Proud Boy Dominic Pezzola sentenced to 10 years in prison, Ethan Nordean gets 18

Proud Boy Dominic Pezzola, who U.S. District Judge Tim Kelly described Friday as the “tip of the spear” that first let rioters flood into the Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021, has been sentenced to 10 years in prison. As he exited the courtroom, Pezzola shouted: “Trump won!” and pumped his fist in the air.

The remark came after his wife, daughter and mother delivered tear-soaked, highly emotional pleas to the court for mercy and less than an hour after Pezzola told the court: “There is no place in my future for groups or politics whatsoever.”

Pezzola faced trial for seditious conspiracy and a multitude of other charges connected to efforts with fellow Proud Boy co-defendants to forcibly stop the transfer of power. He was acquitted of the sedition charge but jurors that reviewed the case for a marathon four-month slog did find him guilty of conspiring to obstruct an official proceeding. Pezzola was also found guilty of obstruction of an official proceeding, conspiracy to prevent members of Congress and federal law enforcement officers from discharging their duties, civil disorder, and destruction of government property.

For the forcible taking of a police riot shield off a U.S. Capitol Police officer Pezzola was also found guilty of assaulting, resisting, or impeding certain officers and robbery involving government property.

“You really were, in some ways, the tip of the spear that allowed people to end up getting into the Capitol,” Kelly said.

The 10-year sentence fell well under what prosecutors initially sought: 20 years. Guidelines only recommended 17.5 to 22 years. Kelly did apply the terrorism enhancement on his offenses, but felt that it didn’t apply to his conduct specifically and overstated it. Pezzola, the judge said, did not have intent to kill.

Proud Boy leader Ethan Nordean — who was convicted of seditious conspiracy — was sentenced to 18 years in prison by Judge Kelly on Friday afternoon. That is the same length of sentence that was given to former Oath Keeper founder Elmer Stewart Rhodes. Rhodes was also convicted of seditious conspiracy and several other charges.

When it was his time to make a statement, Nordean’s voice was clear and loud. He did not appear to be overcome by emotion. He started out by telling Judge Kelly that he believed only two points about Jan. 6 really needed to be understood to grasp the gravity of that day.

“We must conclude Jan. 6 was a complete and utter tragedy. How do we know this? It’s best to simplify this complex argument…All we need to show is two simple points: first, lots of people were seriously hurt and [next] some people lost their lives. We don’t necessarily need to know about all the destruction that was caused, [or about those] not following commands of law enforcement or those who assaulted police officers,” Nordean said.

“A lot of people went to [D.C. on] Jan. 6 with good intentions but passions accelerated and chaos ensued,” Nordean also sad Friday. “Even if we start out with good intentions, the end result is how we will be judged, as it should be.”

Of his largest regrets around Jan. 6, Nordean told the court it was his lack of “leadership” on Jan. 6.

“I came to Jan. 6 as a leader. I came to keep people out of trouble and keep people safe,” he said.

Later he added: “The truth is I did help lead a group of men back to the Capitol and I can see the government’s point: I had ample opportunity to de-escalate and I chose to do nothing… There’s no excuse for what I did…. adding myself to an already chaotic and dangerous situation in the Capitol building was sorely irresponsible.”

Pezzola and Nordean’s co-defendants Joseph Biggs and Zachary Rehl were sentenced Thursday. Both Biggs and Rehl were convicted on the seditious conspiracy charge; Biggs received 17 years and Rehl was sentenced to 15 years. After Judge Kelly fell ill earlier in the week, Proud Boys leader Henry “Enrique” Tarrio’s sentencing was pushed to Sept. 5. Prosecutors seek 33 years for Tarrio.

If you want to read through the live-thread I’ve put together for emptywheel, check out the link here. An in-depth report encapsulating these historic sentences is coming. 

NOTE: Emptywheel is again supporting Brandi Buchman’s coverage of the Proud Boys hearings live from the courthouse. Please consider making a donation to emptywheel as she continues her reporting through the final Proud Boys sentencing hearing for Henry “Enrique” Tarrio scheduled for Sept. 5.

39 replies
  1. bcw says:

    I guess half of what the prosecutors ask for is as far as Trump-appointed Judge Kelly thinks he can get away with without triggering appeals?

