Four Proud Boys found guilty of seditious conspiracy; Jury finds Rochester’s Dominic Pezzola not guilty
WASHINGTON, D.C. Rochester Proud Boys member Dominic Pezzola was been found not guilty of seditious conspiracy on Thursday.
The jury did convict four other Proud Boys members of that charge for their roles in the Capitol riot. Pezzola was accused of breaking the window at the U.S. Capitol back on Jan. 6, 2021, which allowed people to get inside.
Seditious conspiracy is the most serious charge in the trial in Washington, D.C. Prosecutors say the five Proud Boys members were part of a plot to block Congress from ratifying the 2020 election and transferring presidential power to Joe Biden.
Pezzola was found guilty on several less serious charges. Here is what the jury has decided so far on the charges that Pezzola faced:
- Seditious conspiracy: Not guilty
- Conspiracy to obstruct Jan. 6 proceeding: Still deliberating
- Obstruction of an official proceeding: Guilty
- Conspiracy to prevent Congress/federal officers from discharging duties: Guilty
- Obstruct/impede/interfere with law enforcement during a civil disorder: Guilty
- Destruction of government property (black fence): Guilty
- Destruction of government property (Senate window): Guilty
- Assaulting/impeding law enforcement (Charles Donohoe throwing water bottle): Still deliberating
- Assaulting/impeding law enforcement (Pezzola encounter w officer w riot shield): Guilty
- Robbery (of riot shield from USCP officer): Guilty
While testifying in his own defense at the trial, Pezzola admitted to smashing the window. However, he said he wasn’t part of a plot to interfere with the presidency.
Pezzola finished three days on the witness stand on April 19. News10NBC’s Berkeley Brean spoke with Politico reporter Kyle Cheney who covered Pezzola’s testimony.
New10NBC’s Berkeley Brean: Take me and our viewers inside the courtroom yesterday and Dominic Pezzola was on the stand. What was it like?
Kyle Cheney, Politico: Right away his lawyer said, ‘Tell me about that moment with the shield and the window’ and he got right into it I think because he knows everyone in America pretty much knows about that moment.
Cheney says Pezzola was contrite.
Kyle Cheney, Politico: He actually said, ‘Look I was stupid. I shouldn’t have done that. I shouldn’t have filmed the very brash video I filmed inside the Capitol. There’s a lot of things I shouldn’t have done that day.’
Cheney says Pezzola portrayed himself as a hero, protecting protestors from police. Then he got questioned by the prosecutor.
Kyle Cheney, Politico: That was extremely combative. … He (Pezzola) was ready to brawl with the prosecutor.
Brean: Why do you think the prosecutor was OK with that?
Kyle Cheney, Politico: When they see him get angry I think that plays into the prosecutor’s narrative that this is someone who has a short, quick trigger or a short fuse and can’t conceive as to why we would be upset that he took what amounted to the most critical action that day involving the breech of the Capitol.
U.S. District Judge Timothy J. Kelly has instructed jurors to continue deliberating on the multiple outstanding charges against Pezzola. Last June, Pezzola was arraigned on the seditious conspiracy charge.
Enrique Tarrio, Joseph Biggs, Ethan Nordean, and Zachary Rehl were all found guilty of seditious conspiracy, a rare charge under a Civil War-era statute.
The trial unfolded over the course of four months, with jury selection beginning in December 2022 and opening arguments starting in early January. The Proud Boys trial was the third seditious conspiracy case to go before jurors since the Capitol attack. Six members of the far-right Oath Keepers group, including founder Stewart Rhodes, were convicted on that charge across two trials in November and January.
Jeremy Bertino, a high-level member of the Proud Boys who pleaded guilty to seditious conspiracy in October, testified for the prosecution in this latest trial as part of a plea deal, telling jurors that Proud Boys believed they “had to do anything that was necessary to save the country.”
Prosecutors argued that the Proud Boys were “thirsting for violence” on Jan. 6 and had organized in advance to stop certification of President Joe Biden’s win by “any means necessary, including by force.”
Defense attorneys countered that the Justice Department was using the group as a scapegoat for the real person to blame for Jan. 6: Donald Trump.
Two defendants testified during the trial: Rehl, the head of the organization’s Philadelphia chapter, and Pezzola, a floor installer from New York whom members of the organization called “Spaz.”
Just before Rehl was set to be cross-examined, online sleuths surfaced videos that appeared to show him deploying a can of pepper spray toward officers; Rehl denied it at trial and was not charged with assaulting police. Pezzola got heated on the stand, bringing up conspiracy theories about another Jan. 6 participant, Ray Epps, and ranting about the “fake” charges and the “phony” trial.
The biggest challenge prosecutors faced in the trial was convincing a jury that Tarrio, the former Proud Boys chairman, was a part of the conspiracy, given that he spent Jan. 6 at a hotel in Baltimore after being banned from Washington, D.C., the day before.
Tarrio, in encrypted messages revealed during the trial, acknowledged receiving a message from someone who wanted to “storm the Capitol” but didn’t directly endorse that plan, and prosecutors seemed to concede that much of what happened on Jan. 6 happened spontaneously. What they were able to show was that Tarrio said he wanted a “spectacle” on Jan. 6, and celebrated the attack on the Capitol after it happened, giving the Proud Boys credit for the breach.
Several other Proud Boys have pleaded guilty for their actions on Jan. 6, and another went to trial while the larger seditious conspiracy trial was underway. Joshua Pruitt, a D.C. bartender who joined the Proud Boys and stormed the Capitol, was sentenced to 4.5 years in prison in August. Nicholas Ochs, the founder of the Hawaii chapter of the Proud Boys, was sentenced to four years in prison in December.
Kelly, who oversaw the Proud Boys trial, will ultimately sentence the defendants.