One of the Proud Boys arrested for participating in the Jan. 6 insurrection at the Capitol told a court Wednesday that he was duped by President Donald Trump’s "deception" and "acted out of the delusional belief" that he was responding patriotically to the commander in chief.
Dominic Pezzola, who was indicted last month and charged with conspiracy, urged a federal court to grant his release pending trial, emphasizing that his involvement in the Proud Boys was recent and minimal and that he has no other criminal history. But the most notable part of Pezzola’s 15-page motion for leniency was his thorough repudiation of Trump.
"[D]efendant acted out of the delusional belief that he was a ‘patriot’ protecting his country … He was responding to the entreaties of the-then commander in chief, President Trump," Pezzola’s lawyer argued in the filing. "The President maintained that the election had been stolen and it was the duty of loyal citizens to ‘stop the steal.’ Admittedly there was no rational basis for the claim, but it is apparent defendant was one of millions of Americans who were misled by the President’s deception."
Pezzola is not the first charged in the Capitol insurrection to cite Trump’s calls as the motivation for marching on and breaching the Capitol. But he’s among those facing the most serious charges, along with several other members of the Proud Boys, in connection with Jan. 6.
His filing also takes sharper aim at Trump than many of the other rioters who mentioned 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," Pezzola’s attorney wrote. "Meanwhile Donald Trump resumes his life of luxury and privilege."
Prosecutors have sought Pezzola’s detention, pointing to his destruction of a Capitol window with a police riot shield, which was captured in images of the riots. They say Pezzola was among the first of the insurrectionists to breach the Capitol and accused him of conspiring and coordinating his actions with others.
"Given the combination of the defendant’s actions on that day, his professed intentions to commit additional violence, and his access to the means to carry out that violence in a largely undetectable way, there are simply no conditions nor combinations of conditions of release that can assure the safety of the community if the defendant is released," prosecutors wrote to the court last month.
Pezzola’s criticism of Trump dovetails with the case House impeachment managers plan to make Wednesday during opening arguments at his Senate trial on a charge of inciting the insurrection. The managers contend that Trump was the "singular" cause of the riots and that his supporters were responding to his calls when they stormed the Capitol.
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