Ethan Nordean, a ground commander of the far-right group, got 18 years, matching the longest Jan. 6 sentence so far. Dominic Pezzola, among the first rioters to enter the Capitol, received 10 years.
Two more members of the Proud Boys were sentenced to prison on Friday for their roles in the attack on the Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021, with a ground commander in the far-right group, Ethan Nordean, given 18 years, and Dominic Pezzola, the man who set off the initial breach of the building by smashing a window with a riot shield, getting 10 years.
The sentences imposed on Mr. Nordean and Mr. Pezzola were the third and fourth to have been handed down this week to five members of the far-right group who were tried in May for seditious conspiracy and other crimes in one of the most significant prosecutions to have emerged from the Capitol attack.
While Mr. Pezzola’s sentence was only half of the 20 years the government had requested, Mr. Nordean’s was the stiffest penalty issued so far in any case related to the Capitol attack and was the same as term given in May to Stewart Rhodes, the leader of the Oath Keepers militia, who was also found guilty of sedition in connection with Jan. 6.
Mr. Nordean, who once ran a Proud Boys chapter in Seattle, was granted so-called war powers in the days leading up to Jan. 6 by Enrique Tarrio, the group’s leader at the time. Though less of a household name than Mr. Tarrio and some of his other top lieutenants, Mr. Nordean rocketed to fame within the Proud Boys in June 2018 when a video of him knocking out a left-wing protester in Portland, Ore., with a single punch the year before went viral.
Mr. Pezzola, a flooring contractor from Rochester, N.Y., is best known for having appeared in video clips from Jan. 6 with a scraggly beard and a wild mane of hair, hammering on a window at the Capitol with a stolen police riot shield. The videos were prominently featured not only at the Proud Boys’ landmark trial in Federal District Court in Washington, but also at public hearings held by the House committee that investigated Jan. 6.
A Times investigation of court documents, text messages and hundreds of videos shows how the Proud Boys coordinated to instigate multiple breaches of the Capitol on Jan. 6.CreditCredit…The New York Times
Mr. Pezzola was the only one of the five men charged in the case who was found not guilty of sedition. But the jury convicted him of six other felonies, including assaulting a police officer, a conspiracy to keep members of Congress from certifying the election and the destruction of one of the Capitol building’s windows.
Aside from the sedition count, Mr. Nordean was convicted of two other related conspiracies: one that accused him of disrupting the election certification and the other for interfering with members of Congress discharging their duties on Jan. 6.
The two sentencings at the federal courthouse — which sits within sight of the Capitol — came one day after Judge Timothy J. Kelly, a Trump appointee who has overseen the case since its inception, imposed a 17-year term on Joseph Biggs, another former lieutenant in the group, and handed Zachary Rehl, who once ran the Proud Boys Philadelphia chapter, 15 years in prison.
The sentence imposed on Mr. Pezzola was the third to have been handed down this week to members of the Proud Boys.Credit…Justice Department, via Reuters
The back-to-back hearings on Friday were the next to last step in concluding the case — at least until the defendants appeal their convictions. On Tuesday, at a fifth and final hearing, Judge Kelly is expected to decide on the punishment for Mr. Tarrio.
From the bench, Judge Kelly discussed the differences between the Oath Keepers cases — in which Mr. Rhodes and five other members of the militia were convicted of sedition — and the Proud Boys sedition case.
He noted that while Mr. Rhodes and his followers brought an arsenal of weapons to the Washington area on Jan. 6, increasing the threat of “serious bodily injury,” the evidence in the Proud Boys case suggested that the behavior of Mr. Nordean and his compatriots, who were involved in several key breaches of the Capitol, was “far more impactful on the day.”
Judge Kelly started by considering the sentence for Mr. Pezzola, a former Marine and amateur boxer who the government has long maintained was the most aggressive of the five Proud Boys on trial in the case.
“He was an enthusiastic foot soldier in that conspiracy,” Erik Kenerson, one of the prosecutors, told Judge Kelly. “And what transpired on Jan. 6 was the type of political violence that Mr. Pezzola signed up for the Proud Boys to partake in.”
After marching with about 200 other members of the group from the Washington Monument to the Capitol, Mr. Pezzola scuffled with a police officer in the crowd outside and made off with his plastic riot shield. He ultimately used that shield to smash a window at the building and rush inside with the first wave of rioters, taking a video of himself smoking what he described as a victory cigar.
