A white supremacist Army Reservist’s trial was postponed by a federal judge during a hearing on Wednesday in a case related to the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol.
Timothy Louis Hale-Cusanell had been heading toward a speedy trial on Nov. 9, over prosecutors’ objections that the schedule would not give them enough time to sift through “voluminous” discovery including thousands of hours of digital evidence.
Now, proceedings are on pace to cap off in the spring of 2022.
U.S. District Judge Trevor N. McFadden, a Donald Trump appointee, previously seemed disinclined to accept that. Having previously ordered Hale-Cusanelli to await trial from jail, Judge McFadden indicated that he had to respect the defendant’s speedy trial rights, but constitutional matters ultimately gave way to more mundane concerns. The judge said that logistics in the light of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic would not permit his intended trial date.
“Like I said, I think it would be very difficult to do a trial by Nov. 9 or thereabouts,” the judge said, adding that he expects back-to-back trial around that time range.
The judge set a new trial date for Monday, May 23, 2022.
Capitol Breach Discovery Coordinator Emily Miller argued that the judge should also accept the government’s arguments on principle.
“To be absolutely clear, we are not trying to say that this will never end,” Miller said, referring to the discovery process.
A Navy contractor at a weapons facility in New Jersey, Hale-Cusanelli’s extremist ideology and alleged antics on Jan. 6 are chronicled at length in court papers. Prosecutors embedded photographs showing him posing with an Adolf Hitler mustache and sharing racist memes about Black people and Jews. When authorities searched his apartment, investigators found copies of Hitler’s Mein Kampf and neo-Nazi writer William Luther Pierce’s The Turner Diaries, the same book that inspired Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh.
Amplifying the stakes of the scheduling matter, Hale-Cusanelli has been ordered to stay behind bars until trial.
“There is absolutely a prejudice to him in that regard,” his lawyer Jonathan W. Crisp said.
“I’m not sure that even then the government will come back here and say that this will be an indefinite inquiry,” the lawyer added.
Though initially freed pending trial by a magistrate judge, that ruling was overturned on a U.S. district judge and upheld by the court of appeals.
The D.C. Circuit ruling against him affirming his confinement established that a defendant need not be accused of engaging in violence to face pre-trial detention. Hale-Cusanelli hoped to benefit from an appellate court decision releasing so-called “zip tie guy” Eric Munchel, who was photographed carrying plastic handcuffs inside the Senate.
“We did not hold in Munchel that only those persons who participated in violence on January 6 could properly be considered as posing a future danger to the community justifying pretrial detention,” U.S. Circuit Judge Robert Wilkins noted in July.
“To the contrary, we explained in Munchel that a person could be deemed a danger to the community sufficient to justify detention even without posing a threat of committing violence in the future,” Wilkins added.
For Wilkins, and the other members of the three judge panel, Hale-Cusanelli’s extreme views on “civil war” signaled that danger.
The appellate judges quoted Hale-Cusanelli saying: “Thomas Jefferson said the tree of liberty should be refreshed with the blood of patriots and tyrants.”
Judge McFadden ultimately rejected Hale-Cusanelli’s Sixth Amendment arguments, noting that a period of 14 months until trial would only slightly surpass the typical one-year speedy trial clock. That would be justified given that the scale of the investigation is “unprecedented,” he said.
The coronavirus pandemic threw another wrench in the proceedings, he noted.
[Photo of Hale-Cusanelli via the Justice Department]
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