US Capitol attack: Proud Boys leader gets 18 years in prison, matching longest

By Makini Brice and Sarah N. Lynch

WASHINGTON (Reuters) -A leader of the far-right Proud Boys was sentenced on Friday to 18 years in prison over the U.S. Capitol attack, equaling the longest punishment in the case so far, while another member sentenced to 10 years yelled "Trump won" as he left court.

The pair were the latest members of far-right groups sentenced for taking part in the Jan. 6, 2021, assault on Congress, an attempt to overturn Donald Trump's election defeat.

The 18-year sentence for Ethan Nordean, a leader of the Proud Boys convicted of seditious conspiracy, fell short of the 27 years prosecutors had sought and tied the sentence handed down to Oath Keepers founder Stewart Rhodes in May.

"If we don't have a peaceful transfer of power in this country, we don't have anything," said U.S. District Judge Timothy Kelly.

In a statement to the judge, Nordean called Jan. 6 a "complete and utter tragedy" and said he had gone to the Capitol to be a leader and to keep people out of trouble. His wife and sister pleaded for mercy.

Nordean's attorney, Nick Smith, had argued for a sentence of 15 to 21 months.

Dominic Pezzola, a member of the Proud Boys, did not play a leadership role but was convicted of felonies including obstructing an official proceeding and assaulting police. He yelled, "Trump won!" as he left the courtroom after being sentenced to 10 years in prison.

Prosecutors said Pezzola's assault on former Capitol Police Officer Mark Ode, in which he stole Ode's riot shield and used it to smash at a window at the Capitol, helped to justify a lengthy prison term.

Pezzola's attorneys had asked for their client to be sentenced to around five years in prison. Steven Metcalf, one of Pezzola's attorneys, told the judge that Pezzola was caught in the "heat of the moment."

"I stand before you with a heart full of regret," Pezzola said in an emotional speech to the court before his outburst. "I never should've crossed the barrier at the Capitol that day."

Prosecutors had sought a 20-year prison term for Pezzola.

Thousands of Trump supporters attacked the Capitol following a speech in which the Republican then-president falsely claimed that his November 2020 election defeat was the result of widespread fraud. Trump has continued to make those false claims even as he leads the Republican race for the 2024 nomination to challenge Democratic President Joe Biden.

Five people including a police officer died during or shortly after the riot and more than 140 police officers were injured. The Capitol suffered millions of dollars in damage.

More than 1,100 people have been arrested on charges related to the Capitol assault. Of those, more than 630 have pleaded guilty and at least 110 have been convicted at trial.

(Reporting by Sarah N. Lynch and Makini Brice in Washington; editing by Scott Malone, Grant McCool, Jonathan Oatis and Cynthia Osterman)