Publix was handed a vaccine distribution deal weeks after donating $100,000 to Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis’ PAC

Ron DeSantis
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis fiercely denied accusations of a pay-for-play deal with Publix, which donated $100,000 to his PAC in the weeks before he announced a deal to allow the grocery chain to distribute COVID-19 vaccines in the state.

  • Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis faces questions over a vaccine deal with the Publix grocery chain.
  • CBS “60 Minutes” reported that weeks before the announcement, Publix donated $100,000 to DeSantis’ PAC.
  • DeSantis told “60 Minutes” that any suggestion of a pay-for-play partnership was “a fake narrative.”
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

Florida Governor Ron DeSantis faces questions over his vaccine distribution partnership with the Publix grocery store chain, which donated a total of $100,000 to his political action committee in the weeks leading up to the deal’s announcement, 60 Minutes revealed Sunday.

DeSantis refused an interview with 60 Minutes, but was confronted by a reporter about the timing of the Publix donations at a press conference last month, where the governor denied any wrongdoing.

“What you’re saying is wrong … That’s a fake narrative,” DeSantis said. “I met with the county mayor. I met with the administrator. I met with all the folks in Palm Beach County and I said, ‘Here’s some of the options. We can do more drive-thru sites. We can give more to hospitals. We can do the Publix.’ And they said, ‘We think that would be the easiest thing for our residents.'”

DeSantis announced in January that Publix would distribute COVID-19 vaccines through their pharmacies. The chain receives almost 1 in 4 of all Florida’s shots, according to local media.

A county commissioner, Melissa McKinlay, told 60 Minutes that the governor never met with her about the Publix partnership.

Publix responded to the criticism with a statement to 60 Minutes, calling the accusation that they paid for the chance to distribute the vaccines “absolutely false and offensive.”

publix
A Publix Food & Pharmacy store where COVID-19 vaccinations were being administered is seen on January 29, 2021 in Delray Beach, Florida.

“The irresponsible suggestion that there was a connection between campaign contributions made to Governor DeSantis and our willingness to join other pharmacies in support of the state’s vaccine distribution efforts is absolutely false and offensive. We are proud of our pharmacy associates for administering more than 1.5 million doses of vaccine to date and for joining other retailers in Alabama, Florida, Georgia, South Carolina, Tennessee and Virginia to do our part to help our communities emerge from the pandemic,” the statement read.

Insider reached out to both DeSantis and Publix for additional comment, but did not immediately receive a response Monday morning.

The details about the Publix donations and vaccine deal were part of a larger story into allegations of preferential treatment to wealthy Florida communities during the pandemic.

One of the flaws with the Publix partnership is that it made it difficult for residents in some poorer communities in Palm Beach County to get the vaccine.

In the community of Belle Glade, for example, the nearest Publix is 25 miles away, and for residents that don’t have a car, it takes two buses and a round trip of more than two hours.

Florida state Rep. Omari Hardy, a Democratic, told 60 Minutes that the vaccine rollout in the state “hasn’t worked for people of color.”

“Before, I could call the public health director. She would answer my calls. But now if I want to get my constituents information about how to get this vaccine I have to call a lobbyist from Publix? That makes no sense. They’re not accountable to the public,” Hardy said.

According to 60 Minutes, a federal complaint claims DeSantis discriminated when he picked where to hold pop-up vaccinations sites across the state.

60 Minutes detailed how DeSantis gave the community of Lakewood Ranch in Manatee County, one of the wealthiest enclaves in the state, 3,000 vaccines in February, after local developer Pat Neal donated $135,000 to the governor’s PAC.

DeSantis said he “saw a need” in the community to get vaccine rates up, despite the area having some of the lowest infection rates in the state.

And when he was questioned about the decision, DeSantis threatened to take the vaccines away.

“I mean if Manatee County doesn’t like us doing this, then we are totally fine with putting this in counties that want it,” DeSantis said, according to 60 Minutes.

Read the full story at 60 Minutes»

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Russia walked back its threat to totally block Twitter for failing to delete banned content

Vladimir Putin
Russia’s President Vladimir Putin.

