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The trial of an army reservist charged with storming the Capitol begins

WASHINGTON – A US Army reservist who worked at a Navy base stormed the US Capitol because he wanted to start a civil war and create “a clean slate,” a federal prosecutor said Tuesday at the start of the New Jersey man’s trial.

But an attorney for Timothy Hale-Cusanelli told jurors that “groupthink” and a desperate desire “to be heard” drove him to follow a mob into the Capitol. Hale-Cusanelli should not have entered the building on Jan. 6, 2021, defense attorney Jonathan Crisp conceded during the trial’s opening statement.

“But the question of why he was there is important,” Crisp added.

Hale-Cusanelli is accused of obstructing the joint session of Congress called to confirm President Joe Biden’s election victory. He is not accused of having been involved in any acts of violence or damage to property that day.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Kathryn Fifield played a video of Hale-Cusanelli yelling obscenities at police officers guarding the Capitol and yelling, “The revolution will be televised!”

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“This was not a peaceful protest,” she said.

In pre-trial files, Prosecutors presented evidence that associate Hale-Cusanelli described as a white supremacist, a Nazi sympathizer, and a Holocaust denier who wore a Hitler mustache to work. Investigators found photos of him with the distinctive mustache and pro-Nazi cartoons on Hale-Cusanelli’s cell phone.

Online court records do not indicate how much of this evidence, if any, will be admitted in court. In her opening statement, Fifield briefly mentioned Hale-Cusanelli’s bigoted views of the Jewish people.

Crisp has argued that any testimony about Hale-Cusanelli’s alleged statements about the Jewish people and their role in the US government would be “extremely prejudicial in nature of no substantive merit.”

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Crisp said Hale-Cusanelli believed then-President Donald Trump’s false claims about a stolen election. But the defense attorney said Hale-Cusanelli went to Washington DC to protest peacefully and wore a suit while many others wore tactical gear.

Hale-Cusanelli’s trial is the fifth before a jury and seventh overall for a Capitol riot case. The first four grand juries unanimously convicted the rioters’ defendants on all counts.

US District Judge Trevor McFadden, who is presiding over Hale-Cusanelli’s trial, ruled on two more counts of Capitol rioting after hearing testimony without a jury. After the trial, McFadden acquitted one of the defendants of all charges and partially acquitted the other.

More than 800 people have been charged with crimes related to Capitol riots. Many of them are military veterans. Hale-Cusanelli is among the few who were on active duty at the time of the riots.

Hale-Cusanelli was arrested less than two weeks after the attack and has been in custody since February 2021.

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Prior to his arrest, Hale-Cusanelli lived in Colts Neck, New Jersey, where he worked as a security officer at Naval Weapons Station Earle, where he had a “secret” security clearance. He was also a sergeant in the US Army Reserve.

One Navy sailor said Hale-Cusanelli told him, “He would kill all the Jews and eat them for breakfast, lunch and dinner, and he wouldn’t have to season them because the salt from their tears would make it palatable enough.” according to the prosecutor. Other employees recalled Hale-Cusanelli making disparaging remarks about women, blacks and other minorities, prosecutors said.

The jury is expected to hear testimony from a roommate who lived with Hale-Cusanelli on the base who recorded their conversation about the riot.

Fifield said Hale-Cusanelli told his roommate the uprising felt like a civil war and hoped it would “deliver a clean slate.” He also paraphrased a quote from Thomas Jefferson, saying that “the tree of liberty must be refreshed with the blood of patriots and tyrants,” according to the prosecutor.

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Crisp said Hale-Cusanelli was “full of adrenaline and stupidity” when he returned to New Jersey and spoke to his roommate about his actions in Washington. The defense attorney described him as a bombastic agitator who tends to make “extreme statements” in order to attract attention.

Hale-Cusanelli was discharged from the Army Reserve and expelled from the naval base after his arrest.

Hale-Cusanelli is charged with five counts: obstructing an official process, entering or remaining in a restricted building or compound, disorderly or destructive conduct in a restricted building or compound, disorderly conduct in a Capitol building, and parading, demonstrating, or picketing a capitol building. The allegation of disability is a criminal offence. The rest are misdemeanors.

Copyright 2022 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, transcribed or redistributed without permission.

https://www.local10.com/news/politics/2022/05/24/trial-opens-for-army-reservist-charged-with-storming-capitol/ The trial of an army reservist charged with storming the Capitol begins

Sarah Y. Kim

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