led the Jan. 6 Capitol assault, was sentenced to five years in prison.

How did we get here? In May, former Proud Boys chairman Henry “Enrique” Tarrio and three other members were found guilty of seditious conspiracy in the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the U.S. Capitol. Last year, Oath Keepers founder Stewart Rhodes was found guilty of Jan. 6 seditious conspiracy.

Who is involved? Created in 2016, the Proud Boys is the most active right-wing extremist group in the country. Here’s what we know about the Proud Boys’ involvement in Jan. 6.


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