Federal prosecutors on Thursday filed a wide-ranging conspiracy charge accusing six men in California of being linked to a radical gun rights movement called the Three Percenters, with plans to raid the Capitol on Jan. 6, in the first charges that was involved against anyone involved in the planning. any of the political events that took place the week of the attack.
The 20-page charge was also the first to be brought against a group of alleged Three Percenters, a loosely organized movement that gets its name from the alleged 3 percent of the American colonial population who fought against the British. The new charges, filed in the Federal District Court in Washington, came on the same day that Christopher A. Wray, the FBI director, testified before a house committee that prosecutors had additional conspiracy charges against some of the rioters storming the Capitol het, najaag.
Investigators have said for months that several extremist groups were involved in the attack, but although the Three Percentages are occasionally mentioned in court documents, most of the accused come from two other groups: the Oath Guards militia and the far-right Nationalist group. Proud boys. The new charges may indicate that prosecutors are not only paying attention to those who were directly involved in the Capitol attack, but also to those who helped promote the assault.
The two main defendants in the indictment – Alan Hostetter (56), a former police chief, became a yoga instructor; and Russell Taylor, 40, a wealthy graphic designer with a taste for red corvettes, has already been scrutinized by the government after the FBI raided their homes in January. Mr. Hostetter and Taylor were leaders of a group called the American Phoenix Project, which was founded to fight the ‘fear-based tyranny’ of coronavirus-related restrictions. The group later embraced former President Donald J. Trump’s lies about a stolen election and on January 5 helped organize a well-attended rally outside the Supreme Court, where Roger J. Stone Jr., a former adviser to Mr. Trump.
Mr Hostetter’s wife, Kristine, a schoolteacher, also attracted national attention this year after attending the “Stop the Steal” marches in Washington and sparking outrage in their hometown of San Clemente, California. caused an investigation by the school board. whether she attacked the Capitol. She was cleared by the district in March.
Despite the attention of law enforcement, the news media and the neighbors in Orange County, another Mr. Hostetter, enough mr. Taylor publicly linked up with the Three Percenters before being charged Thursday.
According to the indictment, shortly after the election, Hostetter used the U.S. Phoenix project “to advocate violence against certain groups and individuals who supported the 2020 election results.” At the end of November, for example, he posted a video on the group’s YouTube channel in which he committed treason against those who did not dispute the outcome. “Some people at the highest level,” he said, “should set an example with an execution or three.”
The following month, during a rally in Huntington Beach, California, Mr. Hostetter gave a speech in which he reiterated his death threats against those who doubt that Mr. Trump won. “Execution is the just punishment of the heads of this coup,” reads the indictment.
To plan their role in the Capitol attack, prosecutors say Mr. Hostetter, mr. Taylor and some of their co-accused – among them Derek Kinnison (39), Felipe Antonio Martinez (47) and Erik Warner (45) – used text messages. , Facebook and the chat app Telegram. More than thirty people, according to the indictment, have joined a Telegram group chat called “California Patriots-DC Brigade”, a channel that Mr. Taylor described as a person with a body with a strong body going to DC on January 6 and ‘ready and willing to fight. ”
According to prosecutors, Taylor sent a message to the group meeting on January 1 asking members to disclose whether they have military or law enforcement training. “I assume,” he wrote, “that you have some kind of weapon you bring with you.”
The same day, in his introductory message to the group discussion, Mr. Kinnison wrote that he, Mr. Martinez and Mr. Warner was part of ‘so calf 3%’ according to the charge sheet. Prosecutors say Mr. Kinnison attached a photo to the Telegram message of the three men flashing a Three Percenter hand signal.
The commitment of mr. Hostetter and mr. Taylor with the three percent was somewhat vague. On January 3, according to the indictment, Mr. Hostetter posted a message on the Instagram account of the American Phoenix Project using the language associated with the movement. “Only 3% of Americans actually fought in our Revolutionary War,” he wrote. “There will probably be 3% of us again who will fully commit to this fight.”
Taylor’s attorney, Dyke Huish, said he had no knowledge of any involvement of his client with the Three Percenters. “I have never heard of it,” he added, “even from a distance.”
Mr. Hostetter and mr. Taylor appeared as a rising star last year Southern California’s Revival Fight. Both appear to have been radicalized at the start of the pandemic, contributing to a new generation of right-wing extremists emerging from the beach towns of Orange County, where Richard M. Nixon converted a coastal villa during his presidential breakaway. and John Wayne held his yacht, Wild Goose.
The area was a cradle of the modern American conservative movement and of its most brutal, racist, anti-Semitic and paranoid offshoots, such as the John Birch Society in the 1960s and neo-Nazi and skinny-headed groups that flocked to its burning sites for two decades. later.
Until last year, Mr. Hostetter very removed from history alike. A former soldier and police chief, he landed in San Clemente almost a decade ago and began a third career as a yoga guru specializing in ‘sound healing’ with gongs, Tibetan bowls and Aboriginal didgeridoos. According to people who know him, he was conservative, but much more so in and around San Clemente.
Then came the pandemic. He stopped yoga, declaring himself a “patriotic warrior” and the American Phoenix Project. The group started organizing protests and had Mr. Taylor soon attracted. Their list of enemies quickly grew into protesters of Black Lives Matter, and it appears that Mr. Hostetter sometimes embraces QAnon, the conspiracy movement that falsely claims that Mr. Trump has secretly fought devil-worshiping Democrats and international financiers who abuse children.
Prosecutors say Mr. Kinnison and his three Percenter partners were open about their involvement with the movement and apparently devised plans to bring firearms to Washington on Jan. 6. On January 2, Mr. Kinnison sent an sms to mr. Warner, mr. Martinez and another co-accused, Ronald Mele, 51, contain a photo of him carrying a shotgun ammunition, according to the indictment.
After Taylor argued in court on Jan. 5, “I’m Russell Taylor and I’m a free American,” prosecutors say he posted a video on an encrypted chat app that put a variety of equipment on a bed displayed: bulletproof vest, two axes, a walkie-talkie, a shock stick and a knife. The caption reads: “Get ready for tomorrow now.”
According to the indictment, Taylor acted from Trump’s speech on Jan. 6 to the Capitol with Hostetter and someone identified only as Person One. Mr. Kinnison and his group of three percent, prosecutors say, approached the building separately and at least one of them – Mr. Warner – entered through a broken window.
Prosecutors do not accuse Mr. Hostetter or Taylor of breaking into the Capitol, although they claim that both men joined a crowd of rioters at the lower terrace of the building who pushed through a series of law enforcement officers.
“I was crushed by traitors all day today,” he said. Taylor wrote in a Telegram chat that night at 6:18 p.m., prosecutors say. ‘WE HAVE STORMED THE CAPITAL! Freedom is fully demonstrated today! ”