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Dominic Pezzola Suspects the FBI’s Cooperating Witness Is the Guy Who Recruited Him into the Proud Boys

A number of people are pointing to this motion to modify bond by Proud Boy Dominic Pezzola, the guy who helped kick off an insurrection by breaking the window of the Capitol with a stolen police shield, reporting either that Pezzola is bidding to plead out or that that the Proud Boys are turning on themselves.

Both may be true.

But buried within the filing is a far more inflammatory allegation. Pezzola, the guy who kicked off the entire assault on the Capitol on January 6 in coordination with other Proud Boys, is suggesting that someone who came to serve as an FBI cooperating witness less than a week after an attack that purportedly took the FBI entirely by surprise, was actually the guy who recruited him into the Proud Boys and set him up with a thumb drive loaded up — unbeknownst to him, he maintains — with the Anarchist’s Handbook, including its bomb-making plans.

Pezzola makes the allegation by rebutting the claim he is dangerous, the basis by which Magistrate Robin Meriweather. came to deny him bail.

As Pezzola notes, Meriweather denied him bail not because of a presumption of detention or a concern he would flee. It was because he posed a danger to the public. Meriweather framed that presumed danger as arising from a thumb drive loaded with the Anarchist’s Handbook found at his home and the testimony of a witness.

In determining that Pezzola’s release presented “danger” to the community the Court cited 2 factors from the prosecution’s proffer: (1) the claim that Pezzola participated in a group conversation when others expressed an intention to return to DC with weapons to commit acts of violence; (2) recovery of a thumb drive with plans for making, bombs, poisons, etc.

Per Pezzola’s arrest affidavit, the witness was someone whom the FBI interviewed at least twice before obtaining an arrest warrant against Pezzola on January 13, just a week after the insurrection. The description of witnesses in the total universe of January 6 affidavits are totally inconsistent (in part because so many different FBI Agents wrote them), meaning we can’t conclude anything by the description an agent uses. Nevertheless, this one was always among the only ones that seemed to be an insider. The witness is someone who described Pezzola as “Spaz” right away (though elsewhere he is called Spazzo), described Pezzola as bragging about breaking into the Capitol, and he described the group — the Proud Boys — as capable of killing Nancy Pelosi or Mike Pence, and planning more actions.

The FBI has spoken to an individual your affiant will refer to as “W-1” for purposes of this affidavit. W-1 stated that W-1 was in Washington, D.C., during the protests that occurred on January 6, 2021.

W-1 stated that after the events at the Capitol as described above, he or she spoke to an individual he or she knows as “Spaz,” along with other individuals. W-1 stated that during that conversation, “Spaz” bragged about breaking the windows to the Capitol and entering the building. In a subsequent interview W-1 clarified that “Spaz” said that he used a Capitol Police shield to break the window. W-1 said that “Spaz” can be seen on the cover of many newspapers and recognizes him from those photographs. W-1 stated that other members of the group talked about things they had done during the day, and they said that anyone they got their hands on they would have killed, including Nancy Pelosi. W-1 further stated that members of this group, which included “Spaz,” said that they would have killed [Vice President] Mike Pence if given the chance.

I had thought this witness would be one of numerous Proud Boy hangers on who was hanging around in DC after the attack, but as we’ll see, Pezzola believes it’s the guy he commuted to insurrection with.

The witness first told the FBI that the Proud Boys were preparing an event on January 20th (which is consistent with other reports).

According to W-1, the group said it would be returning on the “20th,” which your affiant takes to mean the Presidential Inauguration scheduled for January 20, 2021, and that they plan to kill every single “m-fer” they can.1 W-1 stated the men said they all had firearms or access to firearms.

Then, in a later interview (again, remember that this is before January 13), the witness said maybe the next event wasn’t inauguration, but soon after. Whenever it was, it’d involve guns.

In a later interview, W-1 stated that the group had no definitive date for a return to Washington, D.C, but W-1 re-iterated that the others agreed there would be guns and that they would be back soon and they would bring guns.