  • Russia will extend a slowdown of Twitter until May 15, the state communications regulatory said.
  • Russia began throttling the service in March and threatened to ban it altogether over its alleged failure to delete prohibited content.
  • The regulator said Monday that Twitter has sped up the rate of deletion.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

Russia’s state communications regulator said on Monday it would extend its move to slow down Twitter until May 15, but that the US social media company was deleting content banned in Russia at a faster rate than it had been.

Russia said on March 10 that it was slowing down the speed of Twitter in retaliation for what it described as a failure to remove banned content, threatening to block the US platform outright if it did not comply with its deletion demands.

Monday’s statement walked back the threat of a ban. The regulator, Roskomnadzor, said Twitter had successfully begun removing content it deemed as child abuse, drug abuse, and suicide content. It said under Russian law, social networks have 24 hours to remove prohibited content, and claimed Twitter’s average removal time was around 81 hours.

It added that Twitter’s European policy VP, Sinead McSweeney, had held talks with Russian authorities on April 1 to explain its moderation changes.

Roskomnadzor said in its statement, translated via Google by Insider: “Taking into account the decision made by Twitter for the first time to change the principles and speed of its own moderation service in Russia and to remove a significant part of the prohibited content in this regard, Roskomnadzor decided not to proceed to the next measure – to completely block the work of the social network on the territory of the country, by extending the restriction Twitter traffic until May 15th.

“Thus, Twitter is given additional time to remove all prohibited content from the social network and bring its activities in full compliance with the laws of our country.”

The news comes after a new Russian law came into effect that requires all smartphones to come pre-installed with Russian software, such as those produced by home-grown giant Yandex.

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Hitler-loving Capitol insurrectionist with a history of multiple arrests and Jew-baiting had an Army award for ‘exemplary behavior’ and secret-level security clearance

timothy hale cusanelli hitler mustache
Images of Timothy Hale-Cusanelli, 30, sporting a Hitler mustache. These images were recovered from his cellphone by NCIS special agents.

  • Capitol rioter Timothy Hale-Cusanelli was “well-known” to his coworkers as a white supremacist.
  • An Insider investigation reveals a history of anti-Semitism and intimidating Jewish people.
  • The investigation also finds that the Hitler fanatic held a secret-level security clearance despite multiple arrests.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

Timothy Hale-Cusanelli liked to impersonate Adolf Hitler. He would strut around his workplace sporting a Hitler mustache, spouting vicious anti-Semitism while his intimidated colleagues did not dare to confront him.

It’s no surprise that the 30-year-old New Jersey native, a far-right fanatic, was among many extremists that stormed the Capitol.

An Insider investigation can reveal what is shocking is that Hale-Cusanelli, a Navy contractor, held a secret-level security clearance at the Naval Weapons Station Earle and had received numerous honors for his service in the Army Reserves.

Hale-Cusanelli also has a history of arrests and antagonizing his local Jewish community, the investigation finds.

The insurrectionist’s disturbing world has only now come to light because he faces several criminal counts, including obstructing a law enforcement officer and civil disorder, relating to his role in the insurrection of January 6.

‘The makeshift weapon was inscribed with …. a drawing of a confederate flag’

Even the most cursory of background checks by the Navy or the Army would have revealed that Hale-Cusanelli began dabbling with white supremacist philosophy at least a decade ago.

Hale-Cusanelli lives in Colts Neck, New Jersey. He was arrested, nearby, in August 2010 on charges of unlawful possession of a weapon and criminal mischief, Howell Municipal Court records show.

According to a March court filing, the incident involved Hale-Cusanelli and a friend using a “potato” gun to shoot frozen corn at houses. The crude weapon used was inscribed with the words “WHITE IS RIGHT” and a drawing of a confederate flag, the documents said.

Hale-Cusanelli was found guilty of criminal mischief, paid a $180 fine, and the other charges were dismissed. But this was the first of many brushes with the law and early indicators of far-right views.

Run-ins with the police

Since his first arrest in 2010, Hale-Cusanelli has been charged over 30 times, according to court records.

Prior to the January 6 siege of the Capitol, court records show a string of minor infractions and some more serious charges – but no felonies.

In 2011, Hale-Cusanelli was arrested for stabbing another man in the abdomen, Asbury Park Press reported.

