(WASHINGTON) — Two key members of the far-right Proud Boys group testified Tuesday hoping to prove their innocence in the seditious conspiracy case against them for the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol, while admitting some of their actions were wrong.
Zachary Rehl and Dominic Pezzola both acknowledged their wrongdoing when they breached the Capitol building on Jan. 6, 2021, during the riot.
“I basically trespassed through all the breaches,” Pezzola testified, describing how he pushed his way through multiple police lines before entering the building.
Pezzola, who also goes by the nickname “Spaz,” admitted to using a police officer’s riot shield to smash a Capitol building window and then trespassing in the building for more than 20 minutes.
Asked by his attorney why he decided to take the stand, Pezzola said, “to take responsibility” for what he did on Jan. 6 and explain that his co-defendants were not involved in many of his actions.
Pezzola and Rehl, along with three other Proud Boys leaders, are charged with seditious conspiracy against the United States, conspiracy to obstruct an official proceeding and actual obstruction of the 2020 election certification, as well as assaulting, resisting or impeding officers and destruction of government property.
Pezzola faces an additional charge of robbery for allegedly stealing the riot shield he used to smash the window. He denied the allegation on Tuesday, saying he got the shield from someone else.
Federal prosecutors seeking to discredit Rehl, president of the group’s Philadelphia chapter, presented video evidence that they suggested showed Rehl macing police at the Capitol on Jan. 6.
Over the course of his own testimony, Rehl repeatedly said under oath that he did not assault officers. He is not charged with assaulting officers with a chemical spray.
Asked directly by Assistant U.S. Attorney Erik Kenerson if he was “spraying at police officers,” Rehl responded: “Not that I recall.”
Kenerson showed the jury multiple camera angles of a person wearing what he suggested was identical attire to Rehl moving through the crowd. Rehl said he could not confirm the person was him. Images of the person were obscured and low resolution as Kenerson moved frame by frame through the sequence.
“It’s a really grainy video,” Rehl said, adding at one point that he could not “confirm or deny” the person was him.
Rehl has been testifying over the past week in the seditious conspiracy case against him. The jury trial has dragged on for months with a variety of tedious procedural hurdles since jury selection began in December.
Responding to questions from his attorney Carmen Hernandez last week, Rehl cast the Proud Boys as a rowdy social club — a stark contrast from prosecutors’ characterization of the group as a far-right militia intent on overthrowing the U.S. government.
“Yeah, we’d party … we’d go get lit,” Rehl said in reference to social gatherings the group had after attending a protest.
The parties at times were unrelated to any protests, Rehl said, referring to the group’s occasional travel to Las Vegas.
“We go out there and we just get trashed all weekend,” Rehl said. “We get drunk. We gamble. We meet other guys from other chapters. It’s a great time.”
To close out his testimony, Rehl apologized to members of the jury, “if you believe I did anything wrong that day.” He acknowledged he should not have entered the Capitol building and said it was a mistake to have smoked a cigarette in the building.
“It was a terrible day,” Rehl said. “A lot of bad stuff happened.”
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