The witness also misidentified Doug Jensen, the QAnon adherent who chased officer Goodman up the Capitol stairs, as someone else, presumably a member of the Proud Boys, only to clarify later that someone else was the individual in question.

In W-1’s initial interview with law enforcement, W-1 initially incorrectly the individual in the black knit hat in the foreground of this photograph as someone I will refer to as “Individual A.” W-1 later clarified that the person in the knit hat is not in fact Individual A and identified a different person in a separate photograph as Individual A.

Thus far, this witness sounds like he’s telling the FBI what he expects they most want to hear, something you often hear from informants trying to maximize their own value. By misidentifying Jensen, he may have falsely suggested the Proud Boys chose where to go in the Capitol. And by promising there would be more events, featuring violence (again, which is consistent with what public chatter was at the time), he heightened the urgency of case against the Proud Boys.

As Pezzola describes in his motion for bail, he suspects the person who said the Proud Boys had ongoing plans is a guy he drove home to New York with from DC.

Pezzola maintains no recollection of the referenced conversation but suspects if the conversation did occur in his presence it could have only occurred in the car on the return trip from Washington when Pezzola was asleep in the car. Upon information and belief, the CW is not detained. Rather he has reached an agreement where he is making allegations against others in order to avoid his detention for what is actually his greater involvement in the underlying events.

That would explain why William Pepe, also from NY, was named Pezzola’s co-conspirator: presumably both were in the same car speaking to the same guy, which is how the government had confidence that Pepe’s actions were coordinated with Pezzola’s and not, for example, the two other people charged with kicking off the attack on the Capitol, Robert Gieswein and Ryan Samsel.

As Pezzola describes, “it is alleged” that he’s just a recent recruit to the Proud Boys (something I don’t necessarily buy, but it seems to reflect Pezzola parroting back what he’s seen in discovery so far).

Pezzola’s alleged contact with the “Proud Boys” was minimal and short lived. It is alleged he had no contact prior to late November 2020. Upon information and belief, the prosecution alleges his first contacts occurred around that time. They principally amounted to meeting for drinks in a bar. Prior to January 6, 2020, there is no allegation that Pezzola took any action with the “Proud Boys” that was in anyway criminal or violent. His only event prior to January 6, 2021, was that he attended a MAGA rally in support of Donald Trump in December 2020. There is no allegation he was involved in any criminal or violent activity there.

He claims that the cooperating witness is actually far more involved in the Proud Boys.

Addressing these in turn: There is a claim as the prosecution pointed out that a “cooperating witness” claimed that Pezzola was present in a group when someone professed an intention to return on January 20, 2021, Inauguration day to instigate more violence. However, there is no claim Pezzola made those statements nor that he expressed a similar intent1 nor any intention to participate in any acts of violence, let alone murder. Although the defense cannot be certain it is believed the “cooperating witness” (CW) who has made these claims is actually someone who was a much more active participant in the “Proud Boys” than Pezzola, having been with the organization for a much longer time than Pezzola’s alleged association and much more active.

And Pezzola claims that the thumb drive showing possession of bomb making instructions was actually given to him by the guy he suspects of being the cooperating witness.

What was unknown at the time of the prior hearing is that the thumb drive at issue was given to Pezzola, probably by the Prosecution’s CW5 when that person was making efforts to introduce Pezzola into the “Proud Boys.”

Finally, Pezzola further alleges that the guy he suspects of being the cooperating witness confessed to spraying cops with pepper spray, an assault that has not been charged (only Giswein and Samsel were charged with outright assaults on cops).

Although it is impossible to know with certainty at this point, if the defense supposition about the CW is correct, that person admitted to spraying law enforcement with a chemical agent, likely “OC or Pepper” spray during the January 6 event.

It is true that Pezzola nods to making a plea deal in this filing.

Although the Court can play no role in disposition negotiations, via counsel Pezzola has indicated his desire to begin disposition negotiations and acceptance of responsibility for his actions. He seeks to make amends.

