Two members of the Proud Boys group were indicted Friday on a number of charges in connection with the Jan. 6 Capitol riot, including conspiring to obstruct law enforcement, the Justice Department said.
Dominic Pezzola, 43, of Rochester, New York, and William Pepe, 31, of Beacon, New York, were indicted in federal court in the District of Columbia on charges that include civil disorder, unlawfully entering restricted buildings or grounds, and disorderly and disruptive conduct, the Justice Department said in a statement.
Pezzola also faces charges of robbery of personal property of the United States; assaulting, resisting, or impeding certain officers; destruction of government property; and engaging in physical violence in a restricted buildings or grounds, prosecutors said.
Pepe and Pezzola were originally charged by criminal complaint and arrested on Jan. 12 and 15, respectively, according to Justice Department records.
According to the charging documents, Pezzola and Pepe are members of the Proud Boys, which the Justice Department notes describes itself as a “pro-Western fraternal organization for men who refuse to apologize for creating the modern world; aka Western Chauvinists.”
Prosecutors said that, on Jan. 6, Pezzola confronted a Capitol Police officer trying to control the crowd and “ripped away the officer’s riot shield,” which he is alleged to have later used to smash a window at the Capitol.
Pezzola was later featured in a video posted to social media showing him smoking a cigar inside the Capitol building, according to the criminal complaint filed against him (pdf).
“In the video, the individual states words to the effect of, ‘Victory smoke in the Capitol, boys. This is [expletive] awesome. I knew we could take this [expletive] over [if we] just tried hard enough,'” the criminal complaint states.
A criminal complaint filed against Pepe (pdf) indicates that he was photographed inside the Capitol on Jan. 6, when a mob breached the building while Congress was in session certifying the results of the presidential election. Based on the photograph, which was displayed to the public in various media, Pepe was identified as an employee of the Metro Transit Authority (MTA) in New York, who used sick leave to travel to Washington to take part in the Jan. 6 events. After the FBI confirmed Pepe’s identity with the MTA, he was suspended from work.
The case against Pepe and Pezzola is being prosecuted by the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Columbia and the Department of Justice National Security Division’s Counterterrorism Section.
Founded in 2016, the Proud Boys began as a group protesting political correctness and perceived constraints on masculinity. Their profile soared in September when then-candidate and now President Joe Biden mentioned the group during a debate with then-President Donald Trump, who told them to “stand back and stand by.”