Capitol rioter Timothy Hale-Cusanelli, a former Army reservist whose case was briefly the center of attention at a recent Trump rally in Pennsylvania when the former president hosted his so-called adoptive aunt Cynthia Hughes onstage, was sentenced on Thursday by U.S. District Judge Trevor McFadden to four years in prison.
Hale-Cusanelli was previously convicted by a jury of several criminal charges related to the attack, including the felony offense obstruction of an official proceeding. Prosecutors wanted Hale-Cusanelli to face six and a half years in prison. He has already spent a substantial amount of time in prison, meaning his sentence, assuming credit for time served, will likely be less from this point onward than a complete four years. Hale-Cusanelli is a Nazi sympathizer, and he isn’t — or at least wasn’t — subtle about it. He even showed up to work with facial hair modeled after Nazi leader Adolf Hitler’s infamous appearance, and he spoke to an informant for the FBI about the prospect of expelling Jews. McFadden noted in delivering Hale-Cusanelli’s sentence that the defendant’s racism and anti-Semitism distinguished his case from those of other rioters.
“What Hale-Cusanelli was doing on January 6 was not activism, it was the preamble to his civil war,” prosecutors previously said. At trial, Hale-Cusanelli attempted to convince listeners he didn’t actually know Congress was meeting — or met at all — in the building he was helping breach. That lack of knowledge could have undercut the notion that he possessed the intent required under federal standards for a conviction on the obstruction charge, but the jury didn’t go along with the argument. McFadden wasn’t impressed either, referring this week to Hale-Cusanelli’s previous testimony as a “risible lie” and an “obvious attempt to avoid responsibility.” The defendant said at trial he thought the process of certifying the 2020 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.”
Prosecutor Kathryn Fifield highlighted Hale-Cusanelli’s apparent deception in court Thursday. “He sat in that chair and lied to the jury in this court,” the prosecutor said. “He lied under oath.” Nicholas Smith, a lawyer for the defendant, connected actions his client took to his childhood, although many, many people with difficulties in their lives don’t eventually harbor violently anti-Semitic views, show up to work with a Hitler mustache, and participate in a deadly breach of the U.S. Capitol, where they encourage fellow members of the mob to keep up with the assault, as Hale-Cusanelli did. Hughes, the so-called adoptive aunt, was at the sentencing hearing, as was the wife of convicted rioter Guy Reffitt and the mother of Ashli Babbitt, the rioter who was fatally shot by a police officer during the riot as she attempted to get closer to elected officials amid the rampage. Hughes leads an organization that has raised millions of dollars in ostensible support of defendants from the riot, who Trump says he’s interested in pardoning if he becomes president again.