    [Welcome back to emptywheel. FOURTH AND FINAL REQUEST: Please choose and use a unique username with a minimum of 8 letters. We are moving to a new minimum standard to support community security. Thanks. /~Rayne]

    • 0Alexander Platt0 says:

      About half of what the prosecutors want is directly in line with what all the judges have been doing, regardless of who appointed them.

    • Ithaqua0 says:

      1. At the Federal level, in FY2020, 68% of all crimes with a sentencing guideline had sentences imposed within the guidelines, with the vast majority of the exceptions being on the downside.

      2. The sentence is roughly midway between the median sentences for child pornography (84 months) and kidnapping (168 months) (again, FY2020, Federal level) , just to provide some comparison with other crimes.

      You can certainly think that he should have gotten a longer sentence, but it’s not like the judge was violating some unwritten principle in not going with the prosecution’s recommendation or the sentencing guidelines, and it’s not like Pezzola isn’t getting a hefty sentence.


      • ButteredToast says:

        Thanks for the link. Also, as others elsewhere have observed, Judge Mehta (Obama-appointed) sentenced both Rhodes and Meggs to significantly fewer years than prosecutors requested. Judge Kelly having been appointed by Trump isn’t evidence that he must be going easy on Jan. 6 defendants. And ten years in federal prison is no picnic.

    • punaise says:

      Ten years (or 8.5 reduced?) ain’t nothing. That will put a big dent in anyone’s livelihood, family life, standing in the community, etc.

      Now, where did I put that tiny violin?

      • Konny_2022 says:

        OT but apropos violin: I never was on Twitter but kept many of Trump’s tweets during his presidency nevertheless. One is a retweet of a Davino tweet showing Trump playing the violin with the capture “My next piece is called… Nothing can stop what’s coming.” Trump (not the president but the citizen, since he used his personal Twiiter account, but we all know that that didn’t mean anything) retweeted: “Who knows what this means, but it sounds good to me!” The date of these tweets is March 8, 2020, and I remembered this (and another one of Jan. 18, 2020, from Davino, even more outrageous) as soon as I saw on TV the rioters climb the Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021.

        I won’t put these tweets in here, but moderators have my email address in case this is not too far OT and they are interested in my pdf snapshots for their files.

        • Konny_2022 says:

          Sorry for the invention of “Davino,” it was (unintentional) short for Dan Scavino.

          As to the “cutesy bunk”: I kept it because I was horrified and took it as some sort of harbinger — not having an idea of the real horror still ahead.

  2. LeftsidePortland says:

    Following along with Brandi’s moment-to-moment has been a singular experience. The reporting has been engrossing, to say the least. At times I felt like I was reading a particularly well-written legal thriller rather than simply gathering facts. Thank you! (and emptywheel for providing a safe haven as well).

  3. Molly Pitcher says:

    A New Rudy Scandal: FBI Agent Says Giuliani Was Co-opted by Russian Intelligence

    According to Mother Jones, Business Insider, and a number of other news sources, a former FBI agent says that Rudy was compromised by Russian agents while in Ukraine. “Johnathan Buma, an FBI agent who also says that an investigation involving Giuliani’s activities was stymied within the bureau”

    Mother Jones illustration; Theodore Parisienne/Getty; Wikimedia

    Fight disinformation: Sign up for the free Mother Jones Daily newsletter and follow the news that matters.
    It was big news when Rudy Giuliani, once hailed as America’s Mayor, was indicted last month by a district attorney in Atlanta for allegedly being part of a criminal enterprise led by Donald Trump that sought to overturn the 2020 election results. Giuliani was back in headlines this week when he lost a defamation suit filed against him by two Georgia election workers whom he had falsely accused of ballot stuffing. Giuliani’s apparent impoverishment, caused by his massive legal bills, and even his alleged drinking have been fodder for reporters. But another major Giuliani development has drawn less attention: An FBI whistleblower filed a statement asserting that Giuliani “may have been compromised” by Russian intelligence while working as a lawyer and adviser to Trump during the 2020 campaign.

    That contention is among a host of explosive assertions from Johnathan Buma, an FBI agent who also says that an investigation involving Giuliani’s activities was stymied within the bureau.

    In July, Buma sent the Senate Judiciary Committee a 22-page statement full of eye-popping allegations, and the document leaked and was first reported last month by Insider (after a conservative blogger had posted it online). According to Buma’s account, Giuliani was used as an asset by a Ukrainian oligarch tied to Russian intelligence and other Russian operatives for a disinformation operation that aimed to discredit Joe Biden and boost Trump in the 2020 presidential race. Moreover, Buma says he was the target of retaliation within the bureau for digging into this.”,Trump%20during%20the%202020%20campaign.