He was accused of an aggravated assault attempt, causing bodily injury with a deadly weapon, possession of a weapon for unlawful purposes, unlawful possession of weapons, and simple assault, Freehold Municipal Court records show.

“There was an altercation between his mother and her then-boyfriend who became violent when intoxicated,” Hale-Cusanell’s attorney wrote in the defendant’s motion for modification of bond. “Based upon information and belief, Mr. Hale-Cusanelli intervened to protect his mother and was subsequently arrested.”

The case was moved to the state Superior Court but records do not show that it resulted in a conviction.

A year later, Hale-Cusanelli was charged with breach of peace, found guilty, and fined $189, according to Howell Municipal Court records.

Hale-Cusanelli was arrested again in 2013 following an investigation into scrap metal theft, Freehold Patch reported in 2013. Most of the charges were dismissed but he was found guilty of loitering and failure to have his car inspected, Manalapan Municipal Court records show.

Hale-Cusanelli threatened Jews. He said he was going to show up at their homes on the Sabbath.

Between 2013 and 2020, Hale-Cusanelli added Jew-baiting to his resume of petty crime and delinquency.

He was found guilty and fined for littering on state property in 2014, according to Freehold Township Municipal Court records. He also pleaded guilty to driving an unregistered motor vehicle a year later, according to Mansfield Township Municipal Court records.

But a more serious charge against him emerged in early 2020. Hale-Cusanelli was reported to the police on two occasions for engaging in anti-Semitic harassment.

Members of New Jersey’s Jewish community had already felt the force of his Jew-hatred.

“Those who followed anti-Semitism in the area knew about Hale-Cusanelli,” a New Jersey rabbi, who wished to remain anonymous, told Insider.

The insurrectionist was a member of the ‘Rise Up Ocean County’ Facebook page – a controversial page rampant with anti-Semitism that New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy eventually condemned.

In 2019, Murphy’s administration sent a letter to Facebook addressing concerns with “racist and anti-Semitic statements on the page, including an explicit goal of preventing Orthodox Jews from moving to Ocean County.”

Facebook eventually removed it.

During the height of its popularity, Hale-Cusanelli was ominously vocal on the ‘Rise Up Ocean County’ page.

The original group’s moderator, Richard Ciullo, told Insider that Hale-Cusanelli had made multiple “incendiary” comments on the page and was eventually banned. Insider has seen screenshots confirming Hale-Cusanelli’s involvement.

In February 2020, the insurrectionist got into an online argument with Jewish commenters.

“Hale-Cusanelli was making veiled threats, saying that he was going to show up to people’s houses on the Sabbath,” the New Jersey rabbi said.

One of the people impacted by the Facebook feud reported Hale-Cusanelli to the police for anti-Semitic harassment on February 29, 2020.

“Hale-Cusanelli made vague threats stating, ‘I’m not scared of people knowing my face, I’m happy to be a lightning rod. Make me famous as your own risk,'” a police report seen by Insider said. Hale-Cusanelli also included references to the individual’s address, it said.

A week later, another person reported Hale-Cusanelli for anti-Semitic harassment and cyberharassment.

Toms River Police Department confirmed both of these incidents.

County prosecutors were also aware of Hale-Cusanelli’s provocative anti-Semitic behavior. He was on their “radar,” a press officer at the Office of the Ocean County Prosecutor told Insider.

A social media troll

Hale-Cusanelli deleted his Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter accounts in an attempt to “obstruct or destroy evidence” before his arrest, federal prosecutors said.

Insider, however, has seen verified screenshots of Hale-Cusanelli’s now-deleted Twitter posts. In one post, the insurrectionist refers to Jews as “locusts.” In another, he targeted New Jersey’s Orthodox Jewish community.

timothy hale cusanelli memes
Anti-Semitic memes digitally recovered from Timothy Hale-Cusanelli’s phone.

He used his Twitter account to promote his YouTube show, “Based Hermes,” which he also deleted after the Capitol riots.

However, special agents from the Naval Criminal Investigative Service were able to recover content relating to the show. One YouTube teaser, included in a court filing, showed the insurrectionist falsely claiming that Jewish people were behind 9/11.

Hale-Cusanelli’s lawyer, Jonathan Zucker, argued in the defendant’s pretrial release that the YouTube channel was “controversial” but was primarily about New Jersey politics. Prosecutors refute this.

