A third member of the far-right Proud Boys group has received a lengthy prison sentence this week for his participation in the attack on the United States Capitol in 2021.
Dominic Pezzola, 46, of Rochester, New York, was sentenced to 10 years in prison on Friday after he was captured on video using a police shield to smash his way into the Capitol building on January 6, 2021.
While he expressed contrition in the lead-up to sentencing, Pezzola left the courtroom in Washington, DC, reiterating his support for the falsehood that drove many to storm the US legislature.
“Trump won,” he said, launching a fist into the air before being escorted away.
Supporters of then-President Donald Trump stormed the Capitol to try to stop US legislators from certifying Democrat Joe Biden’s 2020 election victory.
Many were motivated by the false claim, put forward by Trump and his allies, that the vote had been “rigged” against the Republican and “stolen” by his opponents.
During Friday’s sentencing hearing, US District Judge Timothy Kelly said Pezzola played “a significant role” in the events of that day, creating an opening for others to enter the building.
“You really were in some ways the tip of the spear that allowed people to get into the Capitol,” Kelly said.
He added: “It was a national disgrace what happened.”
The hearing came a day after Kelly imposed a 15-year sentence on fellow Proud Boy Zachary Rehl and 17 years for Joseph Biggs, the second-longest prison term awarded to any participant in the Capitol riot.
Five Proud Boys – including Biggs, Rehl and Pezzola – were convicted in May for their roles in the attack.
All of the co-defendants except Pezzola were found guilty of seditious conspiracy, a rare but serious charge that alleges a defendant planned to use force to oppose the US government.
Pezzola, however, was the only defendant in that case to be convicted of assaulting a police officer.
He was found guilty on six felony charges, including obstructing an official proceeding, destruction of government property and robbery involving government property. Prosecutors had asked him to be sentenced to 20 years in prison.
The Proud Boys describe themselves as “chauvinists” who formed a “pro-Western fraternal organisation for men”. The organisation included a “Ministry of Self Defence” that descended on the Capitol on January 6.
Although he was relatively new to the group, Pezzola was “hand-selected” to serve as a “rally boy” during the Capitol riot, according to prosecutors.
“He was an enthusiastic foot soldier in that conspiracy,” prosecutor Erik Kenerson told the court on Friday.
Prosecutors accused Pezzola of attacking Capitol Police Officer Mark Ode, stripping him of his riot shield and pushing him to the ground. Pezzola then used the shield to shatter a window on the west balcony of the Capitol, allowing rioters to gain entry.
During Friday’s proceedings, Pezzola apologised to Ode, calling his actions “reckless”.
“I stand before you with a heart full of regret,” he told the court. “I never should’ve crossed the barrier at the Capitol that day.”
More than 1,106 participants in the Capitol riot have been arrested and 632 have pleaded guilty to federal charges.
Trump himself faces two criminal indictments related to his efforts to overturn the results of the 2020 election, including one at the federal level that references the January 6 attack.
Stewart Rhodes, founder of the far-right Oath Keepers group, was sentenced in May to 18 years in prison – the longest sentence of any participant in the Capitol riot to date.
The former leader of the Proud Boys, Enrique Tarrio, is also set to be sentenced next week.
Both Rhodes and Tarrio were convicted of seditious conspiracy in separate cases.
“Tarrio is likely to get an extremely stringent sentence,” Al Jazeera’s Mike Hanna reported from Washington, DC, on Friday.
“However in all these cases, the sentences are still less than what the prosecution’s been asking for. In some cases, the prosecution has been asking for up to 30 years’ imprisonment.”