WASHINGTON (CN) — Among five indicted members of the Proud Boys facing seditious conspiracy charges, the only one who faces a single count for robbery faced damning testimony Tuesday from a former U.S. Capitol Police officer who withstood the attack on Jan. 6, 2021.
Marc Ode said he tried to use his shield during the mob scene to create space between the rioters and the police line but that members of the crowd grabbed his arm and pulled down to the ground.
“There were multiple people on top of me," Ode said of finding himself on his stomach, "and at that specific moment, I was incapable of moving.”
On top of that, Ode continued, his eyes were burning and he was having trouble breathing after someone had sprayed some kind of irritant. Ode said he was trying to remove his face mask while simultaneously protect the gun holstered on his side.
Someone on top of him then allegedly attempted to use Ode's own helmet to choke him.
“At that specific time,” he said, “I thought that, I’m not … going to make it out alive of that pile.”
Ode, who left the Capitol Police force in December, continued to narrate for the jury as a prosecutor displayed video footage from the riot as well as a sequence of photos that show an individual dressed in gray grabbing Ode's shield and pulling the officer down when he would not let go of it. While not named in the testimony Thursday, the rioter has been shown in charging papers to be Dominic Pezzola, one of five members of the Proud Boys being tried for seditious conspiracy in this case.
Pezzola, 45, of Rochester, New York, is the only one of the defendants to face a robbery charge. Footage from the riot entered into evidence shows him using a Capitol police officer's riot shield to break a window of the Capitol building, thus allowing the first wave of the mob to gain entry.
“The situation at the west front was dire,” Ode said Tuesday, describing a scene in which police were outnumbered in the order of hundreds, and both police and protesters were using chemical munitions.
Pezzola’s attorney sought on cross-examination to challenge Ode's testimony that his shield was taken from him by force, suggesting instead that the officer may have misplaced, lost or left it on the ground. Ode did not waver.
“I don’t believe that’s an accurate description that I dropped the shield,” the witness said. “It was taken from me.”
On redirect, Ode reiterated for the prosecution that the reason he fell to the ground was that the individuals in the photos “were grabbing my shield and my hand and forcefully pulling me down to the ground.”
In one video of the incident shown to the jury, a person wearing a hat can be seen picking up a shield from the ground. Another video shows a person with a shield but no hat. Neither the witness nor defense counsel commented on whether the individual in either video was dressed in gray.
Ode is the 11th witness to testify for the government. The jury also heard brief testimony on Tuesday from Elizabeth Kate Cain, an FBI agent who spoke briefly about the bureau’s process of extracting data from phones. Cain's testimony will continue Wednesday with an expected focus about messages sent on the social media app Telegram in the days leading up to the Jan. 6 attack.
Standing trial alongside Pezzola are Enrique Tarrio, who is the leader of the Proud Boys; Ethan Nordean, self-described Proud Boys sergeant-at-arms from Auburn, Washington; Joseph Biggs, of Ormond Beach, Florida; and Zachary Rehl, former president of the Proud Boys chapter in Philadelphia.
In addition to seditious conspiracy, which carries a 20-year maximum prison sentence, the defendants all face one count of conspiracy to prevent an officer from discharging any duties. All have pleaded not guilty.
U.S. District Judge Timothy Kelly, a Trump appointee, is presiding over the trial.
The government has so far charged approximately 985 people in connection with the Capitol riot. As of Feb. 6, about 375 people had pleaded guilty to misdemeanors, and about 125 had pleaded guilty to felonies. Approximately 220 people have been sentenced to prison time.
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