2 Proud Boys members indicted for conspiracy in Capitol riot
Federal prosecutors Friday indicted two New York members of the far-right group the Proud Boys after they say the men conspired to impede law enforcement who were protecting the U.S. Capitol. While more than 170 people have been charged in connection to the January 6 assault on the U.S. Capitol, only a handful have been charged with conspiracy.
In an indictment, prosecutors said Dominic Pezzola, 43, from Rochester, New York, and William Pepe, 31, from Beacon, New York, coordinated with a group of Proud Boys to travel to Washington and meet near an entrance to the U.S. Capitol on January 6. Pezzola and Pepe, prosecutors said, then helped lead the group to topple metal police barriers and assault Capitol Police officers.
Pezzola and Pepe were arrested in mid-January on lesser charges, but the grand jury indictment contains new allegations which are among the most serious linked to the Proud Boys, a group that former President Trump told to "stand back and stand by" during a presidential debate in September. A self-described Proud Boys organizer of the group's events on January 6 was arrested earlier this month in Florida.
The indictment said that Pezzola, Pepe and others affiliated with the Proud Boys arranged to meet in Washington and assemble near metal barricades that blocked an entrance to the Capitol. The group gathered and chanted "F*** Antifa" and "We love Trump," then walked toward the Capitol, knocking over police barricades and assaulting Capitol Police officers assigned to guard them, prosecutors said.
In a criminal complaint filed January 13, prosecutors said Pezzola also ripped a riot shield away from a Capitol Police officer and was later filmed using that shield to smash a window and crawl into the U.S. Capitol. In photos and videos taken during the incident, Pezzola can be seen wearing a shirt with a "Proud Boys" logo and smoking a cigar inside the Capitol.
"Victory smoke in the Capitol, boys," he says in a video. "This is f*****g awesome. I knew we could take this mother****** over [if we] just tried hard enough."
Pezzola is a veteran of the U.S. Marines, according to records obtained by CBS News. He is one of at least 16 military veterans who now face federal charges for alleged crimes during the attack on the U.S. Capitol.
Prosecutors said that on one of Pezzola's social media accounts, he described himself as a Marine vet, a boxer, a patriot and a Proud Boy. Both Pepe and Pezzola owned tactical vests with Proud Boys logos.
Acting U.S. Attorney Michael Sherwin said Tuesday that prosecutors will start to move away from charging easily identifiable "internet stars" who appeared in photos of the riot, and instead begin to build more complex conspiracy cases against militia groups that may have coordinated their actions at the U.S. Capitol.
Both Pezzola and Pepe face charges of conspiracy, civil disorder, unlawfully entering restricted buildings or grounds and disorderly and disruptive conduct in restricted buildings or grounds, the government said. Pezzola faces additional charges that include obstruction of an official proceeding, additional civil disorder charges, robbery of personal property of the United States and assaulting, resisting, or impeding certain officers, the government said.
Prosecutors have also indicted a man affiliated with the radical militia group the "Three Percenters" as well as three suspected members of the anti-government militia the "Oath Keepers." As of Tuesday, 181 people had been charged in connection to the Capitol riot, and among those, 20 had also been indicted by a grand jury.
Pepe and Pezzola are among 14 people from New York state who federal prosecutors have charged in connection with the riot. Pepe worked as a laborer in the New York Metropolitan Transit Authority and used sick leave to travel to D.C. He has since been suspended from his job at the MTA.
Clare Hymes and Eleanor Watson contributed to this report.
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