Two Proud Boys Members Accused of Conspiracy in Capitol Riot
(Bloomberg) -- Two members of the far-right Proud Boys were indicted on conspiracy charges for their roles in the pro-Trump mob that laid siege to the U.S. Capitol this month.
Dominic Pezzola, 43, of Rochester, New York, and William Pepe, 31, of Beacon, New York, were accused in the indictment of knocking down barricades on the Capitol grounds and stealing equipment from Capitol Police officers. The charges were filed Friday in federal court in Washington, D.C.
Established around the time of the 2016 presidential election, the Proud Boys are self-described “western chauvinists” known for anti-Muslim, misogynistic and anti-Semitic rhetoric, according to the Southern Poverty Law Center. In November, a Proud Boys rally in the nation’s capital led to violent clashes and arrests, and during their December gathering in the city members of the group damaged property of historically Black churches.
During the Jan. 6 riot, Pezzola and Pepe removed metal barricades that had been erected at the entrance of the Capitol Building’s west plaza, and Pezzola ripped a riot shield away from a police officer who was attempting to detain members of the mob, according to the indictment. Video evidence shows Pezzola smashing a window at the building with the shield, prosecutors said.
The indictment marked the second round of major conspiracy charges against members of groups that participated in the siege, as prosecutors increasingly shift from low-level arrests to more complex investigations.
The U.S. last week accused three members of the Oath Keepers of conspiring to obstruct an official proceeding, alleging that the trio communicated in advance of the siege and arranged for a large group of rioters to travel to Washington.
By contrast, the Proud Boys indictment contained little evidence of advance planning. Prosecutors said the conspiracy lasted just a single day -- Jan. 6, when members of Congress met to officially affirm Joe Biden’s election victory -- and was designed to “render ineffective the protective equipment deployed by Capitol Police in active riot control.”
Pezzola and Pepe walked “in close proximity to one another” as they led a large group of Proud Boys toward the Capitol, the indictment said, before removing the barricades and allowing the rioters to breach the building.
Both men also face charges of unlawful entry and disorderly conduct that were included in criminal complaints filed against them earlier this month. Pezzola faces additional charges including robbery and assault.
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