The image of Mr. Pezzola breaking the window crystallized the entire attack on the Capitol, Mr. Kenerson argued.
“He was the literal poster boy of this conspiracy,” he said.
Steven Metcalf, Mr. Pezzola’s lawyer, claimed that his client was not like the other Proud Boys charged in the case, having joined the group in November 2020, just weeks before the attack.
“This is a Proud Boys leadership trial,” Mr. Metcalf said, adding that to the high-ranking members of the group, Mr. Pezzola was “a nobody.”
When he addressed the court, Mr. Pezzola apologized to his two daughters and to his longtime partner, Lisa Magee, saying, “I have broken this family and crushed your heart.”
He told Judge Kelly that he was “a changed and humbled man” who had taken responsibility for his actions on Jan. 6.
“At times, it feels like I live in an emotional black hole,” he said.
Then Ms. Magee spoke, detailing all the ways in which Mr. Pezzola’s case had harmed her and her family. Their daughters have lost friends, she said, and have suffered from harassment and depression. She has been unable to find work and financially “destroyed.”
Judge Kelly acknowledged that Mr. Pezzola was a relative newcomer to the Proud Boys and had been acquitted of seditious conspiracy — the most serious charge in the case. But, he noted, “you really were in some ways the tip of the spear that allowed people to get into the Capitol.”
Then, despite having sworn that he was remorseful and had given up on politics, Mr. Pezzola suddenly reversed himself. Just before federal marshals removed him from the courtroom, he raised his fist in the air and shouted with a smile, “Trump won!”
An hour or so later, Mr. Nordean’s sentencing began as another prosecutor, Jason McCullough, told Judge Kelly that Mr. Nordean was “the undisputed leader on the ground on Jan. 6.”
It was Mr. Nordean, Mr. McCullough said, who led the 200 Proud Boys onto the Capitol grounds and toward a small area called the Peace Circle, where they eventually confronted the police. After the attack, he added, Mr. Nordean left the Capitol feeling “emboldened.”
“He recruited more people, told them the government was the enemy, suggested training every three months,” Mr. McCullough said. “Training for what? Who can say? But more than Jan. 6.”
Nicholas Smith, Mr. Nordean’s lawyer, countered by saying Mr. Nordean was not among the first several dozen rioters to breach the Capitol and that many of the witnesses at trial testified that the attack was “a spontaneous occurrence.”
Mr. Smith also raised an argument he had made throughout the case: that Mr. Nordean, who committed no violence on Jan. 6, should be treated like the hundreds of other rioters who illegally entered the Capitol and were charged with only petty crimes.
“Who’s getting charged with seditious conspiracy and who isn’t?” he asked. “The groups being prosecuted are political groups — even if loathsome. But those crimes could meet anyone’s conduct on Jan. 6.”
At that point, Mr. Nordean addressed Judge Kelly, saying that the attack was “a complete and utter tragedy” where “lots of people were seriously hurt” and “some people lost their lives.”
Mr. Nordean apologized and said he was “sorely irresponsible.”
“I had to face the sobering truth,” Mr. Nordean added. “I didn’t come to Jan. 6 as an individual. I came as a leader. I came to keep people out of trouble and safe, but I failed.”
Like the proceedings on Thursday for Mr. Biggs and Mr. Rehl, the hearings for Mr. Pezzola and Mr. Nordean dwelled on thorny issues surrounding what is known as a terrorism sentencing enhancement. The provision can be used to increase defendants’ sentences if prosecutors can show that their actions were to influence “the conduct of government by intimidation and coercion.”
Judge Kelly said the enhancement technically applied to both men’s cases — as it did to those of Mr. Biggs and Mr. Rehl — though he has acknowledged that none of the Proud Boys engaged in typical acts of terrorism like blowing up buildings or attacking military installations.
As a legal matter, the enhancement in Mr. Pezzola’s case emerged from his conviction on charges of breaking the window and from his role in trampling a fence with Mr. Biggs and Mr. Nordean that allowed other rioters to surge forward.
While smashing glass or toppling a barricade might not sound like terrorism, both acts were “carried out with the intent of intimidating government officials into bending to the view of these defendants,” Mr. McCullough told Judge Kelly.
The men had decided to “attack the Capitol on a day in which the balance of presidential power was hanging,” Mr. McCullough said. “And it was done intentionally.”