LOS ANGELES (CBSLA) — Six California men, four of whom identify as members of the anti-government Three Percenters movement, have been charged with crimes related to the breach of the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, the U.S. Department of Justice said.
One of the men charged is former La Habra Police Department Chief Alan Hostetter, 56, of San Clemente, who has made a name for himself as a vocal member of the "Stop the Steal," and pandemic protest movements.
"Yes, he has strong views," Bilal Essayli, Hostetter's attorney, said."If he uses strong language, then so be it. But that doesn't make him a criminal."
Hostetter is one of six Southern California men facing charges that include conspiracy, obstructing an official proceeding, and unlawful entry on restricted building or grounds.
The other men are:
- Russell Taylor, 40, of Ladera Ranch;
- Erik Scott Warner, 45, of Menifee;
- Felipe Antonio "Tony" Martinez, 47, of Lake Elsinore;
- Derek Kinnison, 39, of Lake Elsinore; and
- Ronald Mele, 51, of Temecula.
Taylor has also been charged with obstructing law enforcement during a civil disorder and unlawful possession of a dangerous weapon on Capitol grounds. Warner and Kinnison are also charged with tampering with documents or proceedings.
But Essayli said the charges were politically motivated.
"They didn't commit any acts of violence," he said. "They had an opportunity to go in the Capitol, they didn't do that. They just wanted to voice their opinion that they objected to the certification of the election, as did many members of Congress also voice their objections."
However, prosecutors said the six men did more than just go to the rally. The indictment alleges that the men planned and coordinated their effort to obstruct and interfere with the joint session of Congress.
According to the indictment, the men allegedly used apps and social media to talk about travel and whether to bring firearms. One of the men allegedly shared a photo that showed gear he was packing, including two hatchets, a stun baton, a knife and a plate-carrier vest.
Essayli said the men were just making plans to protect themselves.
"They didn't hurt anybody, and they had the opportunity to do that," he said.
While some of the men are accused of entering the Capitol and carrying weapons, Hostetter has been accused of neither.
"He certainly had the opportunity to do more and there were people there who did do more," Essayli said. "We're not here to justify what other people did inside the Capitol or on the Senate floor, but we do think a distinction should be drawn between these who forcibly entered the Capitol and committed damage from the peaceful protestors who were outside of the Capitol protesting."
But their involvement at the Capitol riot, and the association of four of the accused with the Three Percenters movement, were things to keep an eye on, according to Brian Levin, who runs the Center for Hate and Extremism at Cal State University San Bernardino.
"What it shows you is the different kind of threat on the far right with regard to extremism," he said. "Some are kind of over the top, and they met online and got coalesced with respect to the COVID restrictions then they moved on to 'Stop The Steal' and there's this elastic reservoir of grievance."
Levin said that growing discontent could cause trouble as extreme far right groups find themselves on the outside politically on a national scale and create local groups willing to organize and use violence.
"What we see is when certain extremist fringe movements find themselves outside of access that they think is possibly the mainstream, they tend to splinter and the loosest canons are the ones that fire and the ones that fire are the ones that do so on their own in smaller informal associations," he said.
As for Hostetter, he surrendered Thursday morning and was taken into custody by the FBI. Essayli said Hostetter was released with virtually no restrictions. He is due in D.C. federal court Monday.
Since Jan. 6, approximately 465 people have been arrested on charges related to the U.S. Capitol breach, including more than 130 charged with assaulting or impeding law enforcement.
Anyone with tips was asked to call 1-800-225-5324 or visit tips.fbi.gov.
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