Investigators also uncovered hundreds of anti-Black and anti-Semitic memes from his cellphone, the court filings show.

A 2019 photo of Hale-Cusanelli displaying the “OK” hand gesture – a hate symbol associated with the far-right and white supremacy – was retrieved too.

Screenshot 2021 03 20 at 16.04.38
A photograph of Timothy Hale-Cusanelli displaying the “OK” hand gesture – a symbol commonly used by white supremacists. This photograph from August 16, 2019, was recovered by special agents from his cellphone.

Several images of the young man sporting a Hitler mustache and haircut were also found.

Hale-Cusanelli received several honors for his service in the Army Reserves

These discoveries did not surprise Hale-Cusanelli’s co-workers at NWS Earle Security Forces.

Many who worked with him at the Naval base were aware of his anti-Semitic views, Insider previously reported.

One Navy Petty Officer said that it was “well-known” that Hale-Cusanelli did not like minorities or Jews. A Navy Seaman recalled an incident where he said that if he were a Nazi, he would “kill all the Jews and eat them for breakfast, lunch, and dinner.”

An HBC contractor said that spoke about his “dislike of Jews every day” and that people were afraid to report him because he was “crazy.”

timothy hale cusanelli
Digitally recovered images from Timothy Hale-Cusanelli’s phone of the man sporting a Hitler mustache on April 21, 2020.

Despite a history of arrests and racist behavior, Hale-Cusanelli received several honors for his Army Reserves service.

He joined in May 2009 and is still serving in the 174th Infantry Brigade out of Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst in New Jersey, an Army spokesperson said.

He has never been deployed but has received four Army awards; an Army Achievement Medal, an Army Reserve Components Achievement Medal, a National Defense Service Medal, and the Army Service Ribbon.

One honor bestowed upon him, the Army Reserve Components Achievement Medal, is awarded for meritorious service. The criteria for receiving it are “exemplary behavior, efficiency, and fidelity,” according to the Army’s website.

Insider, recognizing the discrepancy between Hale-Cusanelli’s problematic history and the criteria of this medal, asked the Army Reserves whether they were aware of his past behaviors.

“Sgt. Hale-Cusanelli’s leadership was not aware of his prior involvement with law enforcement, to include run-ins, arrests, or convictions, or of the videos posted on social media,” Simon B. Flake, the Army Reserve’s media chief, said.

Yet, despite the insurrectionist’s arrest for his involvement in the Capitol riots, he has not yet been discharged by the Army Reserves.

Flake told Insider: “The U.S. Army Reserve takes all allegations of Soldier or Army civilian involvement in extremist groups seriously and will address this issue in accordance with Army regulations and the Uniform Code of Military Justice to ensure due process. Extremist ideologies and activities directly oppose our values and beliefs and those who subscribe to extremism have no place in our ranks.”

‘He was granted a secret-level security clearance’

Similarly, the Navy had a blind spot when it came to Hale-Cusanelli and employed him as a security contractor at Naval Weapons Station Earle. His open adoration for Hitler, his vocal racism and anti-Semitism, were no barrier to advancement, and he was granted a secret-level security clearance.

NWS Earle
NWS Earle is located in Monmouth County, New Jersey.

A secret-level security clearance allows individuals access to information which if disclosed without authorization could reasonably be expected to “cause serious damage to the national security,” according to the Code of Federal Regulations.

To receive this level of security clearance requires a background check and the provision of vast quantities of personal information. A history or pattern of criminality might raise concerns about granting security clearance but it is not an automatic disqualifier, according to Military.com.

Showing an “enthusiasm for another Civil War,” as federal prosecutors suggest the evidence indicates of Hale-Cusanelli, would almost certainly disqualify an individual from gaining clearance.

Since his arrest, Hale-Cusanelli has been “barred” from the naval base, according to federal prosecutors.

Insider contacted the Navy Office of Information to ask about Hale-Cusanelli’s secret-level security clearance in light of former arrests. The office confirmed receipt of the request for comment but did not provide one.

Extremism within US military ranks

Prior to Hale-Cusanelli’s arrest for his involvement in the Capitol riots, there were clues that he held a white-supremacist ideology and might later participate in a violent crime. These signs, however, were not picked up on by military officials.

capitol riot military
In this Jan. 6, 2021 file photo rioters supporting President Donald Trump storm the Capitol in Washington.

