The Department of Justice issued a news release on Friday night stating that two New York men had been indicted for their alleged role in the violent riot at the U.S. Capitol earlier this month.
The New York Times reported that the DOJ announced the agency’s “first conspiracy charges against the Proud Boys,” identifying Dominic Pezzola, of Rochester, and William Pepe, of Beacon, as “two members of the far-right nationalist group.” According to the Times, they are accused of “working together to obstruct and interfere with law enforcement officers protecting Congress during the final certification of the presidential election.”
As of now, the indictment does not accuse the men of conspiring to plan the January 6 attack on the Capitol before traveling to Washington, D.C. The Times reports, it “describes only a two-person conspiracy that lasted only through the day of the rally when, it notes, a large group of Proud Boys traveled to Washington and gathered near the Capitol grounds.”
That said, govt is alleging the two defendants, Dominic Pezzola & William Pepe, conspired w/others "known & unknown to the grand jury," which means 1. There's a grand jury (apparently) still investigating and 2. There could easily be more charges on this indictment. pic.twitter.com/zc00U2uxT9
— Alan Feuer (@alanfeuer) January 30, 2021
The outlet described Mr. Pezzola, 43, as “a former boxer and Marine,” and Mr. Pepe, 31, as “an employee of the Metropolitan Transportation Authority.” Both defendants were already in custody, facing lesser charges connected to the Capitol breach. Prosecutors say Pezzola was part of the mob that confronted a Capitol Police officer in the stairway and posted a video on social media smoking a cigar inside the Capitol Building. Prosecutors said Pepe had been photographed inside the Capitol.
On Friday, they were indicted in D.C. federal court on charges of conspiracy, civil disorder, unlawfully entering restricted buildings or grounds, and disorderly and disruptive conduct in restricted buildings or grounds.
The charging documents said Pezzola and Pepe are members of the Proud Boys, stated that they have attended various Proud Boys gatherings and protests, and alleged that both possess tactical vests branded with the Proud Boys logo.
The DOJ provides more details on the accusations in the indictment filed on Friday:
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, 2021. It is alleged that Pezzola and Pepe 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.
It is further alleged that Pezzola confronted a Capitol Police officer attempting to control the crowd and ripped away the officer’s riot shield, while the officer was physically engaging with individuals who had gathered unlawfully in the west plaza of the Capitol. Pezzola can be seen on video that has been widely distributed, using that riot shield to smash a window at the U.S. Capitol.
The Proud Boys were founded in 2016. The group describes itself as a “pro-Western fraternal organization for men who refuse to apologize for creating the modern world; aka Western Chauvinists.” The Times article says they have “maintained links with both overt white supremacists and more mainstream Republicans,” and been “vocal” and “often violent” supporters of former President Donald J. Trump.
Michael Sherwin, the U.S. attorney in Washington, said earlier this week that prosecutors had prioritized bringing “more complicated conspiracy cases.” He mentioned “possible coordination among militia groups from different states that had a plan” to descend on Washington, D.C., “to engage in criminal conduct.”
A CNN analysis of court documents claims at least eight of the approximately 175 defendants facing charges related to the Capitol riot “are affiliated with the Proud Boys.”
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