WASHINGTON, D.C. – Two members of the Proud Boys nationalist organization were indicted in federal court on Friday, charged with working together to obstruct law-enforcement officers when protesters stormed the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6.
According to a news release from the Department of Justice, the charges were filed in federal court in the District of Columbia. Dominic Pezzola, 43, of Rochester, New York, and WIlliam Pepe, 31 of Beacon, New York, are facing charges of conspiracy; civil disorder; unlawfully entering restricted buildings or grounds; and disorderly and disruptive conduct in restricted buildings or grounds, the release stated.
It was the first filing of conspiracy charges by federal prosecutors against Proud Boy members, The New York Times reported.
Pezzola, a former boxer and Marine, and Pepe, an employee of New York’s Metropolitan Transportation Authority, were already facing lesser charges in connection with the attack on the Capitol, the newspaper reported. Pepe and Pezzola were originally arrested on Jan. 12 and 15, respectively, according to the Department of Justice.
Prosecutors allege that Pezzola was among the first wave of demonstrators to enter the Capitol. According to court filings, Pezzola confronted a Capitol Police officer attempting to control the crowd and ripped away the officer’s riot shield. Prosecutors also alleged that Pezzola can be seen on video using that riot shield to smash a window at the Capitol.
“Pezzola was not the only person trying to break windows and forcibly enter the Capitol at that time, but he appears … first to breach a window so successfully that he and other rioters could enter the Capitol through it,” Assistant U.S. Attorney Erik Kenerson wrote, according to The Washington Post. “The defendant’s actions show planning, determination, and coordination.”
Prosecutors added that two brothers from Montana, Joshua Calvin Hughes and Jerod Wade Hughes, followed Pezzola into the window and then helped kick down a door from the inside, the Post reported.
After climbing through the window, prosecutors said, Pezzola joined a group that confronted Capitol Police Officer Eugene Goodman, in a stairwell near the Senate floor, the Times reported. According to court documents, one of the demonstrators yelled, “Where they meeting at? Where they counting the votes?” That was a reference to the Senate counting the electoral votes that would ultimately confirm Joe Biden’s election as president.
Prosecutors also allege that Pezzola posted an online video of himself, smoking a cigar inside the Capitol and referring to it as a “victory smoke,” the Times reported.
Michael Scibetta, Pezzola’s attorney, said on Friday night that he had not yet seen the new conspiracy charges, adding that “the matter is evolving,” the newspaper reported.
The charges against Pepe are not as detailed. Prosecutors allege that Pepe, along with Pezzola, “took actions to evade and render ineffective the protective equipment deployed by Capitol Police in active riot control measures, including actions to remove temporary metal barricades erected by the Capitol Police for the purpose of controlling access to the Capitol Grounds, and the stealing and purloining of property belonging to Capitol Police.”
Pepe’s attorney, Susanne Brody, did not respond to an email seeking comment, the Times reported.
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