But there’s little chance DOJ can offer him a deal that will help him rebuild his life. Even in this filing, he admits he was attempting to stop the vote count, the goal of every overriding conspiracy charge thus far, which would be a key part of any seditious conspiracy case. He doesn’t deny he broke into the Capitol; he instead disingenuously downplays the import of being the first to do so, noting that numerous doors and windows were breached over the course of the day. His claim he has never used his Marine training since his service is inconsistent with the way he walked through the Capitol with much greater operational awareness than many of the other rioters. Plus, even in his first bail hearing, Pezzola insisted he was not a leader of the attack, which — if he was a recent recruit, makes total sense (and is consistent with Felicia Konold, someone else who played a key role, but who was just a recruit-in-progress). So he wouldn’t necessarily have that much information on anyone except those who gave him directions and the guy in the car, not necessarily enough to trade as the guy who kicked off the insurrection, even if he was acting on orders.

He’s likely fucked one way or another, not least because he’d be far less useful as a cooperator if everyone knew he had a plea deal.

But Pezzola’s allegation is troubling for several more reasons.

As noted, the FBI interviewed this cooperating witness at least twice before January 13, suggesting at the very least that the FBI reached out to him right away (or vice versa), rather than collecting more information on the person’s own role. And in spite of two variations in his story — misidentifying Jensen and equivocating about when the next operations were planned — his testimony was deemed credible enough to implicate someone he may have recruited and provided other the other damning evidence on.

The FBI knew that Enrique Tarrio and the rest of the Proud Boys were coming to DC for the January 6 events, which is how they were prepared to arrest him on entry in DC. They knew that during the Proud Boys’ previous visit, the group had targeted two Black churches. DOJ had investigated threats four members of the Proud Boys had made against a sitting judge in 2019.

And yet, not only didn’t FBI prevent the January 6 attack kicked off by the Proud Boys, they didn’t even issue an intelligence warning about possible violence.

It’s possible this witness genuinely did just reach out to the FBI and try to pre-empt any investigation into himself. It’s possible that as the FBI has done more review (including of video outside the Capitol, where a pepper spray attack on cops likely would have occurred), they’ve come to grow more skeptical of this witness.

But it’s also possible that the FBI has ties with witnesses — possibly this guy, and very likely Rudy Giuliani interlocutor James Sullivan, who said he was in contact with the FBI — who have more information on those who set up this insurrection, rather than just busting down the window. Particularly given the unsurprising news that investigators are scrutinizing the role that Roger Stone and Alex Jones might have played (Rudy is not mentioned, but not excluded either), it seems critical that the FBI not adhere to its counterproductive use of informants targeting a group (no matter how reprehensible) rather than action.

The FBI has a lot to answer for in its utterly inconceivable failure to offer warnings about this event. If their informant practices blinded them — or if they’re making stupid choices now out of desperation to mitigate that initial failure — it will do little to mitigate the threat of the Proud Boys.

Most People Suspected of Assaulting Officers in the January 6 Attack Remain at Large

There continue to be efforts to make grand judgments about the January 6 insurrectionists base off a review of the ~207 people who have been charged federally thus far. In my opinion, that’s a mistaken effort, unless the analysis breaks the current arrestees up into groups, first by excluding the 100 or so people just charged with trespassing crimes, who will appropriately be treated as people who engaged in civil disobedience.

Of the rest, there are maybe 25 who are members of an identified militia group. But that group is just a fraction of the total numbers of militia members we should expect will be arrested, because anyone in the Capitol or who planned to halt the vote certification can be charged, and we know of the people who joined Jessica Watkins’ Oath Keepers’ formation, as well as a busload of others from North Carolina. Plus, there are at least 10 more Proud Boys — probably significantly more — identifiable from videos as active participants. In other words, the number of militia members will continue to grow.

There’s another set of people — like Zip Tie Guy (Eric Munchel) and his mother — not known to have ties to militia (though definitely friendly to them), but who took actions that DOJ seems to treat more seriously. So, too, are the people — many of them women — who directed and instigated the crowd.

But there are another two sets of people that the FBI is clearly pursuing, of whom just a fraction have been arrested and identified so far. One is the group of people wanted for assaulting the media (AOM in the FBI’s wanted pictures), which is reportedly being led by a special group at DOJ. There are about 27 people identified in this group right now, none of whom have yet been arrested).

