Tattoo artist Roberto Minuta, 38; chiropractor Joseph Hackett, 52; Neurophysiologist David Moerschel, 45, and Army veteran Edward Vallejo, 64, were convicted in January of several additional charges, including conspiring to obstruct congressional confirmation of the election results of 2020 and obstruction of proceedings.
Hackett and Moerschel brought firearms to the Washington area from southwest Florida, while Vallejo, of Phoenix, was put in charge of the arsenal of those weapons staged at an Arlington hotel. The weapons were to be flown to Washington in case the Oathkeepers needed an armed “quick reaction force” if Trump invoked the “Insurrection Act” and mobilized the military and private militia to stay in power. Vallejo repeatedly signaled he was ready to act on Jan. 6, but he was not called to the scrum, according to trial evidence.
In sentencing Minuta to 4½ years in prison on Thursday, U.S. District Judge Amit P. Mehta said citizens are free to peacefully protest, engage in civil disobedience, and exercise the right to vote for s to oppose the “tyranny” of the government in a democracy. But he called the use of violence against the government a “line that cannot be crossed”.
“Soaking up and camouflaging yourself in this tradition of Founders and violent uprisings and believing that the Second Amendment allows individual citizens to muster arms to fight their government – the law doesn’t allow that, and that’s why you find yourself where you are today,” Mehta told Minuta.
Minuta said he was “ashamed” and “deeply sorry” for the violence, and had disowned the Oath Keepers organization.
“I was misled and naive,” Minuta said. “A deranged leader has dragged the organization into a ‘Rah-rah Trump’ political disaster,” he said, referring to Rhodes.
Minuta, 38, had raced to the Capitol in a golf cart near a hotel where he was a bodyguard for Trump’s political confidant Roger Stone. Minuta then helped lead a second line of Oath Keepers into the Capitol about 30 minutes after a first group entered.
Minuta, of Prosper, Texas, shouted, “Patriots are storming[ed] the Capitol” and that he was joining “the war in the streets” as he walked towards the building. There, wearing a body armor, ballistic gloves and other tactical gear, Minuta assaulted and shoved riot police, for which he was also convicted. Prosecutors have requested a 17-year sentence.
Minuta bought 5,500 rounds of ammunition before January 6, according to evidence. Days before the riots, he wrote after speaking with Rhodes that the Oath Keepers founder believed “the time for peaceful protests is over”. As he exited the Capitol during the riot, he told police, “All that’s left is the Second f——g Amendment.”
The judge dismissed Minuta’s claim that he simply “got lost for a few hours” or walked into the Capitol trying to help police. He also noted that Minuta called the January 6 defendants “political prisoners” and victims of a “malicious prosecution”, and wrote on a fundraising site: “The government has been armed to destroy dissidents”. .
Vallejo received 3 years in prison and a year of house arrest after his release. Prosecutors have also requested a 17-year sentence for him.
Prosecutors said Vallejo traveled across the country to participate in the “rapid reaction force” and appealed to Trump supporters to come to Washington “armed, in large groups” so that “the police do not want not fight”.
On the morning of January 6, Vallejo recorded a podcast declaring that there would be a “guerrilla war” if Congress rejected Trump, then reminded the co-conspirators as they entered the Capitol that he was “equipped ” of two trucks to bring weapons, send SMS, “QRF waiting at the hotel. Just say the word. …”
Vallejo’s attorney, Matthew Peed, called for 20 months or time served, urging Mehta to consider that his client was not on Capitol Hill, committed no violence and was motivated to protect democracy, not to betray her.
Trump “twisted the best traits of people who thought they were telling the truth,” Peed said, “so people loyal and patriotic to this country were ready to support some kind of force if asked.”
Vallejo said during his sentencing, “I thought our democracy was undermined and I wanted to do everything I could to protect it…I see now how stupid and wrong I was.”
Vallejo said he lost his job as a veteran’s care provider after January 6, that he never wished to follow Rhodes or go to Washington, and that he greatly regretted “all my senseless statements” and ” all the people had to go through that fateful day”. .”
Mehta said Vallejo’s seditious conspiracy crime was in a different league than other nonviolent Jan. 6 offenders.
“You can’t conspire to overturn a result or prevent a result from happening because you and a group of your cohorts thought the process failed you,” Mehta said, adding that Trump was given the opportunity to plead his case. case in court, appeal to Supreme Court and Congress. “What cannot happen, Mr. Vallejo, is [joining] others and preparing to take up arms because the process has not gone as you hoped.
Moerschel, of North Port, Fla., hadn’t met any of the other oath keepers in person until Jan. 4, 2021, but his rhetoric in group chats was on par with that of the other members. “Trump knows this is a communist takeover,” Moerschel wrote in December 2020. “What is he waiting for?”
Moerschel was part of a trailer from Florida, along with Hackett and Kelly Meggs, in which Moerschel carried an AR-15 rifle and a .45 caliber Glock handgun to Virginia. He said in a message that he brought the high-powered handgun because “I want some extra knockdown power,” prosecutors said.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Troy Edwards said Moerschel brought the guns to be ready if Trump, Rhodes or Meggs told him “it’s time to go.” The safety of our community and the balance of our democracy must not depend on the impulses of madmen.
Moerschel cried throughout his statement to Mehta. “I’m not sorry because I’m being punished,” Moerschel said. “I am sorry because of the harm my actions have caused to other people. … It has indeed led to the total ruin of my life, and I have asked God’s forgiveness.
Prosecutors have requested a 10-year sentence. Mehta imposed a 3-year sentence. In 31 convictions, including 14 felonies, Mehta fell short of the government’s demand each time.
“Convictions should not be vengeful,” Mehta said. “It shouldn’t be such that he’s unduly harsh just to be tough.” He allowed Moerschel to leave the courthouse and go at his convenience.
Hackett, of Sarasota, was also in the Florida trailer and also provided at least one handgun, and possibly an AR-15 rifle, to weapons kept in Arlington, prosecutors said. He joined the Oath Keepers in July 2020 after fearing riots near his home following the police killing of George Floyd, defense attorney Angela Halim said. He thought the Oath Keepers focused on community protection and emergency preparedness.
But over the next few months, the Oath Keepers’ online discussions escalated and Hackett pledged to ‘demand the arrest of corrupt politicians’ who took part in an ‘unconstitutional election’. On Jan. 6, he donned military gear and joined the line of oath keepers who climbed the steps of the Capitol, then separated from the group and stood outside the office of Nancy Pelosi (D-California). Prosecutors have requested a 12-year prison sentence.
“I regret being there that day,” Hackett told the judge. “I regret joining the Oath Keepers. When I heard police officers and others testify about how scared they were, how terrified their families were, it broke my heart. apologize to the police officers on duty that day.
Mehta sentenced Hackett to 42 months, six months longer than Moerschel due to Hackett’s leadership position in the Florida Oath Keepers.