2 Proud Boy members indicted for conspiracy, other charges in U.S. Capitol riot
NEW YORK - Two members of the Proud Boys, a nationalist organization, were indicted in federal court for conspiring to obstruct law enforcement, among other charges, connected to the Jan. 6 riot at the U.S. Capitol, the Department of Justice announced.
The two men have been identified as Dominic Pezzola, 43, of Rochester, New York, and William Pepe, 31, of Beacon, New York. Authorities say Pezzola, a former Marine, was seen on video smashing a Capitol window with a stolen Capitol Police riot shield, and that Pepe was seen photographed inside the building.
Both were arrested earlier this month on federal charges and have now been indicted in Washington on charges that newly include conspiracy.
The full list of charges includes conspiracy, civil disorder, unlawfully entering restricted buildings or grounds, and disorderly and disruptive conduct in restricted buildings or grounds.
Pezzola was also charged with obstruction of an official proceeding, additional counts of civil disorder and aiding and abetting civil disorder, robbery of personal property of the United States, assaulting, resisting, or impeding certain officers, destruction of government property and engaging in physical violence in a restricted buildings or grounds.
According to the charging documents, Pezzola and Pepe are members of the Proud Boys, a group self-described as a "pro-Western fraternal organization for men who refuse to apologize for creating the modern world; aka Western Chauvinists."
According to the indictment, Pezzola and Pepe engaged in a conspiracy to obstruct, influence, impede, and interfere with law enforcement officers engaged in their official duties in protecting the U.S. Capitol and its grounds on Jan. 6.
The indictment says Pezzola, Pepe and others led a group of Proud Boys and others to the Capitol and moved police barricades.
Pezzola went on to snatch an officer's shield and use it to break the window, according to the indictment, which was filed in court Friday.
Pezzola's lawyer Michael Scibetta said Saturday he was researching the charges but hadn’t been able yet to discuss the indictment with his client, who is being held without bail. A lawyer for Pepe, Shelli Peterson, declined to comment.
Three self-described members of a paramilitary group were charged with conspiracy this month and accused of plotting the attack on the Capitol. But the new charges against Pezzola and Pepe appear to be the first conspiracy cases involving alleged members of the Proud Boys.
Michael Sherwin, the acting U.S. attorney for Washington, said in a court filing Friday that Pezzola "showed perseverance, determination, and coordination in being at the front lines every step along the way before breaking into the Capitol," and that his actions in shattering the window and allowing an initial group of rioters to stream through "cannot be overstated."
Pezzola was later seen on video inside the Capitol with a cigar, having what he called a "victory smoke," and boasting that he "knew we could take this" over, Sherwin wrote. He argued the remarks showed Pezzola "invested a significant personal effort to take over the Capitol and that he did so in coordination with others."
An unidentified witness told the FBI that Pezzola was with a group at the Capitol whose members said they would have killed anyone they got hold of, including House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and then-Vice President Mike Pence, according to prosecutors. The witness added that people in the group said they'd return on the "20th" and kill everyone they could. The presidential inauguration was Jan. 20.
In a search of Pezzola's home in Rochester, New York, FBI agents found a computer thumb drive with hundreds of files detailing how to make firearms, poisons or explosives, Sherwin wrote in arguing that Pezzola should continue to be held without bail.
Pezzola, 43, served six years stateside in the Marines as an infantryman and was discharged in 2005 at the rank of corporal, service records show. His lawyer has said his client is self-employed and a family man.
Pepe, 31, was photographed inside the Capitol and later identified as a Metro-North Railroad train yard laborer who had called in sick to go to Washington for a Jan. 6 protest by supporters of then-President Donald Trump, according to a Jan. 11 criminal court complaint. Pepe, who lives in Beacon in New York’s Hudson Valley, has since been suspended without pay from his job at the New York City-area commuter railroad.
At Trump's urging, thousands of the protesters streamed to the Capitol. Some then stormed it, temporarily disrupting Congress' certification of Democratic President Joe Biden’s victory over the Republican Trump in the November election.
Overall, federal authorities have charged more than 150 people in the Capitol siege.
The Justice Department said both Pepe and Pezzola have gone to Proud Boys gatherings and have tactical vests emblazoned with the group's logo.
The group is known for violent confrontations with antifascists and other ideological opponents at protests. In a notable moment on the campaign trail last year, Trump told the group to "stand back and stand by" when asked at a September debate whether he would condemn white supremacist and militia groups that showed up at some protests last summer.
Shortly before the Capitol riot, the Proud Boys' leader, Henry "Enrique" Tarrio, was arrested in Washington and ordered to stay out of the city after being accused of vandalizing a Black Lives Matter banner at a historic Black church in December.
This story was reported from Detroit. The Associated Press contributed.