Judge detains Capitol rioter who sported Hitler mustache to job at Navy facility
A U.S. Army reservist charged with storming the Capitol on Jan. 6 who was subsequently identified by numerous military colleagues as an overt white supremacist has been ordered detained pending trial. Federal district court Judge Trevor McFadden said he wrestled with whether Timothy Hale-Cusanelli’s “odious” beliefs were enough to justify pretrial detention, given that he isn’t charged with committing violence at the Capitol.
“There is substantial evidence here that for a number of years the defendant has apparently had kind of a near-Nazi racist ideology that has led him to use racist language, sexist language, has been generally engaged in hateful conduct, if not necessarily violent conduct toward a number of people with whom he’s had contact,” McFadden said. “Having said all that, we don’t typically penalize people for what they say or think.”
But McFadden said that the “close case” ultimately requires detention, in part because Hale-Cusanelli’s behavior and rhetoric had been escalating toward potential violence and that he presents a threat to a confidential source who helped identify him.
Hale-Cusanelli is the latest of the 300-plus people charged with breaching the Capitol to face pretrial detention, a step typically intended for those viewed as an “imminent threat” to the safety of their community. He’s also the most prominent of several figures arrested for their Jan. 6 actions who have been linked to white supremacist ideology.
Hale-Cusanelli’s case garnered national attention after prosecutors revealed a trove of white supremacist material on his phone and social media, even as Hale-Cusanelli worked as a contractor at a New Jersey-based naval weapons facility and held a secret-level security clearance. He was so open about his beliefs that he proudly sported a Hitler mustache to work, resulting in admonishment from superiors.
After his arrest, Navy investigators interviewed 44 of his colleagues, who overwhelmingly indicated that they viewed Hale-Cusanelli as a white nationalist with anti-semitic views.
Prosecutors revealed Tuesday that one of those 44 colleagues, Sgt. John Getz, has been placed on administrative leave for writing a letter to the court vouching for Hale-Cusanelli’s character even after he told investigators a different story.
Prosecutors emphasized that Hale-Cusanelli’s military service shouldn’t be a factor in his favor — in fact, they said, his conduct at the Capitol proves he was willing to violate his oath to the country.
“There’s no duty there. There’s no honor there. There’s certainly no loyalty there,” said Assistant U.S. Attorney James Nelson, ticking through the Army’s seven core principles.
“This is a man who proudly walked around with a Hitler mustache, espousing Nazi ideology, who ignored every oath he took on behalf of the United States army, stormed the Capitol and then went home and talked about how excited he was by it and wanted to participate in a civil war.”
Hale-Cusanelli’s lawyer, Jonathan Zucker, arguing for his pretrial release earlier this month, emphasized that Hale-Cusanelli had not been charged with committing any violence on Jan. 6, joined no anti-government groups and is accused of little more than entering the building and verbally harassing a Capitol police officer who deployed pepper spray at the crowd.
In court, Zucker repeated those arguments and said Hale-Cusanelli was willing to submit to conditions of pretrial release that would minimize even the prospect of danger to the community and the source who outed him.
“Past is prologue here,” Zucker said. “He’s never done anything like that in the past. He’s certainly had the opportunity. He has a gun in his hand 5 days a week and he’s never used that power.”
But McFadden said he was alarmed by Hale-Cusanelli’s increasingly violent rhetoric, especially given that he appears to have discerned the identity of the FBI’s confidential source.
“I am concerned given all the defendant’s — all of the things he’s said in the past about committing violence against those he feels are pitted against him,” McFadden said, “and given the sum of evidence that the defendant has been willing to put these thoughts into action.”
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