May 27 (UPI) — A man who was in the U.S. Army Reserves when he stormed the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021, has been convicted after claiming he didn’t know the building was where Congress meets.
Timothy Hale-Cusanelli was convicted Friday on all five charges, including obstruction of an official proceeding, a felony charge, according to the Justice Department. He was discharged from the Army Reserves after his arrest.
“I didn’t know the Capitol building was the same as the congressional building,” Hale-Cusanelli said Thursday, according to NBC News.
Hale-Cusanelli, who studied American history in community college and texted friends about the electoral count process, added that he did not know members of Congress would be in the building.
“I know this sounds idiotic, but I’m from New Jersey,” he said. “I feel like an idiot, it sounds idiotic, and it is.”
Hale-Cusanelli admitted during the trial that he entered the Capitol and his defense lawyer said that he had engaged in criminal activity. He could also be seen in video evidence yelling female-specific profanity to a police officer before waving other rioters into the building.
After entering the building, he could be seen “stomping dramatically on the Capitol floor and kicking the walls of the building,” prosecutors said in court documents. He could also be heard participating in a chant of “Stop the Steal.”
Prosecutors portrayed Hale-Cusanelli as a white supremacist with Nazi sympathies, including photographs where he appeared to dress like Hitler and memes referring to Black people by racial slurs and mocking the death of George Floyd.
Hale-Cusanelli had contended that he should have been released from custody ahead of the trial because he was simply “following the entreaties of then commander in chief, President [Donald] Trump.”
However, prosecutors rebutted with evidence of Hale-Cusanelli’s history of violent extremism beginning in 2010 when he was arrested with three other people for shooting frozen corn cobs from a potato gun bearing the words “WHITE IS RIGHT” and a Confederate flag drawing at a house.
Much of the evidence used in the case was obtained by a confidential informant who wore NCIS equipment to record conversations with Hale-Cusanelli, according to the court documents.
Hale-Cusanelli signed with the Army Reserves after high school but had never deployed and was also working at the time of the insurrection as a security contractor at Naval Weapons Station Earle in Colts Neck, New Jersey, where he maintained a “Secret” security clearance.
Special agents with the Naval Criminal Investigative Service interviewed 44 members of the NWS Earle Security Forces who recounted he would make racial jokes and was a Nazi sympathizer and Holocaust denier, according to the court documents.
One Navy seaman interviewed by NCIS told investigators that Hale-Cusanelli had once said that if he was a Nazi “he would kill all the Jews and eat them for breakfast, lunch, and dinner.”
“Hitler should have finished the job,” Hale-Cusanelli once said, as recounted by a Navy officer.
The majority of those interviewed recounted similar statements from Hale-Cusanelli and that he expressed his dislike for Jewish people “every day,” according to the court documents. He also expressed hateful comments toward women and Black people.
“I’m not saying Hitler did nothing wrong, but did he do anything wrong?” Hale-Cusanelli said in a video retrieved by law enforcement.
Hale-Cusanelli also expressed that he “really wishes” for a civil war “along partisan lines” during a conversation recorded by the confidential informant.
Prosecutors said that Hale-Cusanelli “poses a substantial risk of danger to the community” and had “literally abandoned his post to participate in an insurrection with the stated intent of obstructing the certification of the electoral college vote.”
Hale-Cusanelli was the fifth defendant to face a jury trial after Guy Reffitt, Thomas Robertson, Dustin Thompson and Thomas Webster were each convicted.