On Thursday, a defendant in the Proud Boys seditious conspiracy case lashed out at the prosecution while testifying, accusing them of running a “corrupt trial” tainted by “fake charges.”
The defendant, Dominic Pezzola, lost control during testimony intended to humanize him for the jury but which instead seemed to reveal his belligerent personality.
Mr. Pezzola, who was among the first rioters to enter the Capitol on January 6, 2021, attempted to downplay the violence of that day by claiming that the crowd was merely “trespassing protesters” and not “an invading force” in a heated exchange with a prosecutor.
The trial, which has been going on for four months in Federal District Court in Washington, was finally coming to a close when the irate testimony surfaced. As the day on Thursday drew to a close, each defendant took a nap. Closing arguments might start as soon as this Friday.
Mr. Pezzola, a former Marine and professional boxer, took the witness stand for the first time on Tuesday, telling the jury that he needed to speak “to take responsibility for my actions on Jan. 6.”
Enrique Tarrio, Ethan Nordean, Joseph Biggs, and Zachary Rehl are his co-defendants. He promptly dropped to his sword, saying that any violent activities he participated in that day were his own doing and that they “should not be roped into” his “actions.”
Mr. Pezzola was undoubtedly the most violent of the five defendants on Jan. 6, when he got into a fight with a police officer in the throng outside the Capitol and stole the officer’s plastic riot shield.
Mr. Pezzola used the shield to break a window at the structure. After that, he ran into the building with the initial wave of rioters and recorded himself enjoying what he called a “victory” cigar.
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He made the assertion that his military skills as an infantryman had just kicked in during a time of extreme stress in an attempt to explain everything to the jury.
“Total saturation of adrenaline enters your body in a situation like this,” he remarked on Wednesday. “It’s almost like being on autopilot.”
The five Proud Boys were accused of sedition by the government for allegedly physically interfering with the certification of the 2020 election, which was taking place inside the Capitol on January 6. The defense had claimed a strong case before the trial even started.
When several other defense witnesses, including some Proud Boys who were not charged in the case, had difficulty under cross-examination, the defense attorneys decided to scale back their goals, and only Mr. Pezzola and Mr. Rehl decided to take the stand. Initially, it appeared that all of the defendants might testify.
The Proud Boys’ former Philadelphia chapter manager Mr. Rehl testified for two days last week and twice this week, telling the jury that despite being a leader in the organization, he was not aware of any intentions to storm the Capitol or interfere with the election’s certification.
In an effort to depict him as the least violent of the five defendants, his attorney, Carmen Hernandez, repeatedly persuaded him to testify that he never damaged property or injured anyone during the incident.
The strategy appeared to be successful—at least until Mr. Rehl responded angrily to a recently discovered video that the prosecution showed the jury and which appeared to show a man who resembled him allegedly spraying something at the police.
The course of Mr. Pezzola’s evidence was identical.
He concurred with Mr. Rehl’s assertion that the Proud Boys could not be found guilty of conspiracy because they had no strategy on January 6 when he initially took the stand.
Regarding the group’s well-known penchant for drinking, he joked, “Our only plans were maybe to storm the liquor store.”
However, Mr. Pezzola appeared to lose his composure in response to inquiries from Erik Kenerson, one of the case’s prosecutors.
Their argument started when Mr. Kenerson put Mr. Pezzola through a series of inquiries concerning his perceptions in the weeks preceding January 6 that “civil war was imminent” and that “a battle” “between good and evil” was in progress.
“You believed the opposing side was out to ruin your way of life?” Kenerson enquired.
“It’s not a thought; it was a fact,” Mr. Pezzola said. “They were assaulting us every day.”
Mr. Kenerson then pressed a little bit harder.
He questioned, “You wanted to be first in line to defend who you love and what you stand for.
Mr. Pezzola responded with an indignant rejoinder.
He acknowledged that was true, but added, “But that’s in keeping with opposing this corrupt trial with your false claims.
Minutes before, when Mr. Kenerson read a passage from Mr. Pezzola’s diary to the jury, the two men had engaged in a similar exchange of blows. In the passage that was quoted, Mr. Pezzola was lamenting the limits placed in place by the government as a result of the coronavirus pandemic and how he believed “radical socialists” were waging war against his family and his nation.
The owner of a floor tiling business, Mr. Pezzola, stated, “I’m just starting to experience success with my business. But now a dictatorial government and unconstitutional lockdowns are threatening it.
In response to the passage being read aloud, Mr. Pezzola referred to the proceedings as “a fake trial.”
You have a lot of viewpoints, don’t you? Mr. Kenerson retaliated.
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