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Federal prosecutors appeal sentences of Proud Boys leaders convicted in Jan. 6 plot

FILE - Insurrections loyal to President Donald Trump rally at the U.S. Capitol in Washington on Jan. 6, 2021. (AP Photo/Jose Luis Magana, File)
Jose Luis Magana
FILE - Insurrections loyal to President Donald Trump rally at the U.S. Capitol in Washington on Jan. 6, 2021. (AP Photo/Jose Luis Magana, File)

(AP & WXXI News) The federal government is appealing the length of prison sentences for members of the far-right group, the Proud Boys, challenging punishments handed down in connection with the riot at the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021.

The Justice Department is appealing the sentences of five members of the Proud Boys including Dominic Pezzola of Rochester. He became known for taking a shield from a police officer during the riot and using it to bash in a Capitol window, allowing other members of the mob to rush into the building.

Pezzola got a sentence of 10 years, after prosecutors asked for double that amount of time.

The government is appealing U.S. District Judge Timothy Kelly’s sentences for Pezzola, and four others, including former Proud Boys Leader Enrique Tarrio.

U.S. District Judge Timothy Kelly sentenced former Proud Boys national leader Enrique Tarrio and three lieutenants to prison terms ranging from 15 to 22 years after a jury convicted them in May of plotting to stop the peaceful transfer of presidential power from Donald Trump to Joe Biden after the 2020 presidential election.

Tarrio's 22-year sentence is the longest so far among hundreds of criminal cases stemming from the Jan. 6, 2021, riot at the Capitol, but prosecutors had sought 33 years behind bars for the Miami man.

Attorney Nayib Hassan said in an email that the defense team will review prosecutors' reasoning for appealing the sentencing but is preparing its own appeal and believes it will "prevail on multiple grounds."

Prosecutors, who made their court filings on Monday, also had recommended sentences of 33 years for former Proud Boys organizer Joseph Biggs, of Ormond Beach, Florida; 30 years for Proud Boys chapter leader Zachary Rehl, of Philadelphia; and 27 years in prison for chapter leader Ethan Nordean, of Auburn, Washington.

Kelly sentenced Nordean to 18 years, Biggs to 17 years and Rehl to 15 years.

Defense attorney Norm Pattis, who represents Biggs and Rehl, said in a text message that the government's appeals are "ridiculous."

"Merrick Garland needs a new hobby horse," Pattis said of the attorney general, whose Justice Department secured the convictions.

Nicholas Smith, Nordean's attorney, said in an email that his client "is encouraged by the government's agreement that errors led to the judgment and sentence in his case."

Prosecutors also are appealing the 10-year sentence for Dominic Pezzola, a Proud Boys member from Rochester, New York. Prosecutors sought 20 years in prison for Pezzola, who was tried alongside the four group leaders. Jurors acquitted Pezzola of seditious conspiracy but convicted him of other serious charges.

Roger Roots, an attorney representing Pezzola is quoted by the Washington Postas saying the government’s notice that it would appeal the sentences is what he refers to as an “outrageous abuse of power,” and said the sentences meted out in these particular cases are already the longest sentences in American history for participating in what Roots describes as a ‘political demonstration.’

This story also includes reporting by NPR and the Washington Post.