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Proud Boy convicted of helping spearhead Capitol attack ties Jan. 6 sentence record with 18 years

A one-time leader in the Proud Boys far-right extremist group has been sentenced to 18 years in prison for his role in the Jan. 6 riot at the U.S. Capitol, tying the record for the longest sentence in the attack.

Latest sentence after other members convicted of spearheading attack on U.S. Capitol

A man with sunglasses speaks into a megaphone. There is a large crowd behind him.

A one-time leader in the Proud Boys far-right extremist group has been sentenced to 18 years in prison for his role in the Jan. 6 riot at the U.S. Capitol, tying the record for the longest sentence in the attack.

Ethan Nordean was one of five members convicted of spearheading the attack on the Capitol to try to prevent the peaceful transfer of power from Donald Trump to Joe Biden after the 2020 presidential election.

He was "the undisputed leader on the ground on Jan. 6," said prosecutor Jason McCullough.

The Seattle-area chapter president was one of two Proud Boys sentenced Friday. Dominic Pezzola was convicted of smashing a window with a police officer's shield when the Capitol was first breached on Jan. 6, 2021. He was sentenced to 10 years in prison, also among the longest sentences in the Jan. 6 attack,

Pezzola expressed regret to the judge and apologized to the officer whose shield he took.

But later, as he left the courtroom, he raised a fist and said, "Trump won!"

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Prosecutors said Nordean's words and online postings grew increasingly violent leading up to Jan. 6. On that day, he led a group of nearly 200 men toward the Capitol, then moved to the front of the mob and helped tear down a fence, allowing rioters to pour onto the grounds and confront police, according to court documents. Prosecutors had asked for a 27-year sentence.

Defence attorneys have argued there was no plan to storm the Capitol that day and pushed back against the idea that Nordean tore down the fence or that his rhetoric was specifically about Jan. 6. They asked for less than two years.

For his own part, the 33-year-old from Auburn, Wash., told the judge he now sees Jan. 6 as a "complete and utter tragedy" and he regretted not trying to use his leadership role to stop what happened.

"There is no rally or political protest that should hold value over human life," he said. "To anyone who I directly or even indirectly wronged, I'm sorry."

The 18-year record for a Jan. 6 sentence was set by Stewart Rhodes, founder of another far-right extremist group the Oath Keepers. Several other members of that group were convicted of seditious conspiracy after a trial last year.

The highest ranking Proud Boy, leader Enrique Tarrio who was convicted after a months-long trial earlier this year, is scheduled to be sentenced Tuesday.

WATCH | Lengthy sentences for 2 Proud Boys involved in U.S. Capitol riot:

2 Proud Boys sentenced to 10 and 18 years in prison for role in Capitol riot

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Duration 2:06

Two members of extremist group the Proud Boys were sentenced to lengthy prison terms for their roles in the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the U.S. Capitol — while two others were sentenced Thursday and another high-profile member is expected to be sentenced next week.

'Tip of the spear'

Nordean's sentence was handed down by U.S. District Judge Timothy Kelly, a Trump appointee who also sentenced Pezzola earlier in the day and applied a terrorism enhancement in both cases.

Pezzola, 46, took a police officer's riot shield and used it to smash the window, allowing rioters to make the first breach into the Capitol. He later filmed a "celebratory video" with a cigar inside the building, prosecutors said.

He was a recent Proud Boys recruit, however, and a jury acquitted him of seditious conspiracy, a rarely brought Civil War-era offence. He was convicted of other serious charges, and prosecutors had asked for 20 years in prison.

"He was an enthusiastic foot soldier," prosecutor Erik Kenerson said.

Kelly noted that Pezzola, of Rochester, N.Y., was a newcomer to the group who didn't write the kind of increasingly violent online messages that his co-defendants did leading up to the Jan. 6 attack.

One man carries a police riot shield while another man raises his fist in the air while walking through a large, ornate room.

Still, he was in some ways a "tip of the spear" in allowing rioters to get into the Capitol, said the judge.

"The reality is you smashed that window in and let people begin to stream into the Capitol building and threaten the lives of our lawmakers," Kelly told Pezzola. "It's not something that I ever dreamed I would have seen in our country."

Defence lawyers had asked for five years for Pezzola, saying that he got "caught up in the craziness" that day.

Pezzola testified that he originally grabbed the officer's shield to protect himself from police riot control measures, and his lawyers argued that he broke only one pane of glass and that it was other rioters who smashed out the rest of the window.

Trump and his allies have repeatedly and falsely claimed the 2020 election was stolen. A series of federal and state investigations and dozens of lawsuits have uncovered no supporting evidence.

Four Proud Boys have now been sentenced. Joseph Biggs, an organizer from Ormond Beach, Fla., received a 17-year term, and Zachary Rehl, a leader of the Philadelphia chapter, got 15 years.

More than 1,100 people have been charged with Capitol riot-related federal crimes. More than 600 have been convicted and sentenced.

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