US judge to sentence two more Proud Boys for Jan. 6 attack at Capitol

WASHINGTON, Sept 1 (Reuters) – A federal judge will sentence two more members of the far-right Proud Boys on Friday who stormed the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021, in a failed bid by then-President Donald Trump’s supporters to block Congress from certifying President Joe Biden’s election victory.

The first Proud Boy to face sentencing on Friday morning, 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.

The second defendant, Ethan Nordean, was a leader of the group who was convicted of seditious conspiracy and other crimes.

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 Democrat 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 sentencing of Pezzola and Nordean follows U.S. District Judge Timothy Kelly on Thursday ordering two other former Proud Boys leaders, Joseph Biggs and Zachary Rehl, to serve 17 years and 15 years in prison, respectively.

Biggs’ term is just one year less than the 18 years former Oath Keepers founder Stewart Rhodes received earlier this year.

The sentences for Biggs and Rehl were far less than the 33-year and 30-year terms sought by federal prosecutors.

The government is seeking a 20-year prison term for Pezzola and 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, helps to justify a lengthy prison term.

“Pezzola’s actions and testimony leave no doubt that he intended to influence or affect the conduct of government by intimidation or coercion,” prosecutors wrote in their sentencing memo. “He committed crimes of terrorism on January 6.”

Pezzola’s attorneys are asking for their client to 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.

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.

Reporting by Sarah N. Lynch and Makini Brice in Washington; editing by Scott Malone and Grant McCool

Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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Reports on U.S. Congress

Sarah N. Lynch is the lead reporter for Reuters covering the U.S. Justice Department out of Washington, D.C. During her time on the beat, she has covered everything from the Mueller report and the use of federal agents to quell protesters in the wake of George Floyd’s murder, to the rampant spread of COVID-19 in prisons and the department’s prosecutions following the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol.

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