Timothy Hale-Cusanelli, a 32-year-old from New Jersey, was found guilty this week on all counts at a jury trial over his actions at last year’s Capitol riot. He faced five charges, including one felony count: obstruction of an official proceeding — which comes with a prison term of up to 20 years, although shorter stints in jail are possible. He was also found guilty of four misdemeanors.
The misdemeanor offenses of which Hale-Cusanelli was found guilty include entering and remaining in a restricted building or grounds, disorderly and disruptive conduct in such an environment, disorderly conduct in a Capitol Building, and parading, demonstrating, or picketing in a Capitol Building. Hale-Cusanelli has expressed overt sympathy with Nazi causes to the point that he wore a mustache modeled after Adolf Hitler’s distinctive facial hair to work. At trial, he defended himself against the obstruction charge by claiming he didn’t actually intend to commit such an act because — supposedly — he didn’t know Congress met at the Capitol. Federal Judge Trevor McFadden remarked after the jury conclusions were revealed that he found the defendant’s claims “highly dubious.”
Hale-Cusanelli also claimed he was unaware he’d been interfering with an attempt by law enforcement to carry out an arrest at a particular juncture on January 6, a nonsensical notion to which McFadden also referred. The original incident involved a group including the defendant trying to get one particular rioter away from the police trying to arrest that other individual.
At one point in his background, Hale-Cusanelli was a soldier in the U.S. Army, and he later became a member of the U.S. Army Reserve, a position still active at the time of the riot. By his own admission, he’s been an apparent supporter of Trump at least since his 2017 inauguration, which Hale-Cusanelli says he attended, and yet at trial, he claimed he thought the process of certifying the presidential election outcome on January 6 “was going to be in a building called ‘Congress.’ As stupid as it sounds, I did not realize that Congress sat in the Capitol building… I didn’t know the Capitol building was the same as the congressional building.”
Apparently, the trial is the first context in which he presented that attempted defense. That defense — stupidity — follows a range of other defenses from Capitol rioters who’ve ended up facing a jury. One rioter — himself a former NYC cop — who assaulted a police officer claimed to have been acting in self-defense, while another’s defense was that Trump should be credited for actions he took at the Capitol. None of these defenses worked — all five jury trials have ended with convictions on all counts. Hale-Cusanelli was originally arrested on January 15 of last year, and he’s been in custody ever since. His sentencing is set for September 16 this year. Notably, he said at his trial that he was under the impression at the time of the riot that Trump would speak at the Capitol. Trump did, in fact, say in his speech at the large, outdoor rally in the city that day that he’d be at the Capitol — somewhere he never actually went that day.