Dominic Pezzola, a Marine Corps veteran and Proud Boy who played a key role in the January 6th Capitol breach by using a stolen police riot shield to break a window, has been sentenced to 10 years in prison.
Pezzola was convicted in May alongside four other members of the Proud Boys on multiple charges, including conspiring against members of Congress or law enforcement, destruction of government property, and assaulting and robbing a U.S. Capitol Police officer of his riot shield.
Prosecutors had sought a 20-year prison sentence for Pezzola, describing him as the “literal poster boy” for the Proud Boys’ conspiracy. Pezzola’s actions, which included smashing the window that allowed hundreds of rioters to enter the Capitol, were captured in widely circulated images and videos.
In their sentencing memo, prosecutors characterized Pezzola as an “enthusiastic foot soldier” in the Proud Boys’ plan to disrupt the certification of the 2020 presidential election results. Pezzola had recorded a video inside the Capitol where he smoked a cigar and bragged, “I knew we could take this motherf***er if we just tried hard enough.”
Pezzola’s attorney argued for a lighter sentence, hoping to allow him to resume work as a flooring contractor upon release. Pezzola had also testified during his trial and blamed police for inciting the violence at the Capitol.
A day earlier, Kelly sentenced two of Pezzola’s co-defendants, Proud Boys Joe Biggs and Zachary Rehl, to 17 and 15 years in prison, respectively
U.S. District Judge Timothy Kelly acknowledged that Pezzola had been acquitted of the seditious conspiracy charge, unlike Biggs and Rehl. However, Judge Kelly emphasized Pezzola’s role in causing the first breach of the Capitol, stating, “You opened up the Capitol like a can opener.”
Despite Pezzola’s significant role in the attack, Judge Kelly granted a significant downward variance in his sentence, citing concerns that a terrorism enhancement applied by the government overstated the offense. This trend of judges sentencing Jan. 6 defendants below the Justice Department’s requests has been observed in several cases, including those involving the rarely used seditious conspiracy charge.
Pezzola’s 10-year sentence falls seven years below the bottom end of his sentencing guideline range and a decade below the sentence prosecutors had sought. He will receive credit for approximately two-and-a-half years already spent in jail since his arrest.
Speaking before he received his sentence, Pezzola tearfully addressed the court, asking for mercy and expressing a change of heart. He stated that he was a “changed and humbled man” but emphasized that he had always taken responsibility for his actions and never denied what he did on January 6th.
However, shortly after Judge Kelly handed down the sentence and left the bench, Pezzola, with a smile on his face, raised his hand and shouted, “Trump won!” as he was led out of the courtroom by U.S. Marshals.