Greene, of Syracuse, New York, joined the Proud Boys in early December 2020. He had known of them since 2016 when he first saw a video of Proud Boys “standing up to street violence,” he said.
“In my mind,” he said, “they were defending the defenseless.”
By November 2020, when Greene watched from afar as Proud Boys rallied in Washington for the “Million MAGA March,’ he was sold. He looked up the Proud Boys online, found his local chapter in New York, and contacted the self-proclaimed “western chauvinist” network. Within two weeks, after submitting a few paragraphs about why he wanted to join and what he could do to “help”—plus a video of himself reciting the Proud Boys mantra—he was in.
When the ‘Stop the Steal’ rally came to D.C. in December, Greene attended. It was his first Proud Boys rally and it fueled him, he told jurors, to pursue a “first-degree” membership in the group. He achieved his goal and in the process, became closer to fellow New York Proud Boy Dominic Pezzola.
They would talk often about their politics and where they thought the country was headed. Greene believed the election was stolen and Pezzola did too, he said. In one conversation the men had, Greene recalled Pezzola telling him, “I’m 40-something years old. I should be thinking about retirement, not fighting a civil war.”
“We were openly expecting a civil war at that point,” Greene said Tuesday.
The tenor of their discussions was often “angry” and “heated,” after the election, he said, and in particular, after Trump’s lawsuits contesting the results had failed at the U.S. Supreme Court.
Proud Boys became “ready and willing for whatever was going to happen,” he said.
Greene, a former U.S. Army National Guardsman who served in Afghanistan from 2010 to 2011, arrived in D.C. on the night of Jan. 5 and checked into a Marriott near the Capitol. He and Pezzola had traveled in separate cars from New York with three other members.
The group was split; Greene rode in one car with Proud Boy William Pepe and Pezzola rode in the other. Pepe, then the leader of the Proud Boys Hudson Valley division, was indicted on Jan. 29 alongside Pezzola. He currently awaits trial and is facing multiple charges including conspiracy, obstruction of an official proceeding, robbery, and more.
A month before their fateful trip, Greene said he watched as Pezzola tried to position himself closer to the leader of the Proud Boys, Henry “Enrique” Tarrio.
Greene conceded that he didn’t know every maneuver Pezzola may have made to elevate himself to Tarrio’s side, but he recalled how Pezzola had tried to stand out.
During the Dec. 12 rally, Pezzola, like Greene, was just a “prospect” in the New York Proud Boys chapter. To ascend the ranks, Proud Boys must meet certain criteria. (The highest degree, or fourth-degree membership, allegedly requires a member to engage in physical violence.)
When Proud Boy Jeremy Bertino was stabbed during the December rally, Greene recalled how Pezzola told him he had “cracked someone over the head” with a motorcycle helmet who he suspected had stabbed Bertino. This act ingratiated Pezzola to the higher-ups.
On Jan. 6, Greene stayed close to Pezzola, he said. He knew Pezzola had military experience (he is a former Marine) and he knew that Pezzola was scrappy.
Pezzola, like his co-defendants on trial including Tarrio, Ethan Nordean, Joseph Biggs, and Zachary Rehl, faces multiple charges including seditious conspiracy. But he is unique from his co-defendants in that he is the only member of this trial group charged with robbery. Prosecutors say Pezzola stole a police riot shield on Jan. 6 and then used it to smash open a window at the Capitol before crawling inside.
Greene testified that he didn’t see Pezzola steal the shield in the melee on Jan. 6.
In a remarkable piece of footage shown to jurors on Tuesday, Pezzola is seen in the middle of a thick crowd as a clash between rioters and police breaks out on the Capitol’s lower west front. Pezzola is visible in the footage and can be seen leaning down before popping back up with a riot shield.
Cross-examination of Greene got underway late Tuesday and it is expected to continue on Wednesday. Nick Smith, an attorney for Ethan Nordean, peppered Greene with questions and worked to impeach his credibility while simultaneously attempting to cast doubt on the allegations that Proud Boys orchestrated a conspiracy to stop Congress from certifying the results of the 2020 election.
When Proud Boys overran the first barrier, Greene said it seemed like it was a “spontaneous riot.”
It reminded him of a “food riot” he experienced during his time in Afghanistan. Greene told Smith while he was there, he once gave a child some food but didn’t have enough for all. Other children and people surrounding him became enraged and within moments, a food stall was knocked over.
Even though Greene, who was still an entry-level Proud Boy at the time of the insurrection, said repeatedly Tuesday that he didn’t think there was a specific plan in place to attack the Capitol, he did tell jurors that he agreed to stop the certification with Pezzola implicitly.
For the Justice Department to secure a successful conviction, implicit agreement to a conspiracy is acceptable. The bar does not have to be raised to an explicit agreement. And further, the government does not have to prove that the plans were made in advance, only that there was some kind of mutual meeting of the minds.
When Smith asked Greene if he believed his fellow Proud Boys agreed implicitly to stop the certification, Greene replied: “It seemed everybody had that idea.”
For a blow-by-blow, check out the Daily Kos live-blog or check out the live Twitter feed that starts below:
We've got a special double-barreled, two-guest show for you on this week's episode of The Downballot! First up is Tiffany Muller, the president of End Citizens United, who discusses her group's efforts to roll back the corrupting effects of the Supreme Court's Citizens United decision as we hit the ruling's 13th anniversary. Muller tells us about ECU's short- and long-term plans to enact serious campaign finance reform; how the organization has expanded into the broader voting rights arena in recent years; and research showing the surprising connection many voters drew between the GOP's attacks on democracy and their war against abortion rights.
Then we're joined by law professor Quinn Yeargain to gape slack-jawed at the astonishing setback Gov. Kathy Hochul experienced in the state capitol on Wednesday when a Democratic-led Senate committee rejected her conservative pick to lead New York's top court. Yeargain explains why Hochul's threatened lawsuit to force the legislature to hold a full floor vote on Hector LaSalle defies 250 years of precedent and what will happen if she eventually retreats—as she manifestly should.