A more obvious one are people who’ve assaulted cops (just three of whom so far have ties to militia groups), identified by AFO at the FBI site. Multiple reports say that around 139 cops were assaulted on January 6. Just 26 people have been charged with either 18 USC 111 for assaulting a cop, or in closely related charges. Meanwhile, there are roughly 134 BOLO images of people who are suspected of assaulting cops, meaning there may be over 100 people suspected of assaulting cops on January 6 at large right now. All told, they would make up over a third of Federal suspects, yet most haven’t been arrested yet.

Here’s my running list of the people who, as of 2/22, had been charged with intimidating or assaulting police. I’ve also tracked how the FBI found them — whether by a tip based off Social Media, a law enforcement tip (this group includes several felons), those FBI BOLO posters, or some other means.

  1. Daniel Page Adams, whose arrest affidavit describes engaging in a “direct struggle with [unnamed] law enforcement officers” (his cousin, Cody Connell, described the exchange as a “civil war”). Tip SM
  2. Zachary Alam, who pushed cops around as he was trying to break into the Speaker’s Lobby. BOLO 79
  3. Wilmar Alvarado, who pushed cops in the mob trying to get in from the West Terrace. BOLO 65
  4. David Blair, who poked a cop with a lacrosse stick with a Confederate flag attached.
  5. Matthew Caspel, who was filmed charging the National Guard. Tip SM
  6. William Chrestman, who is accused of threatening a cop as Proud Boys pushed their way past the original line of defense (charged with 18 USC 115). NM
  7. Bruno Cua, who was filmed shoving a cop to be able to get into the Senate. Tip LE
  8. Nathan DeGrave, whom security cameras caught threatening to fight cops. Network Sandlin
  9. Daniel Egdvedt, a large man who took swipes and grabbed at several officers as they tried to remove him from the Capitol. BOLO 76
  10. Scott Fairlamb, who was caught in multiple videos shoving and punching officers (one who whom is identified but not named); Cori Bush has said she was threatened by him last summer. Tips, including SM
  11. Kyle Fitzsimons, who charged officers guarding the doorway of the Capitol. BOLO 139
  12. Michael Foy, a former Marine who was caught on multiple videos beating multiple cops with a hockey stick. Tip SM
  13. Robert Giswein, who appears to have ties to the Proud Boys and used a bat to beat cops. NM
  14. Alex Harkrider, who after being filmed fighting with police at the door of the Capitol, posted a picture with a crowbar labeled, “weapon;” he was charged with abetting Ryan Nichols’ assault. Tip SM
  15. Emanuel Jackson, whom videos caught punching one officer, and others show beating multiple officers with a metal baseball bat. BOLO 31
  16. Douglas Jensen, the QAnon who chased Officer Goodman up the stairs, got charged with resisting him.
  17. Taylor Johnatakis, charged with 111.
  18. Chad Jones, who used a Trump flag to break the glass in the Speaker’s Lobby door just before Ashli Babbitt was shot and may have intimidated three officers who were pursuing that group. Tip NM
  19. Vitali Gossjankowski, who was interviewed about whether he had tased MPD officer Michael Fanone, causing a heart attack; instead he was charged with tasing CPD officer MM (BOLO 98 — with a second one mentioned)
  20. Edward Jacob Lang, who identified himself in a screen cap of a violent mob attacking cops and who was filmed slamming a riot shield into police and later fighting them with a red baseball bat. Tip SM
  21. Mark Jefferson Leffingwell, whom a Capitol Police officer described in an affidavit punching him. Onsite arrest
  22. Joshua Lollar, who described fighting cops and was caught in pictures showing himself in the front lines confronting cops. Tip SM
  23. Michael Lopatic, who allegedly assaulted some cops with Stager and Sabol, then took a BWC to hide the assault. BOLO 133
  24. Patrick Edward McCaughey III, who was filmed crushing MPD Officer Daniel Hodges in one of the doors to the Capitol. BOLO 62
  25. Jonathan Mellis, who used some kind of stick to try to jab and beat police. Tip SM
  26. Matthew Ryan Miller, who released fire extinguisher in close quarters. Tip SM
  27. Aaron Mostofsky, possibly for stripping a cop of his or her armored vest and riot shield. NM
  28. Ryan Nichols, who was filmed wielding a crowbar and yelling, “This is not a peaceful protest,” then spraying pepper spray against police trying to prevent entry to the Capitol. Tip SM
  29. Jose Padilla, who shoved cops at a barricade, then helped use a Donald Trump sign as a battering ram against them. Tip SM
  30. Dominic Pezzola, a Proud Boy who stole a shield from cops. NM (BOLO 43)
  31. Jeffrey Sabol, helped drag a cop from the Capitol and beat him while prone. LE arrest (erratic driving)
  32. Ryan Samsel, who set off the riot by giving a cop a concussion; he appears to have coordinated with Joe Biggs. BOLO 51 (though not IDed by BOLO)
  33. Robert Sanford, who was filmed hitting Capitol Police Officer William Young on the head with a fire extinguisher. Tip NM
  34. Ronald Sandlin, who tried to wrestle cops to keep the door to the Senate open. MPD tip
  35. Peter Schwartz, a felon who maced several cops. Tip NM (BOLO 120)
  36. Christian Secor, a UCLA self-described fascist who helped shove through some cops to break into the Capitol and then sat in the Senate chamber. Tip NM
  37. Barton Wade Shively, who pushed and shoved some police trying to get into the Capitol, punched another, then struck one of those same cops later and kicked another. BOLO 55
  38. Peter Francis Stager, who was involved in beating a prone cop with a flagpole. Tip SM
  39. Tristan Stevens, who fought cops with a shield and baton. Video
  40. Thomas Webster, who attacked a cop with a flagpole (BOLO 145)

