'Hitler moustache' Capitol rioter sentenced

A former US Army reservist and alleged Nazi sympathiser has been sentenced to four years in prison for his role in last year’s Capitol riots.

Timothy Hale-Cusanelli, 32, was a Navy contractor who held a government security clearance when he joined the storming of Congress in January 2021.

A jury convicted him in May on five counts, including a felony charge for obstruction of an official proceeding.

More than 900 people have been charged over their involvement in the attack.

Hale-Cusanelli, who was the seventh riot defendant to go on trial, is among a handful of accused who were on active duty in the military when he joined other Trump supporters in raiding Congress as it met to certify the results of the 2020 presidential election.

Prosecutors said he openly espoused white supremacist and anti-Semitic ideologies, even sporting an Adolf Hitler-style moustache at work, and hoped for a second US civil war.

They added that, over the course of an internal Navy probe into Hale-Cusanelli, 34 of his colleagues said he held “extremist or radical views pertaining to the Jewish people, minorities and women”.

One naval officer who was interviewed claimed to recall Hale-Cusanelli saying in an apparent reference to the Holocaust: “Hitler should have finished the job.”

The accused took the stand in his own defence at trial, claiming that he “didn’t know there was an actual building that was called the ‘Capitol'”.

“I feel like an idiot,” he added.

But lawyers for the government said he was lying, pointing to conversations Hale-Cusanelli had had with his roommate in the days after the attack, in which he described breaching the complex as “exhilarating”.

“Hale-Cusanelli is, at best, extremely tolerant of violence and death,” prosecutors said. “What Hale-Cusanelli was doing on January 6 was not activism, it was the preamble to his civil war.”

The defendant’s case was spotlighted at a Trump rally earlier this month, at which his adoptive aunt Cynthia Hughes – who raises money on behalf of riot defendants – spoke.

In a letter to support Hale-Cusanelli’s defence, Ms Hughes wrote that he was not a violent person and does not have “a racist bone in his body”.

At Thursday’s sentencing, Judge Trevor McFadden slammed the defendant’s testimony as a “risible lie” and an “obvious attempt” to avoid accountability.

Judge McFadden – a Trump appointee – added that Hale-Cusanelli’s “racist and anti-Semitic motivation” had set him apart from other rioters.

Another 6 January defendant, Stephen Ayres, also learned of his fate on Thursday.

Ayres, an ex-Trump supporter who testified this summer before the congressional committee investigating the attack, will serve 24 months on probation.

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