A member of the far-right group Proud Boys blamed Donald Trump for his participation in the deadly riot at the US Capitol, saying he was led astray by the outgoing president, who is currently facing an impeachment trial for allegedly inciting insurrection.
An attorney for Dominic Pezzola, also known as ‘Spaz,’ filed court documents on Wednesday seeking the 43-year-old’s release from jail pending trial, but a federal judge ordered him to be detained after prosecutors argued that the retired US Marine was a danger to the community and a flight risk.
Prosecutors accused Pezzola of knocking over barriers outside the US Capitol, grabbing a riot shield from a police officer and using it to smash a window at the building, allowing rioters to stream inside the building.
He was then captured on video lighting a cigar for a ‘victory smoke’ inside the Capitol building.
Pezzola, from Rochester, New York, is one of at least six alleged Proud Boys facing criminal charges stemming from the attack by Trump’s supporters on the US Capitol on January 6, which left seven people dead and interrupted Congress from certifying President Biden’s election victory.
Pezzola has been arraigned on 11 charges, including conspiracy, civil disorder, unlawfully entering restricted buildings, and assaulting, resisting, or impeding a United Stated Capitol police officer.
Pezzola’s lawyer Jonathan Zucker, in a 15-page court filing earlier on Wednesday, echoed arguments that US House Democrats have made repeatedly this week during Trump’s impeachment trial in the Senate, telling the judge his client was duped by Trump’s lies that the election had been stolen and acted on ‘delusional belief that he was a “patriot” protecting his country,’ reported Rochester Democrat & Chronicle.
Pezzola, who he claimed has ‘minimal’ involvement with the Proud Boys, ‘was one of millions of Americans who were misled by the President’s deception,’ Zucker wrote, noting there was ‘no rational basis for such a claim.’
He added that his client, who is a retired US Marine, ‘was responding to the entreaties of the then commander in chief, President Trump.
Trump falsely maintained that the election had been stolen and it was the duty of loyal citizens to “stop the steal.”‘
The lawyer further argued that Pezzola did not act out of criminal intent, but rather out of ‘a frighteningly confused and distorted sense of conscience.’
Zucker added in a footnote, referring to Trump: ‘Many of those who heeded his call will be spending substantial portions if not the remainder of their lives in prison as a consequence. Meanwhile Donald Trump resumes his life of luxury and privilege.’
Trump was impeached by the Democratic-controlled House of Representatives for the second time in his one-term presidency a week after the Capitol riots on a charge of inciting an insurrection. His impeachment trial in the US Senate is entering Day 3 on Thursday.
Pezzola and another alleged Proud Boy, William Pepe, 31, pleaded not guilty to the charges against them on Tuesday, after prosecutors said they have evidence to suggest the pair conspired to impede police from defending the US Capitol.
Pezzola was mentioned by name during Day 2 of Trump’s Senate trial on Wednesday, as impeachment managers for the House of Representatives offered a detailed account of the attack on the Capitol.
‘You can see Pezzola in the mob, chase Capitol officer Eugene Goodman through the building,’ said Representative Stacey Plaskett, a Democrat from the Virgin Islands, reported Bloomberg.
Goodman has been hailed as a hero for leading the rioters away from the US Senate chamber and directing Senator Mitt Romney to safety.
Prosecutors say the FBI uncovered a thumb drive belonging to Pezzola that contained instructions on how to make bombs.
Among the trove of instruction manuals were titles including: ‘Advanced Improvised Explosives,’ ‘Explosive Dusts,’ ‘Incendiaries,’ ‘The Box Tube MAC-11: The Ultimate DIY Machine Pistol,’ ‘Ragnar’s Big Book of Homemade Weapons,’ and ‘The Advanced Anarchist’s Arsenal: Recipes for Improvised Incendiaries and Explosives.’