One reason I made this effort was to show that many of these people were identified via other means, and really a big number of people remain on the FBI’s BOLO list.

Unsurprisingly, more people on this list have tried to destroy evidence or flee, meaning it will likely take more time to find them all. There’s also reason to believe that the FBI would prefer to wait to charge these people until they’ve shored up their case.

There are a few more cases that were originally charged as 18 USC 231 that I suspect may get charged as 111 after indictment (which has happened with DeGrave, Sandlin, and Miller), including these.

Craig Bingert (BOLO 105)

Hughes brothers (BOLO 42 and others)

Here are some other notable arrests for which the FBI released a BOLO. Note that the first 30 or so of those posters weren’t targeted to a particular crime, but some — like bullhorn lady Rachel Powell — were identified as AFO in their BOLO but not charged that way.

Joshua Black (BOLO 6)

Steve Malonado (BOLO 20)

William Pepe (BOLO 4)

Matthew Perna (BOLO 73)

Rachel Powell (BOLO 110)

Kevin Seefriend (BOLO 30)

Joshua Wagner (BOLO 34)

Some Key Gaps in the January 6 Story [Updated]

DOJ continues to roll out arrests of people involved in the January 6 coup attempt.

But there are some obvious gaps in the (public) story so far.

Arrests relating to over 100 police assaults

In a filing submitted over the weekend, the government asserted that 139 cops were assaulted during the insurrection.

In the course of the insurrection, approximately 81 Capitol Police and 58 MPD officers were assaulted,

In its website tracking the people arrested so far, DOJ describes assault charges being filed against 12 people (updated on 2/1 to total 17 people):

