A former Army Reservist with a history of neo-Nazi rhetoric and imagery will spend the next four years in prison following his felony conviction in connection with the siege of the U.S. Capitol, a federal judge ruled on Thursday.
The sentence, though one of the heaviest to date on the Jan 6 docket, is a little more than two years shorter than prosecutors requested following his conviction for felony obstruction of an official proceeding and multiple misdemeanors.
Timothy Hale-Cusanelli, who once held a “Secret” security clearance, came to symbolize for many how extremists penetrated the U.S. military and joined the attack on the U.S. Capitol. Court papers showed him posing as Adolf Hitler, sporting the genocidal dictator’s mustache and mannerisms. His defense attorney insisted the images misrepresented Hale-Cusanelli, whom the lawyer claimed was spoofing coronavirus lockdowns as authoritarian.
Playing down his client’s white supremacist associations at every turn, Hale-Cusanelli’s defense attorney asserts that the images and quotations were taken out of context. But a wealth of other evidence showed the ex-Army reservist voicing, embracing and signaling support for the Nazi regime.
A government informant quoted Hale-Cusanelli saying Hitler should have “finished the job” and expressing other virulently antisemitic and racist sentiments. Government investigators found 34 co-workers willing to speak about Hale-Cusanelli “having extremist or radical views pertaining to the Jewish people, minorities, and women.”
Shortly before his sentencing, U.S District Judge Trevor McFadden, a Donald Trump appointee, denied Hale-Cusanelli’s request for a new trial. The judge rejected the defense’s argument that the court should have barred any evidence of his incendiary and racist remarks. McFadden said that he only admitted comments that spoke to his motive for entering the Capitol.
According to NBC’s coverage of the sentencing, McFadden skewered Hale-Cusanelli’s attempt to have a jury believe that he did not realize that there were lawmakers inside the Capitol.
“I know this sounds idiotic, but I’m from New Jersey,” Hale-Cusanelli testified at trial.
That was a “risible lie,” McFadden reportedly said.
According to the network, Hale-Cusanelli admitted that he says “ugly things” that many find “repugnant.”
“I disgraced my uniform, and I disgraced the country,” he reportedly said.
His adoptive aunt Cynthia Hughes, whom prosecutors said spearheaded a fundraising initiative, submitted a letter to the court insisting her nephew doesn’t have a “racist bone in his body.”
An NPR investigation of the initiative the Patriot Freedom Project showed that seven of Hale-Cusanelli’s fellow inmates confirmed he made antisemitic statements or drawings. Another compared his renderings to Nazi propaganda cartoons of Jews.
Alluding to the report, prosecutors described the fundraising project as a driver of radicalization behind bars.
“Sources inside the jail also reported that Hale-Cusanelli has used the power of a fundraising organization spearheaded by his adoptive aunt to organize inmates and curry favor,” the sentencing memo states. “One inmate said the situation was like ‘the movie Mean Girls, but with racist, antisemitic extremists.’”
Prosecutors say that Hale-Cusanelli used tactical hand signals and commands as he and other rioters entered the building.
“Days after the incident, Hale-Cusanelli told a friend that being in the Capitol was ‘exhilarating,’ he was hoping for a ‘civil war,’ and that the ‘tree of liberty must be refreshed with the blood of patriots and tyrants,'” the Justice Department’s press release notes.
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