Hale-Cusanelli was one of many active-duty military members involved in the deadly siege of the Capitol. Almost one in five rioters were active-duty members of veterans, Insider previously reported.

The astonishing statistic indicates a culture of extremism within the armed forces and, potentially, an inability to spot radicalization signs early on.

Hale-Cusanelli’s story is just one of many examples of white supremacy within the ranks of the US military going undetected. This, as the US witnessed on January 6, can have dire consequences.

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47 influential democracy activists charged in Hong Kong in China’s biggest crackdown yet under controversial new law

Benny Tai
Pro-Democracy Activist, Benny Tai, Arrives at Ma On Shan Police Station, to report to police in Hong Kong, Sunday, Feb 28, 2021.

  • Pro-democracy activists in Hong Kong were charged with a “conspiracy to commit subversion.”
  • China used its new law that allows it to set up a formal police presence, which it has used to round up activists.
  • Many of the movement’s major figures were charged.
  • Visit the Business section of Insider for more stories.

Dozens of pro-democracy activists in Hong Kong, including some of the movement’s major figures, were charged as part of China’s biggest crackdown yet under its new controversial security law.

Hong Kong police said they had charged the 47 individuals with a single count of “conspiracy to commit subversion.”

They said the group was made up of 39 men and 8 women, aged between 23 and 64, and that they will appear in court on Monday.

They were arrested in a dawn raid in January, accused of organizing and participating in an unofficial primary election last year to find candidates for a legislative council election, Reuters reported.

Mike Lam King-nam
Mike Lam King-nam, who participated in the pro-democracy primary elections, gives a hug to his wife ahead of reporting the Ma On Shan Police Station on February 28, 2021 in Hong Kong.

Reuters reported that those arrested include leading young activists, including Lester Shum, Joshua Wong, and Owen Chow.

 Major figures like Leung Kwok-hung, Eddie Chu, and Alvin Yeung were also arrested, according to Reuters, as was the legal figure and activist Benny Tai.

Supporters gathered outside police stations while they arrived, Reuters reported.

Sam Cheung, a 27-year-old who was among those charged, told reporters before he went into the station, “Hong Kongers have a really tough time these days,” according to Reuters.

He added: “I hope everyone won’t give up on Hong Kong,” he said, saying he hopes people “fight on.”

Beijing imposed the law in June 2020 that allows China to set up a formal police presence in Hong Kong.

The law increases the risk for people who protest and speak out against China and allows law enforcement to increase the detention of people who criticize the government.

An international backlash greeted it, and experts say that it fundamentally changes Hong Kong, ending the democratic freedoms that have been in place in the semi-autonomous city for decades. Many democracy activists have fled the city since the law was introduced.

The maximum penalty for each crime under the law is life in prison.

The news that the law was going to be introduced sparked new rounds of protests in Hong Kong, having already taken over the city to fight China’s proposed bill allowing Hong Kong residents to be extradited to China, as well as opposing police brutality.

But the law was still introduced.

In 2020, it was used to arrest Jimmy Lai, a prominent pro-democracy figure and owner of the pro-democracy Apple Daily newspaper.

The European Union Office in Hong Kong called for the immediate release of those arrested, Reuters reported.

It said: “The nature of these charges makes clear that legitimate political pluralism will no longer be tolerated in Hong Kong.”

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Archaeologists found the ‘Lamborghini’ of chariots preserved near Pompeii

Pompei chariot
A view of a chariot that was found north of Pompeii.

  • Archaeologists found a preserved ceremonial chariot near the ancient Roman city of Pompeii.
  • Experts say it’s not like anything found in Italy before and was likely used for ceremonies.
  • Pompeii was covered in volcanic ash in 79AD, meaning it stayed well preserved.
  • Visit Insider’s homepage for more stories.

Archaeologists in Italy discovered a remarkably well-preserved ceremonial chariot near the ancient Roman city of Pompeii.

A statement on the Pompeii site’s website called it an “exceptional discovery” because “it represents a unique find – which has no parallel in Italy thus far – in an excellent state of preservation.”