  1. Daniel Page Adams, whose arrest affidavit describes engaging in a “direct struggle with [unnamed] law enforcement officers” (his cousin, Cody Connell, described the exchange as a “civil war”).
  2. Zachary Alam, who pushed cops around as he was trying to break into the Speaker’s Lobby.
  3. Matthew Caspel, who charged the National Guard.
  4. Scott Fairlamb, who was caught in multiple videos shoving and punching officers (one who whom is identified but not named); Cori Bush has said she was threatened by him last summer.
  5. Kyle Fitzsimons, who charged officers guarding the doorway of the Capitol.
  6. Alex Harkrider, who after being filmed fighting with police at the door of the Capitol, posted a picture with a crowbar labeled, “weapon;” he was charged with abetting Ryan Nichols’ assault.
  7. Michael Foy, a former Marine who was caught on multiple videos beating multiple cops with a hockey stick.
  8. Robert Giswein, who appears to have ties to the Proud Boys and used a bat to beat cops.
  9. Emanuel Jackson, whom videos caught punching one officer, and others show beating multiple officers with a metal baseball bat.
  10. Chad Jones, who used a Trump flag to break the glass in the Speaker’s Lobby door just before Ashli Babbitt was shot and may have intimidated three officers who were pursuing that group.
  11. Edward Jacob Lang, who identified himself in a screen cap of a violent mob attacking cops and who was filmed slamming a riot shield into police and later fighting them with a red baseball bat.
  12. Mark Jefferson Leffingwell, whom a Capitol Police officer described in an affidavit punching him.
  13. Patrick Edward McCaughey III, who was filmed crushing MPD Officer Daniel Hodges in one of the doors to the Capitol.
  14. Ryan Nichols, who was filmed wielding a crowbar and yelling, “This is not a peaceful protest,” then spraying pepper spray against police trying to prevent entry to the Capitol.
  15. Dominic Pezzola, a Proud Boy who stole a shield from cops.
  16. Ryan Samsel, who set off the riot by giving a cop a concussion; he appears to have coordinated with Joe Biggs.
  17. Robert Sanford, who was filmed hitting Capitol Police Officer William Young on the head with a fire extinguisher.
  18. Peter Schwartz, a felon who maced several cops.
  19. Barton Wade Shively, who pushed and shoved some police trying to get into the Capitol, punched another, then struck one of those same cops later and kicked another.

While a number of these men — Fairlamb, Jackson, Nichols, Shively, among others — allegedly assaulted multiple cops, that’s still far below the total of 139 alleged assaults.

That says the FBI is still looking for a significant number of people in assaults on police. Over the weekend, the FBI released BOLO posters showing 12 other men believed to have assaulted police — including two targeting individuals specifically.

The murder of Brian Sicknick

Of particular note, while the FBI has released a BOLO poster focused on the men who assaulted MPD Officer Michael Fanone, no such post has identified suspects as those suspected of killing Brian Sicknick (though note that Robert Sanford did assault a different officer with a fire extinguisher). There are many possible explanations for why his murder might be treated differently (not least that the culprits are more likely to flee).

But we haven’t seen anything to suggest who assaulted Sicknick badly enough to lead to his death.

The DNC and RNC bomber

On January 21, the FBI increased their reward for information leading to the guy believed to have planted pipe bombs at the DNC and RNC. But there’s no sign they’ve found the guy yet.

Rudy’s interlocutors

On January 15, Rudy Giuliani posted texts involving “James Sullivan” claiming he was going to blame the riot on “John,” that he had gotten “my agent out of trouble along with three other” Utahans, and mentioning “Kash.”

“John” is James’ brother, John Sullivan, someone long ago IDed by leftist activists as a provocateur who had been charged two days earlier. He was arrested on January 14, but bailed the next day.

“Kash,” is Kash Lee Kelly, whose parole officer IDed him at the scene. His bail in the gang-related drug conviction he was awaiting sentencing for in IL was revoked on January 14.

John Sullivan is the only Utahan that GWU identifies as being from Utah, meaning the three Utahans, in addition to James Sullivan, he claims to have gotten out of trouble thus far are (publicly at least) still not in trouble. No one yet arrested is identifiable as his “agent,” either.

That means, key people who might be a pivot between the rioters and Rudy Giuliani, who was coordinating events in Congress with an eye to how much time the rioters would give him, remain (again, publicly at least) at large.

There are around 73 sealed cases in the DC District, many of which probably having nothing to do with the January 6 insurrection and some of which are surely defendants already publicly charged whose cases have not yet been unsealed in the DC docket. The reasons for unsealing could vary — though the most common would be that someone hasn’t been arrested yet). Still, some of these sealed cases may be people who’ve already moved to cooperate.

Update, 2/1: I’ve updated the list of those charged with assault.