ROCHESTER, N.Y. (WROC) — A Rochester man was arrested Friday, accused of smashing a window at the U.S. Capitol, smoking a cigar inside the building, and threatening to kill Vice President Mike Pence during last week’s violent riots in Washington D.C.
Dominic Pezzola, 44 of Rochester and class of 1995 graduate of the Aquinas Institute, is charged with obstruction of an official proceeding, destruction of government property, and restricted buildings or grounds. Officials say Pezzola turned himself in Friday.
If convicted, Pezzola faces a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison and a $250,000 fine.
Federal authorities say Pezzola, also known as “Spaz” was seen breaking into the Capitol building with a police shield. According to the criminal complaint, Pezzola encouraged nearby rioters on the west side of the building.
Officials say it was one of the first breaches of the Capitol that day and allowed others to gain entry to unlock doors for others to get inside.
Federal authorities say Pezzola appeared in a video on social media smoking a cigar inside the Capitol saying “Victory smoke in the Capitol boys. This is f****** awesome. I knew we could take this motherf****** over if we just tried hard enough.”
Federal officials say a witness who was in Washington D.C. during the riots, identified in the affidavit as W-1, said Pezzola was bragging about breaking the Capitol window and entering the building.
W-1 also said that Pezzola stated he would have killed Vice President Mike Pence if given the chance.
The witness says Pezzola and his associates planned to return to D.C. on the 20th, the day of President-Elect Joe Biden’s Inauguration, where the group planned to kill people. The witness said all members of the group had firearms or access to firearms.
Officials say he previously attended a December 12 pro-Trump Proud Boys rally in Washington D.C. where there was four stabbings and the vandalism of a historic Black church. Pezzola was allegedly seen at the event with a T-shirt sporting the Proud Boys logo.
According to the FBI, Pezzola had a publicly available Telegram account with the username @KINGbehavior, and a profile biography that stated “Marine vet/boxer/patriot/Proud boy 2nd.”
Pezzola is scheduled to appear Washington D.C. court. Although no date has been set, officials say that appearance will be “soon.”
Neighbors on Lake Avenue where Pezzola lives, reacted to the news Friday.
“Really disappointed to hear that there is a terrorist living right there on lake Avenue. It makes me nervous. The whole thing in the capital made me nervous. I can’t wait till inauguration day is over and hopefully, there won’t be anymore,” says Linda Kelly.
“I don’t like that deal at all. I thought this area was a little more respectful for crying out loud with people not being able to go up there and do the damage that they did. That was uncalled for,” says Scott Mathis of the Empire Fence Company.
“It was really awful that this has happened to our country, and that there’s someone so close to me that would think to do such a thing,” says Jennifer Vanerp.
A statement from Aquinas Institute Friday:
“At Aquinas, we take great pride in instilling Goodness, Discipline, and Knowledge in our students. The expectation is that our students will embrace and foster Christian values, and that they will make responsible, well-informed decisions on personal and societal levels.
Our ultimate hope is that our graduates will use these principles and ideals to guide them for the rest of their lives.
We are genuinely saddened when we are informed that a graduate may have lost his or her way from these principles and ideals. Aquinas does not condone actions that lead to violence and destruction, and we pray for all parties involved.
Then and now:
Pezzola’s Aquinas yearbook photo vs. him at the capitol riots last week:
Check back with News 8 WROC as we will continue to update this developing story.
PHOENIX (AP) — The pro-Trump mob that stormed the U.S. Capitol last week aimed to “capture and assassinate elected officials,” federal prosecutors said in court documents.
The revelation came in a motion prosecutors filed late Thursday in the case against Jacob Chansley, the Arizona man who took part in the insurrection while sporting face paint, no shirt and a furry hat with horns.
The details, tucked into the court papers, shed new light on the seriousness of the Capitol riot. They suggest that investigators believe there was a much more organized effort afoot, despite claims from rioters that it was a spontaneous outburst of anger over the election and President Donald Trump’s loss. Trump had been repeating baseless claims of election fraud for weeks.
Prosecutors say that after Chansley climbed up to the dais where Vice President Mike Pence had been presiding moments earlier, Chansley wrote a threatening note to Pence that said: “It’s only a matter of time, justice is coming.”
Pence and congressional leaders had been ushered out of the chamber by the Secret Service and U.S. Capitol Police before the rioters stormed into the room.
“Strong evidence, including Chansley’s own words and actions at the Capitol, supports that the intent of the Capitol rioters was to capture and assassinate elected officials in the United States Government,” prosecutors wrote in their memo urging the judge to keep Chansley behind bars.
Gerald Williams, Chansley’s attorney, didn’t return a phone call and email Friday morning seeking comment. A detention hearing is scheduled in his case for later Friday.
The FBI has been investigating whether any of the rioters had plotted to kidnap members of Congress and hold them hostage, focusing particularly on the men seen carrying plastic zip-tie handcuffs and pepper spray.
Prosecutors raised a similar prospect on Friday in the case of a former Air Force officer who they alleged carried plastic zip-tie handcuffs because he intended “to take hostages.” But so far, the Justice Department has not publicly released any specific evidence on the plots or explained how the rioters planned to carry them out.
Chansley, who calls himself the “QAnon Shaman” and has long been a fixture at Trump rallies, surrendered to the FBI field office in Phoenix on Saturday.
News photos show him at the riot shirtless, with his face painted and wearing a fur hat with horns, carrying a U.S. flag attached to a wooden pole topped with a spear.
QAnon is an apocalyptic and convoluted conspiracy theory spread largely through the internet and promoted by some right-wing extremists.
Chansley told investigators he came to the Capitol “at the request of the president that all ‘patriots’ come to D.C. on January 6, 2021.” An indictment unsealed Tuesday in Washington charges him with civil disorder, obstruction of an official proceeding, disorderly conduct in a restricted building, and demonstrating in a Capitol building.
More than 80 people are facing charges stemming from the violence, including more than 40 people in federal court. Dozens more were arrested for violating a curfew that night. The federal charges brought so far are primarily for crimes such as illegal entry, but prosecutors have said they are weighing more serious charges against at least some of the rioters. Some were highly-trained ex-military and police.
Michael Sherwin, acting U.S. attorney for the District of Columbia, said this week that he has organized a group of national security and public corruption prosecutors whose sole focus is to bring sedition charges for the “most heinous acts that occurred in the Capitol.”
During a hearing in Texas on Thursday, a prosecutor urged a judge to keep Col. Larry Rendall Brock Jr. locked up, saying the man meant to “take hostages.” Brock was arrested Sunday in Texas after being photographed on the Senate floor during the deadly riot wearing a helmet and heavy vest and carrying plastic zip-tie handcuffs.
“He means to kidnap, restrain, perhaps try, perhaps execute members of the U.S. government,” Assistant U.S. Attorney Jay Weimer said, without providing specifics.
Brock’s attorney, Brook Antonio II, noted that he has only been charged with misdemeanors. Antonio said there was no direct evidence of Brock breaking doors or windows to get into the Capitol, or doing anything violent once he was inside.