Also on Thursday, the only Jan. 6 defendant to testify about his conduct before the House select committee investigating the riot was sentenced to two years probation for disorderly conduct. Stephen Ayres, a 39-year-old carpenter from Ohio, said he thinks about Jan. 6 “every day” and prays for injured officers and anyone who has lost a loved one.
Hale-Cusanelli, 32, worked as a security guard at Naval Weapons Station Earle and lived on base in Colts Neck, NJ. In addition to being a supporter of President Donald Trump, the man was a white supremacist who supported the Nazi ideology and admired Adolf Hitler, even wearing a “Hitler mustache” to work, the government said in court documents. But U.S. District Judge Trevor N. McFadden ruled that Hale-Cusanelli’s racist preferences were too damaging to present to a jury, though he allowed defendant’s comments that he wanted a war civil is highlighted.
New Jersey man convicted of criminal obstruction of Congress in Jan. 6 riot
Surveillance video showed Hale-Cusanelli climbing out of a window onto the Lower West Terrace at 2:13 p.m., moments after his first crash, wearing a gray suit and red MAGA hat. Before entering, prosecutors said, he pushed aside a barrier of bike racks to allow crowds to approach the building, then pushed the crowd forward, waving his arms and shouting, “Come on! Advance!”
Once inside, Hale-Cusanelli was part of a group that overwhelmed United States Capitol and DC police in the crypt. Photos and videos show he then tried to pull a rioter away from a police officer who was arresting him. Hale-Cusanelli claimed he didn’t know the officer was an officer and that he thought the electoral vote certification “was going to be in a building called ‘Congress’. As stupid as that sounds, I don’t didn’t realize that Congress sits on Capitol Hill.
On Thursday, McFadden called it a “laughable lie” and after the jury convicted Hale-Cusanelli in May, the judge suggested to prosecutors he would consider a request for a longer sentence for “obstructing justice.” And McFadden actually increased the Hale-Cusanelli sentencing range for those affidavits.
But prosecutors have sought two even longer sentence enhancements for obstructing and interfering with the “administration of justice” on Capitol Hill. Defense attorney Nicholas D. Smith said that while Congress’ act of certifying the Electoral College vote could be called “due process,” and all but one of the federal judges agreed, the certification was not considered an administration of justice. Prosecutors argued in their sentencing brief that “the administration of justice” is synonymous with “due process.” ”
McFadden agreed with the defense. He said the Electoral College count was “significantly different” from congressional investigations and other justice-related actions. “I don’t think the administration of justice, as used in sentencing amelioration, is a fair way to describe what’s going on here.”
He then reduced the sentencing guideline range from 70 to 87 months to 21 to 27 months. The guidelines are advisory, but judges generally hand down sentences within the range. The government had requested a 78-month sentence for Hale-Cusanelli.
But McFadden went on to blast Hale-Cusanelli for his racist, sexist and anti-Semitic remarks, some of which were captured on a recording his roommate made when Hale-Cusanelli returned to New Jersey after the riot. The judge repeated a profane taunt Hale-Cusanelli shouted at a Capitol policewoman during the riot and criticized her “decision to lie on the witness stand.”
“Neither the jury nor I believed your assertion that you did not know Congress resided in the Capitol building…you participated in a national embarrassment,” the judge said.
Although he lowered the sentencing range to 21 to 27 months, McFadden sentenced Hale-Cusanelli to 48 months, followed by three years of probation.
The judge credited Hale-Cusanelli with showing remorse.
“My behavior that day was unacceptable and I dishonored my uniform and dishonored the country,” Hale-Cusanelli said. He claimed he was “operating under the advice of an attorney” when he testified to his confusion about where Congress sits. “I was challenging the law as it applied in my case.”
Elsewhere in the courthouse, Ayres told U.S. District Judge John D. Bates that he was embarrassed and concerned about the political rhetoric that once captivated him. “I wish everyone in this country could stop and see where it’s going,” he said, in comments similar to those he made. at a nationally televised House committee meeting on Jan. 6, where he said he hoped like-minded people would “take the blinders off.”
Prosecutors have asked for 60 days in jail, citing Ayres’ violent comments on social media before Jan. 6 and his “lukewarm” response on Capitol Hill when asked if he still thinks the presidential election in 2020 had been stolen. But Bates said he thought Ayres’ remorse was “truthful” and placed him on probation.