LOS ANGELES (TUSEN) – Six Californian men, four of whom identify as members of the anti-government Three Percent movement, were charged with crimes related to the violation of the United States Capitol on January 6, the United States Department of Justice said.
One of the men charged is former La Habra Police Department chief Alan Hostetter, 56, of San Clemente, who has made a name for himself as a vocal member of the “Stop the Steal” and the movements. of protest against the pandemic.
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“Yes, he has strong opinions,” said Bilal Essayli, Hostetter’s lawyer. “If he uses strong language, so be it. But that doesn’t make him a criminal.
Hostetter is one of six men in Southern California who face charges of conspiracy, obstructing formal proceedings, and illegally entering a building or restricted land.
The other men are:
- Russell Taylor, 40, of Ladera Ranch;
- Erik Scott Warner, 45, of Menifee;
- Felipe Antonio “Tony” Martinez, 47, from Lake Elsinore;
- Derek Kinnison, 39, of Lake Elsinore; and
- Ronald Mele, 51, from Temecula.
Taylor has also been charged with obstructing law enforcement during a civil disturbance and illegal possession of a dangerous weapon on Capitol Hill grounds. Warner and Kinnison are also charged with falsifying documents or procedures.
But Essayli said the charges were politically motivated.
“They did not commit any act of violence,” he said. “They had the opportunity to go to the Capitol, they didn’t. They just wanted to express their opinion that they objected to the certification of the election, just as many members of Congress also expressed their objections. “
However, prosecutors said the six men did more than just make their way to the rally. The indictment alleges that the men planned and coordinated their efforts to obstruct and interfere with the joint session of Congress.
According to the indictment, the men allegedly used apps and social media to talk about travel and whether to bring guns. One of the men reportedly shared a photo showing equipment he was packing, including two axes, a stun baton, a knife and a plate vest.
Essayli said the men were just making plans to protect themselves.
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“They didn’t hurt anyone, and they had the opportunity to do so,” he said.
While some of the men are accused of entering the Capitol and carrying arms, Hostetter has not been charged with either.
“He certainly had the opportunity to do more and there were people out there who did more,” Essayli said. “We are not here to justify what other people have done inside the Capitol or on Senate floor, but we believe that a distinction should be made between those who forcibly entered the Capitol and those who committed damage from the peaceful demonstrators who were outside the Capitol protesting. “
But their involvement in the Capitol Riot and the association of four of the defendants with the Three Percent movement were things to watch out for, according to Brian Levin, who heads the Center for Hate and Extremism at the University of State of Cal San Bernardino.
“What this shows you is the different kind of threat to the far right when it comes to extremism,” he said. “Some are a bit of a stretch, and they’ve met online and merged when it comes to COVID restrictions, and then they’ve moved on to ‘Stop The Steal’ and there’s this elastic pool of grievances.”
Levin said the growing discontent could cause problems as far-right groups politically find themselves outside nationwide and create local groups ready to organize and use violence.
“What we are seeing is that when some extremist fringe movements find themselves outside of a bout that they think may be the mainstream, they tend to fall apart and the more cowardly guns are the ones who shoot and those who shoot are the ones who do it on their own in smaller informal associations, ”he said.
As for Hostetter, he surrendered Thursday morning and was taken into custody by the FBI. Essayli said Hostetter was released with virtually no restrictions. He is scheduled to appear in federal court in DC on Monday.
Since January 6, around 465 people have been arrested on charges related to violating the United States Capitol, including more than 130 charged with assault or obstructing law enforcement.
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Anyone with tips has been asked to call 1-800-225-5324 or visit tips.fbi.gov.