WASHINGTON (Reuters) – A federal judge on Wednesday ordered an alleged member of the far-right Proud Boys be detained pending trial over his role in the insurrection at the U.S. Capitol, even as the man’s attorney tried to pin the blame for the riots on former President Donald Trump.
Dominic Pezzola, also known as “Spaz,” is one of at least six alleged Proud Boys facing criminal charges stemming from the insurrection by Trump’s supporters at the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, which left 5 people dead and interrupted Congress from certifying President Joe Biden’s election victory.
Pezzola’s lawyer Jonathan Zucker, in a court filing earlier on Wednesday, echoed arguments that U.S. 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.”
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.”
“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,” he added in a footnote.
Trump was impeached by the Democratic-controlled House of Representatives a week after the Capitol riots on a charge of inciting an insurrection. His impeachment trial in the U.S. Senate started this week.
Pezzola and another alleged Proud Boy, William Pepe, were indicted after prosecutors said they have evidence to suggest the pair conspired to impede police from defending the U.S. Capitol.
Prosecutors say the FBI uncovered a thumb drive belonging to Pezzola that contained instructions on how to make bombs. They accused him in court of grabbing a riot shield from a police officer and helping to lead the crowd past barriers and into the building.
U.S. Magistrate Judge Robin Meriweather said it was a “close call” in deciding whether Pezzola should be detained, but ultimately determined he posed a danger to the community.
She earlier agreed to allow another alleged Proud Boy facing criminal charges, Nicholas DeCarlo, to be released pending trial. Meriweather ordered him not to make posts on social media.
Dozens of those arrested are alleged to have ties to or share sympathies with far-right groups or militias.
In addition to a focus on the Proud Boys, the government has charged several alleged members of the Oath Keepers, an anti-government militia, with conspiring to storm the Capitol.
One of those defendants, Thomas Caldwell, in a court filing this week denied being a member of the Oath Keepers and said physical ailments would have prevented him from forcibly storming the Capitol.
(Reporting by Sarah N. Lynch; Editing by Dan Grebler)