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latest news Riot on Capitol Hill: OC man charged with conspiracy

Two Orange County extremists – a former police chief and his partner in organizing Stop the Steal rallies – have been indicted along with members of the Three Percenters militia over their role in the January 6 Capitol uprising .

Alan Hostetter, the former head of the La Habra Police Department, has been indicted along with fellow Californians Russell Taylor, Erik Scott Warner, Felipe Antonio “Tony” Martinez, Derek Kinnison and Ronald Mele on several counts.

Although all are accused of being in restricted areas of the Capitol, Warner is the only defendant to be accused of entering the building, through a broken window. Kinnison and Warner are accused of destroying evidence, while Taylor also faces a count of carrying a knife with a blade larger than 3 inches.

The grand jury indictment, unsealed Thursday, alleges the men conspired on social media before the riot – including on a Telegram channel dubbed Answer the Call and via text messages – creating plans to trip which included a discussion of bringing weapons to the Capitol. On the day of the riot, they violated no-go areas on the Capitol and encouraged others to do so as well, posting videos and photos as they went, according to the indictment.

The indictment is the latest in a series linked to the rioters and it is not the first time that federal prosecutors have accused the insurgency of participating in a conspiracy – accusations stemming mainly from attempts to erase the traces social media after the event. Members of the Proud Boys and the Oath Keepers have previously been charged with conspiracy. But the charges involving the six Californian men are the first time that several members or associates of the Three Percent have faced the criminal charge. Since Jan. 6, around 465 people have been arrested on charges related to violating the Capitol, with more than 130 charged with assault or obstructing law enforcement, officials from the US Department of Justice say. .

Prosecutors allege that as early as November, the men were communicating on social media platforms, including Telegram, about their anger at the presidential election results. Kinnison, Mele, Warner and Martinez allegedly joined a discussion started by Hostetter, posing as members of the Three Percentages.

As their trip to Washington drew closer, they announced that they were bringing shotguns, radios with earbuds, and ammunition.

On December 29, prosecutors allege that Taylor wrote on Telegram that “I personally want to be on the front steps and be one of the first to walk through the doors!” “

That same day, Taylor texted Hostetter asking if he was bringing any guns, according to the indictment. Hostetter reportedly replied, “NO NEVER (Instagram is now monitoring all text messages … this is a public service announcement.)”

Hostetter then texted three emojis of “laughing faces with tears streaming from their eyes,” according to court documents.

Hostetter and Taylor reportedly connected with the other four men via social media, where they identified themselves as “part of so cal 3%,” a reference to the Three Percenters, an anti-government extremist group that often includes ex-servicemen and women. law enforcement. members.

The charges represent the first conspiracy allegation against members of the Three Percentages.

A US Department of Justice official said five of the six men were in custody.

Hostetter traveled to Santa Ana, according to an FBI spokeswoman. Martinez appeared in Texas court Thursday morning and Mele, Kinnison and Warner will appear in Riverside court.

Laura Eimiller, spokesperson for the FBI in Los Angeles, said Hostetter will appear in federal court in Orange County on Thursday. Taylor is expected to appear with him, although he has yet to surrender, according to the FBI.

“Mr. Taylor has never been part of any organized militia,” said Dyke Huish, his lawyer. “After six months without hearing anything, we were very surprised at the government’s position and will challenge it if necessary. “

Huish described the American Phoenix Project, the organization Hostetter founded to push his plots, as “three guys who organized some things and gave speeches. They are not militias.

Videos from the January 6 riot show Taylor acting mostly on his own, joining a crowd outside the gates of the Capitol shouting at a line of police officers and sometimes attempting to walk through them. Huish confirmed that Taylor carried a large knife, its handle visible from his jacket.

The third director of the American Phoenix Project, Morton Irvine Smith, was not named in the indictment. Smith had joined Taylor and Hostetter in Washington, but said when the crowds started to pour into the Capitol, he didn’t follow.

Hostetter is a ponytailed yoga teacher who found a second life in the New Age industry after leaving law enforcement.

Taylor is a tech entrepreneur who called his red Corvette the “Patriot Missile.”

The two appeared to have formed a bond in recent months over their common disregard for coronavirus restrictions, and later a false belief that the presidential election result had been tampered with by illegal voting and conspiracies involving the machines that counted the voices. These theories have been largely debunked.

But the two were the leaders in organizing the Stop the Steal rallies in California and in planning the trip to Washington, DC, according to court documents. On January 1, prosecutors allege that Taylor started a Telegram conversation titled “The California Patriots-DC Brigade” which Warner, Kinnison, Martinez and Mele joined, identifying as “part of the 3% group.”

The group, according to court documents, described itself as serving as a communication point for activists heading to Capitol Hill.

At the rally, prosecutors allege that Taylor urged rioters to try to get through the police, shouting “Come on the Americans.”

Taylor took a selfie video as he and Hostetter made their way down Pennsylvania Avenue to the Capitol, police lights and officers gathered and Taylor said, “We’ll see who these guys end up working for.” They joined the rioters on the Lower West Terrace, and Taylor could be seen carrying a knife in his front chest pocket of his plate-holder jacket and urging “the rioters to cross another line of officers on a lower level.” .

Martinez and Kinnison, wearing gas masks, were present among the rioters on the Capitol’s restricted upper west terrace, while Mele took a selfie on her cell phone, declaring: “We have stormed the Capitol.”

Hostetter can be seen armed with his megaphone, but urging protesters repelled by police to be careful: to walk, not to run.

Social media images showed Hostetter and Taylor smiling from one of the terraces as the Capitol was under siege.

The accused were Hosetter, 56, of San Clemente; Taylor, 40, of Ladera Ranch; Warner, 45 from Menife; Mele, 51, from Temecula: and Martinez, 47, and Kinnison, 39, both from Lake Elsinore.

They each face a charge of conspiracy to obstruct formal proceedings, obstruct formal proceedings, obstruct law enforcement in a civil disorder and two counts of ‘entry and stay on restricted grounds while carrying a dangerous or deadly weapon.

They were also charged with falsifying documents or procedures and illegally possessing a dangerous weapon on Capitol Hill grounds.

In the aftermath of the violent insurgency, Hostetter and Taylor tried to get away from it.

Three weeks after the Capitol invasion, FBI agents with the support of SWAT officers searched the homes of Hostetter and Taylor. On his private Telegram channel, Taylor introduced himself as the victim.

“The fbi is fully armed against the patriots,” he said in a post reposted on Facebook. “I have never been to the Capitol, no violence, no material damage. All this to wave a flag and sing the national anthem!

Taylor’s attorney offered a different description, conceding his client carried a knife on the Capitol grounds, but saying he did not enter the building and was “caught in a wave of rhetoric and excitement “.

“Russ Taylor is a normal person who got emotionally enthralled in his belief in those freedoms that made America the America he believes in,” Huish told The Times in March.

What happened, Taylor’s attorney said, is a “warning tale when there is too much political noise that you cannot clearly see.”

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