The eruption of Mount Vesuvius in 79AD covered the city in volcanic ash, leaving it preserved and one of the world’s most famous archaeological sites.

Massimo Osanna, the outgoing Director of the Archaeological Park, said in a statement that the chariot was likely used for festivities and parades or bringing a bride to her wedding rather than everyday use.

He said that this type of chariot “has never before emerged from Italian soil.”

The chariot has four wheels and parts made of iron and decorations made of bronze, tin, and wood.

Pompei chariot
A detail of the decoration of a chariot, with its iron elements, bronze decorations and mineralized wooden remains.

It was first located on January 7, but the excavation took weeks because the materials were fragile.

It “had miraculously been spared by both the collapse of the walls and ceiling of the room” that it was in and wasn’t damaged by people building illegal tunnels at the site.

Experts cheered the discovery.

Eric Poehler, a professor at the University of Massachusetts Amherst who studies Pompeii, said he was “astounded,” NPR reported.

“Many of the vehicles I’d written about before … are your standard station wagon or vehicle for taking the kids to soccer. This is a Lamborghini. This is an outright fancy, fancy car.”

Dario Franceschini, Italy’s Culture Minister, said Pompeii “continues to amaze us with its discoveries and it will do so for many years, with 20 hectares still to be dug up,” the BBC reported.

Discoveries in Pompeii have given us glimpses into ancient life.

Archaeologists previously made discoveries like an ancient fast-food counter, giving new insight into how people lived.

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Proud Boy who led the storming the Capitol had manuals for homemade guns, bombs, and poisons on his computer, feds say

Pezzola_composite_small capitol riots
Prosecutors allege these images show (L) Dominic Pezzola breaking into the Capitol with a riot shield, and (R) smoking a cigar inside the building.

  • A Proud Boy who led the Capitol break-in had bomb-making manuals on his computer, feds say.
  • Prosecutors said Dominic Pezzola was the cigar-smoking insurrectionist from January 20.
  • He has been indicted on numerous charges.
  • Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.

The bearded, cigar-smoking Proud Boys member led the Capitol’s invasion by a pro-Trump mob had manuals for making bombs, guns, and poisons on a thumb drive, federal prosecutors allege.

Dominic Pezzola, 43, was among the first rioters to charge the police lines during the Capitol’s insurrection following a pro-Trump rally on January 6, court documents say. 

The document, which argues for his pretrial detention, alleges he used a police riot shield to smash a Capitol window to let people in, making him “among the first – if not the first” to get inside the building.

His actions showed “planning, determination, and coordination,” prosecutors say.

The Proud Boys are a right-wing group of nationalists whose rallies are associated with violence and was a significant presence at the Capitol insurrection. Leader Enrique Tarrio was arrested the day before the riots on property destruction charges stemming from an earlier protest.

A police search of Pezzola’s home revealed a thumb drive containing hundreds of detailed pdfs, with titles including:

  • Several titles in a series called “Advanced Improvised Explosives.”
  • A book subtitled “The Ultimate DIY Machine Pistol.”
  • “Ragnar’s Big Book of Homemade Weapons.”
  • “The Advanced Anarchist’s Arsenal: Recipes for Improvised Incendiaries and Explosives.”

A lawyer for Pezzola, Mike Scibetta, did not immediately respond to Insider’s request for comment but told Reuters that the thumb drive had been given to Pezzola and contained “survivalist material.”  

“The government has cherry-picked a small portion of the paper to suit their narrative,” he told the news agency. 

Speaking to the Associated Press (AP), he described Pezzola as a family man for whom breaking into the Capitol would be “wildly out of character.” 

In separate events, the FBI now believes that pipe bombs found at the Capitol insurrection were put there the night before, according to CNN

In footage that he shared on social media, Pezzola smoked a cigar once inside the Capitol and bragged that he knew he and his could companions could “take this motherf—— over,” if they tried hard enough, prosecutors say. 

Court documents say Pezzola and a group of men then ended up in a confrontation with Capitol Police Officer Eugene Goodman, who drew the mob away from the Senate chamber.

Goodman was later hailed as a hero and escorted Vice-President Kamala Harris on President Joe Biden’s inauguration day. 

