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Case Number: 1:21-cr-00175
Judge: Timothy J. Kelly
Court: United States District Court for the District of Columbia (Wasington County)
Plaintiff's Attorney: United States Attorney’s Office in Washington, DC
Description: Washington, DC criminal defense lawyer represented Defendant charged with assaulting police and obstructing an official proceeding.
On May 4, 2023, a jury found Nordean, Pezzola, and three other co-defendants guilty of multiple felonies, including obstruction of an official proceeding and conspiracy to prevent members of Congress or federal officers from discharging their duties before and during the breach of the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021. Defendant Ethan Nordean was previously convicted of seditious conspiracy.
According to court documents and evidence presented during the trial, the Proud Boys organization had played a significant and often violent role in prior Washington, D.C. rallies in November and December 2020. In the aftermath of that violent conduct, Nordean and other co-defendants served as members and leaders of a special chapter of the Proud Boys known as the “Ministry of Self-Defense.”
Beginning after Dec. 19, 2020, Nordean, Pezzola, and other co-defendants conspired to prevent, hinder, and delay the certification of the Electoral College vote and to oppose by force the authority of the government of the United States.
In the days leading to January 6, Nordean and other leaders of the Ministry of Self-Defense hand-selected co-defendant Dominic Pezzola and others known as “rally boys” to participate in the attack on the Capitol that day. This group established a chain of command, chose a time and place for their attack, and recruited others who would follow their top-down leadership and who were prepared to engage in physical violence if necessary.
On January 6, Ethan Nordean, Dominic Pezzola, and others they led participated in every consequential breach at the Capitol. The defendants directed and mobilized a group of Proud Boys onto the Capitol grounds, leading to the dismantling of metal barricades, destruction of property, breaching of the Capitol building, and assaults on law enforcement.
The group began their assault that day at 10 a.m. when Nordean and others marched nearly 200 individuals away from speeches at the Ellipse directly toward the Capitol. They arrived at the First Street gate at 12:50 p.m. Nordean, Pezzola, and other co-defendants led their recruits up the First Street walkway, breaching multiple barricades and tearing down fencing.
Nearly an hour later, when law enforcement appeared to have successfully controlled the crowd by pushing them back, the men again pushed forward. Nordean, Pezzola, and others gathered at the base of the concrete stairs that led to the doors and windows of the Capitol with many of their co-conspirators and other men they had led to the Capitol. The group again surged toward the Capitol and overwhelmed officers who had been battling the crowd for nearly an hour. Pezzola smashed open a window allowing the first rioters to enter the Capitol at 2:11 p.m.
Ethan Nordean, 32, who led the group's march on Congress on 6 January 2021, was sentenced to 18 years for a more serious seditious conspiracy charge.
The former head of the group, Enrique Tarrio, will be sentenced next week.
Before being sentenced, Nordean told the court: "I would like to apologise for my lack of leadership that day" and called the riot "a complete and utter tragedy".
"To anyone who I directly or even indirectly wronged, I'm sorry," he said.
But US District Judge Timothy Kelly told him that the events of the day broke a long political tradition.
"If we don't have a peaceful transfer of power in this country, we don't have anything," Mr Kelly said.
Nordean, of Washington state, went by the nickname "Rufio Panman" and was well-known within the Proud Boys for his frequent brawls with antifa activists in the Pacific Northwest.
His sentence is one of the longest ones yet handed to Capitol riot defendants. Stewart Rhodes, the leader of the Oath Keepers militia, was also given 18 years in prison earlier this year.
The other defendant sentenced on Friday, Pezzola, a 46-year-old former US Marine, fought with officers during the riot and smashed a window with a police riot shield.
A selfie video taken on the day of the riot shows Pezzola smoking what he described as a "victory cigar" in the Capitol building.
While he was convicted on the assault and obstruction charges, he was acquitted of seditious conspiracy - a charge applied to defendants for plotting to overthrow the government or use force "to prevent, hinder, or delay the execution of any law of the United States".
An emotional Pezzola expressed some remorse for his actions during his sentencing hearing. His wife, daughter and mother all addressed the judge, with his mother describing him as having been a "wonderful child" that "never gave me any trouble".
Pezzola's wife said that her daughters have become victims of harassment and bullying at school.
But once the prison term had been handed down and the judge had left the room, Pezzola raised a fist and shouted: "Trump won!"
The Proud Boys - which started as an all-male, hard-drinking, self-described "Western chauvinist" fraternity seven years ago - saw themselves as Donald Trump's foot-soldiers and were among the first to march on the Capitol on the day of the riot.
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Trump supporters, including a group of around 200 Proud Boys, overran police lines and stormed the building in a bid to prevent Congress from ratifying Joe Biden's election victory.
Pezzola and Nordean went to trial alongside Tarrio and US military veterans Joe Biggs and Zachary Rehl.
During the hearing, U.S. District Judge Timothy J. Kelly applied the enhancement for a federal crime of terrorism to the defendants convictions for destruction of government property.
This case was prosecuted by the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Columbia, the Department of Justice National Security Division’s Counterterrorism Section, and the Department of Justice Criminal Division’s Organized Crime and Gang Section.
This case was investigated by the FBI’s Washington Field Office. The charges in the investigation are the result of significant cooperation between agents and staff across numerous FBI Field Offices and law enforcement agencies.
In the 31 months since Jan. 6, 2021, more than 1,106 individuals have been arrested in nearly all 50 states for crimes related to the breach of the U.S. Capitol, including more than 350 individuals charged with assaulting or impeding law enforcement.
Anyone with tips can call 1-800-CALL-FBI (800-225-5324) or visit tips.fbi.gov.
Outcome: Ethan Nordean, 32, of Auburn, Washington, was sentenced to 18 years in prison and 36 months of supervised release.
Dominic Pezzola, 45, of Rochester, New York, was sentenced to 10 years in prison and 36 months of supervised release.