WASHINGTON — A federal judge on Thursday sentenced a Nazi sympathizer who served in the Army Reserves to four years in prison for storming the Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021, saying his “racist and antisemitic motivation” for trying to halt the election certification process set his case apart from dozens of other rioters who have been charged.
The defendant, Timothy Hale-Cusanelli, 32, was working as a security guard at a naval station in New Jersey when he joined the pro-Trump mob that broke into the Capitol. At a trial in May in US District Court in Washington, Hale-Cusanelli was convicted of five criminal charges, including obstruction of the certification of the 2020 election results, which took place at a joint session of Congress on Jan. 6.
Hale-Cusanelli, who held a secret security clearance at the time of the attack, tried to play down his role in the assault by telling the jury that he had no idea that Congress met at the Capitol. But just before issuing the sentence, Judge Trevor N. McFadden called Hale-Cusanelli’s testimony a “risible lie” and an “obvious attempt to avoid responsibility.”
Prosecutors argued at a hearing on Thursday that Hale-Cusanelli, who often liked to dress as Adolf Hitler, was at the front of the mob as its members assaulted the police and smashed doors and windows to enter the Capitol. Hale-Cusanelli also urged those around him to “advance” on the building, prosecutors said.
In a sentencing memo filed last week, the government noted that in the days after Jan. 6, Hale-Cusanelli told his roommate at the naval station that he had been exhilarated by the storming of the Capitol, comparing it to a “civil war.” The memo also said that Hale-Cusanelli told his roommate that he wanted to “root out entrenched interests” in the United States, specifically “Jewish interests puppeteering the media, major corporations, the Democratic Party, Joe Biden and the government as a whole.”
After handing down the sentence, McFadden said he believed Hale-Cusanelli’s past actions reflected “deep hostility and insensitivity” toward ethnic and religious minorities, which, he added, had significant consequences, including encouraging a recent rise in antisemitic attacks across the country.
While prosecutors said in their memo that Hale-Cusanelli “subscribes to white supremacist and Nazi-sympathizer ideologies,” the jury at his trial saw only a small portion of the government’s evidence that he held extremist views.
“Hale-Cusanelli is, at best, extremely tolerant of violence and death,” prosecutors wrote. “What Hale-Cusanelli was doing on Jan. 6 was not activism, it was the preamble to his civil war.”
Prosecutors urged McFadden to impose a lengthier sentence on Thursday, describing Hale-Cusanelli’s decision to storm the Capitol as a “test of the guardrails of the law.”
Even though prosecutors spent much of the trial highlighting sexist and racist comments that Hale-Cusanelli had made before the riot, they insisted on Thursday that the case was not about his right to “hold unsavory views” but about what they described as his attempt to dodge responsibility.
“He sat in that chair and lied to the jury in this court,” said Kathryn Fifield, a prosecutor. “He lied under oath.”
At the hearing, Hale-Cusanelli’s lawyer, Nicholas Smith, acknowledged that his client had made “ugly and childish comments” in the past. But he stressed that Hale-Cusanelli had not committed the same crimes as other rioters who brought weapons to the Capitol or attacked police officers.
Smith described his client’s actions as part of coping with a difficult upbringing and estrangement from his parents. Hale-Cusanelli’s words alone did not “imply that he’s about to launch a civil war,” Smith said.
While in jail awaiting sentencing, he said, Hale-Cusanelli had spent long stretches in solitary confinement and had received death threats from at least one other inmate.
Briefly addressing McFadden, Hale-Cusanelli said his experience in prison left him determined to change.
“I disgraced my uniform and disgraced this country,” he said.
So far, more than 850 people have been charged in connection with the events of Jan. 6, and arrests continue almost daily. Nearly 300 people have pleaded guilty; about 250 of them have been sentenced. Slightly more than half of them have been given jail or prison time, with sentences of as little as a few days to as much as 10 years.