Pezzola_composite_small capitol riots
Prosecutors allege these images show (L) Dominic Pezzola breaking into the Capitol with a riot shield, and (R) smoking a cigar inside the building.

The bearded, cigar-smoking Proud Boys member led the Capitol’s invasion by a pro-Trump mob had manuals for making bombs, guns, and poisons on a thumb drive, federal prosecutors allege.

Dominic Pezzola, 43, was among the first rioters to charge the police lines during the Capitol’s insurrection following a pro-Trump rally on January 6, court documents say. 

The document, which argues for his pretrial detention, alleges he used a police riot shield to smash a Capitol window to let people in, making him “among the first – if not the first” to get inside the building.

His actions showed “planning, determination, and coordination,” prosecutors say.

The Proud Boys are a right-wing group of nationalists whose rallies are associated with violence and are accused of having a significant presence at the Capitol insurrection. Leader Enrique Tarrio was arrested ahead the day before the riots on property destruction charges stemming from an earlier protest.

A police search of Pezzola’s home revealed a thumb drive containing hundreds of detailed pdfs, with titles including:

  • Several titles in a series called “Advanced Improvised Explosives.”
  • A book subtitled “The Ultimate DIY Machine Pistol.”
  • “Ragnar’s Big Book of Homemade Weapons.”
  • “The Advanced Anarchist’s Arsenal: Recipes for Improvised Incendiaries and Explosives.”

A lawyer for Pezzola, Mike Scibetta, did not immediately respond to Insider’s request for comment but told Reuters that the thumb drive had been given to Pezzola and contained “survivalist material.”  

“The government has cherry-picked a small portion of the paper to suit their narrative,” he told the news agency. 

Speaking to the Associated Press (AP), he described Pezzola as a family man for whom breaking into the Capitol would be “wildly out of character.” 

In separate events, the FBI now believes that pipe bombs found at the Capitol insurrection were put there the night before, according to CNN

In footage that he shared on social media, Pezzola smoked a cigar once inside the Capitol and bragged that he knew he and his could companions could “take this motherf—— over,” if they tried hard enough, prosecutors say. 

Court documents say Pezzola and a group of men then ended up in a confrontation with Capitol Police Officer Eugene Goodman, who drew the mob away from the Senate chamber.

Goodman was later hailed as a hero and escorted Vice-President Kamala Harris on President Joe Biden’s inauguration day. 

A witness, who knows Pezzola as “Spaz,” told prosecutors that he was part of a group, who later bragged that they had been ready to kill every “m-f—er” they encountered. They wanted to target then-Vice President Mike Pence and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, he said.

They also discussed coming back on “the 20th,” understood to prosecutors as Biden’s inauguration day, the witness said. 

Unprecedented levels of security around both the Capitol and Washington DC accompanied Biden’s inauguration on January 20.

Pezzola went to ground after the riot, switching off his phone on January 9 and shaving off his beard, prosecutors said. Scibetta, the lawyer, disputed this interpretation, telling an ABC affiliate that there had not been a dramatic change to his appearance. 

When the manhunt reached his hometown of Rochester, New York, on January 15, Pezzol turned himself in.He was indicted on numerous charges, including conspiracy, civil disorder, unlawfully entering a restricted building, robbery, and assaulting officers, according to the Justice Department

Another Proud Boys member, 31-year-old William Pepe, was arrested on charges of conspiracy, civil disorder, and unlawfully entering restricted buildings or grounds, according to Reuters. 

They also discussed coming back on “the 20th,” understood to prosecutors as Biden’s inauguration day, the witness said. 

Unprecedented levels of security around both the Capitol and Washington DC accompanied Biden’s inauguration on January 20.

Pezzola went to ground after the riot, switching off his phone on January 9 and shaving off his beard, prosecutors said. Scibetta, the lawyer, disputed this interpretation, telling an ABC affiliate that there had not been a dramatic change to his appearance. 

When the manhunt reached his hometown of Rochester, New York, on January 15, Pezzol turned himself in.He was indicted on numerous charges, including conspiracy, civil disorder, unlawfully entering a restricted building, robbery, and assaulting officers, according to the Justice Department

Another Proud Boys member, 31-year-old William Pepe, was arrested on charges of conspiracy, civil disorder, and unlawfully entering restricted buildings or grounds, according to Reuters. 

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