Alleged Nazi sympathizer sentenced to 4 years in prison for Jan. 6 riot

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WASHINGTON — A federal judge on Thursday sentenced a former security guard at a U.S. Navy base in New Jersey, who once sported a Hitler-style mustache, to four years in prison for his conviction on five federal charges stemming from his participation in the Jan. 6, 2021, riot at the U.S. Capitol.

At a sentencing hearing in Washington D.C., Judge Trevor McFadden said the case that prosecutors brought against Timothy Hale-Cusanelli of Colts Neck, N.J., had "several aggravating factors" that set it apart from other Jan. 6 riot cases. Hale-Cusanelli worked as a private security guard at Naval Weapons Station Earle and also served in the National Guard for around 11 years.

The judge said that Hale-Cusanelli had a history of making sexist, racist and antisemitic comments, and, at least initially, was unwilling to accept responsibility for his actions during the Jan. 6 assault on the Capitol. "Your actions that day were extremely troubling," McFadden told him.

Several pages of the Department of Justice motion to oppose the conditional release of Timothy Hale-Cusanelli, who is seen in several portraits wearing a cropped Hitler mustache..
The Justice Department motion to oppose the conditional release of Timothy Hale-Cusanelli ahead of his trial on charges stemming from the Jan. 6 riot. (Jon Elswick/AP)

The judge said one factor that disturbed him was that Hale-Cusanelli lied when he claimed, when testifying in his own defense, that he did not know the U.S. Capitol building was where the houses of Congress met. McFadden was also skeptical of Hale-Cusanelli’s claim that he did not realize the person he tried to pull another rioter away from was a police officer.

The judge noted that the officer was wearing a police uniform at the time.

In a statement to the judge, Hale-Cusanelli apologized for his actions during the attack, declaring that he had "disgraced my uniform and disgraced the country" and owed a deep apology to members of Congress and police. "I ask for mercy," he told the judge. "I do say ugly things," he added, but insisted, "I don't make any excuses."

He contended, however, that he had no history of violence and promised the judge, "You'll never see my face in court again. I can guarantee that."

Hale-Cusanelli, who wore an orange prison uniform to Thursday's hearing, was initially arrested and imprisoned not long after the riot. At one point, a federal appeals court rejected a request that he be released on bail, citing reports from the Naval Criminal Investigative Service that 34 of his co-workers described him as "having extremist or radical views pertaining to the Jewish people, minorities and women."

Rioters storm the Capitol in Washington, with clouds of teargas on the balcony among the American flags.
Rioters supporting then-President Donald Trump storm the Capitol in Washington on Jan. 6, 2021. (John Minchillo/AP, file)

The appeals court said Hale-Cusanelli had said that babies born with disabilities should be shot and that "Hitler should have finished the job."

At Thursday's sentencing hearing, prosecutor Kathryn Fifield said that Hale-Cusanelli had sought to pursue his own "civil war" and that he was heard urging fellow rioters: "Advance, advance, advance." She said his actions, including his effort to pull a person away from the policeman who was trying to grab him, constituted a “direct threat to law enforcement. … Hale-Cusanelli was part of a crowd that was actively resisting law enforcement.”

Defense lawyer Nick Smith argued that his client's presence at the Capitol during the assault did not constitute aiding and abetting other criminals. But he said Hale-Cusanelli regrets his behavior and had "no excuse for his ugly comments." He said other prison inmates had threatened to kill his client.

The judge told Hale-Cusanelli, "I do appreciate your statements of remorse now."

Hale-Cusanelli was convicted of five riot-related offenses, including one felony charge, following a May trial, during which jurors found him guilty of all charges after about five hours of deliberation (NPR has a detailed account of the trial here).

Federal prosecutors say that more than 870 individuals so far have been arrested on charges related to the Jan. 6 attack, including more than 265 who are charged with assaulting or impeding law enforcement. Federal officials have said in court that they believe the total number of people who committed possible crimes during the riot could be as high as 2,000 to 2,500.