    • BobBobCon says:

      Ken Vogel at the NY Times was an early conduit for Guiliani’s scheme into the mainstream press. On the eve of the whistleblower coming forward in 2019, Vogel was crowing on Twitter how he had an incredible story to tell…. and then silence.

      Odds are very, very high against it, but I would love to see the complicity of Vogel (and his editors, like Carolyn Ryan) in this garbage to finally being exposed.

      • earlofhuntingdon says:

        A little ironic that Vogel’s claim to fame is being an expert on conflicts of interest and money in politics. I don’t think his ten years at Politico has the resume value he seems to think it has.

        His spouse worked with once a DINO, Joe Lieberman, the lobbyist’s lobbyist, on climate change. Given Joe’s politics, that makes it sound as if she worked for the petroleum industry.

    • Stephen Calhoun says:

      Thanks Molly for the link.

      Two aspects of Trump and his gang’s anti-American activities seem to me to be in a shadowy background, and for both this is so despite the relentless efforts of EW and a small group of journalist-researchers.

      First, is the Willard crew. (I assume there is a lot that is known that hasn’t yet come into ‘full resolution.’)

      Second, are the mostly unspoken (and shrouded?) counter-intelligence implications of the 2020 election season and its aftermath, including the mishandled, stolen documents.

  4. gertibird says:

    Pezzolo may not be so exuberant after he sees how much he loses spending 10 years in Federal prison, especially if Trump loses again in 2024. Maybe then he’ll realize Trump has always been the biggest loser.

  5. David F. Snyder says:

    Driving home today, I was behind a pickup truck that had two identical bumper stickers: “Trump Won!” So Pezzola isn’t a lone cult member.

    I’m sure Judge Kelly followed a rational course, but if Pezzola is willing to be a spearhead, I hope any parole board takes into account what Pezzola said to the Court versus what he said minutes later outside to the public. The guy is a danger.

  6. earlofhuntingdon says:

    Ken Chesebro finally demonstrates his Ivy League smarts: he’s moving to sever his speedy trial from Sid Powell’s.

    He contends that he never met, communicated with, or otherwise interacted with Ms. Powell, which leads Chesebro’s lawyer to this faulty legal conclusion: “Mr. Chesebro and Ms. Powell never acted in concert,” which begs the question. You don’t have to interact with all members of a conspiracy – or even know who they are – to be part of it, if you’ve independently joined it. But Fani Willis has to prove that.

    • SteveBev says:

      It is as if he skipped the classes discussing wheel and chain conspiracies. Or maybe the law just slipped his mind as his memos were being distributed, as a game plan to be executed in several States, while others were working on generating enthusiasm for so called “evidence of the vote switching/stealing/illegality”

    • Ginevra diBenci says:

      The way that joke went in my house was thusly: my dad would announce “Cubs won!” (Or so I would hear.)

      Once he saw hope in my face, the zinger would follow: “Mets three.” Or “Braves four.” There were infinite variations on this; we were Cubs fans.

    • gruntfuttock says:

      ‘Trump one’

      Well, he’s a one-time president (so far) which must really, really hurt his poor widdle ego.

      And he’s the first ex-president to be criminally charged and mugshot(ted). ‘Okay, here’s Donny. Give us your Kubrick stare, yup, that’s it, yup, just a little more, yup, that’s it.’ (Okay that’s how I imagined it.)

      And he’s on course to be the first president to be locked in a jail.

      How many number two’s does he need? Lots, probably, given how stressed he is lately.

  7. Zinsky123 says:

    Pezzola is a particularly nasty piece of work – a guy who enjoys fighting, vandalism and chaos. Extremely valuable for an organization like the Proud Boys because he was also older than most and commanded respect from younger adherents to the cause. Most men in their mid-40s have left behind street fighting and vandalism to their younger years. Not Pezzola. Too bad he didn’t get the full 20 years DOJ asked for. Tarrio’s sentencing will be interesting next week, since he wasn’t even in Washington D.C. on Januaray 6th, 2021. Thanks for continuing to cover this once-in-a-lifetime event all the way through sentencing!

Comments are closed.