Six Californian men, four of whom identify as members of the “Three Percenter” militias, have been charged with conspiracy to obstruct, announced the Ministry of Justice.
The indictment, which was unsealed Thursday, alleges that the group coordinated the trip to Washington with the stated intention to “fight,” responding to President Trump’s call to protest the results of the presidential election. Some defendants were wearing tactical gear and at least one, prosecutors said, carried a knife as he passed a police line on Capitol grounds.
The case marks the first conspiracy indictment filed against members of the Three Percenters, an anti-government extremist group that the Anti-Defamation League says takes its name from an inaccurate claim that only 3% of American settlers fought against the British in the Revolutionary War, and likens today’s US government to British colonialism.
It is the third militia or extremist group to be named in a conspiracy case linked to the Capitol Riot. Already, federal prosecutors have16 suspected Oath Keepers in a single conspiracy case, and 15 suspected members or affiliates of the Proud Boys have been indicted in four separate conspiracy cases. The DOJ has already indicted at least four other rioters who they say were affiliated with the three percent.
The defendants, Alan Hostetter, 56, Russel Taylor, 40, Erik Warner, 45, Felipe Antonio “Tony” Martinez, 47, Derek Kinnison, 39, and Ronald Mele, 51, were charged with crimes, including conspiracy to obstruct official proceedings. , obstruction of official proceedings and other illegal entry fees.
The indictment – which was first reported by Seamus Hughes, director of the extremism program at George Washington University – also alleges that at least four members of the group discussed plans to bring guns and other weapons in Washington, but only charges one defendant, Taylor, with illegal possession of a dangerous weapon, a knife, on Capitol Hill grounds.
Taylor is director of the American Phoenix Project, a group his now co-defendant Hostetter founded in the spring of 2020 to protest against pandemic restrictions imposed by the government.
Only one of the accused, Warner, is said to have entered the Capitol, although the other five are accused of joining the rioters at the Upper West Terrace, afrom the Capitol where officers experienced some of the most brutal fighting.
After the November presidential election, prosecutors said, Hostetter used the American Phoenix Project group to promote violence in response to the results. On November 27, 2020, Hostetter posted a video to the American Phoenix Project YouTube channel where he promotedclaims the votes for then-President Trump were “stolen”. He said, “Some people at the highest levels should be seen as an example with one execution or two or three.”
In December, after Mr. Trump tweeted about the planned January 6 rally, noting that it “will be wild,” members of the group began making plans. Taylor posted a link to Mr. Trump’s tweet and asked the question, “Who’s going?”
Evidence described in the indictment suggests he traveled to Washington with the intention of targeting the Capitol. On December 29, Taylor posted on the encrypted messaging app Telegram: “I personally want to be on the front steps and be one of the first to walk through the doors!”
On January 1, Taylor created a group on Telegram called “The California Patriots-DC Brigade”. The six accused, along with more than 30 other people, joined them.
In the chat, Taylor wrote: “A lot of us have never met before and we are all ready and willing to fight.” He said the aim was “to organize a group of fighters to support each other and ensure that no one tramples on our rights.”
Taylor asked group members to identify if they had any military or law enforcement experience, and wrote: “I guess you have some type of weapon that you bring with you and plates as well. », Referring to a bulletproof vest.
Ahead of their trip to Washington, prosecutors said the group had used Telegram and other online platforms to discuss travel plans, deliberate on what weapons to bring and set up radio channels to coordinate while on Capitol Hill. In multiple online discussions, group members have made veiled references to bringing in weapons.
Hostetter texted Taylor telling him he would be traveling to Washington on December 31 and asked if they could “tune in” the day before. “So you can give me your backpack,” he wrote, adding three “hatchet” emojis.
“Oh shit, I have to put this away,” Taylor replied. “Alan are you bringing guns?” “
Hostetter replied, “NO NEVER (Instagram is now monitoring all text messages… this is a public service ad),” followed by three emojis crying with laughter.
In a Jan. 1 article, Kinnison wrote to the group that he planned to drive from California to Washington, “because our luggage would be too heavy” to fly. He said he, Mele and Martinez planned to bring “a lot of equipment,” including medical kits, radios, several bear bombs, knives, flags, goggles and helmets.
The group discussedcould be transported to DC – a city known for its strict gun laws – and Taylor suggested bringing an ax, bat, or large metal flashlight.
“I believe you can carry most stationary blades but not in government buildings,” Taylor said. “Something tells me that if we’re inside government buildings, it won’t be at the top of our list.”
The group also discussed bringing in guns, according to the indictment, although none have been charged with gun violations. Kinnison wrote to his other co-conspirators asking if they wanted to bring a “shotty” and “another long iron”. Mele wrote to the group: “The shorter the better. Mine can be hidden under the seat. I will bring it. 18” barrel. “
Prosecutors said Kinnison sent a selfie-style photo that showed him with a strap of shotgun ammo around his body, and wrote: “I have the strap.”
The group arrived in Washington before the January 6 rally, and Taylor, as director of the American Phoenix Project, spoke at a separate rally on January 5 in front of the United States Supreme Court.
According to prosecutors, Taylor said in his speech, “I stand here in the streets with you in defiance of a Communist coup that should take over America. … We are free Americans and in these streets we will fight and we will bleed. before we allow our freedom to be taken away from us. ”
At around 11:30 p.m. that night, the indictment says Taylor posted a photo on an encrypted messaging service that showed material lying on a bed: a khaki backpack, a black plate vest, two axes , a walkie-talkie radio, a stun stick. , a helmet, a scarf and a knife. He wrote, “Now get ready for tomorrow.”
Prosecutors allege that on January 6, Taylor was wearing a bulletproof vest, a knife in his jacket pocket and a stun baton in his backpack. During Mr Trump’s speech in the morning, prosecutors said that Hostetter and Taylor stayed outside the secure Ellipse area because they were carrying items that were not allowed inside under regulations of the secret services.
Later that day, prosecutors said that Hostetter and Taylor, who still carried his knife, joined the rioters on the lower level of the Capitol’s West Terrace as they attempted to pass a line of police officers through. order. Taylor said, “Bring the Americans forward! He turned to the officers a few feet away from him and said, “The last-ditch boys. Stand back! ”
Taylor and Hostetter then allegedly passed the officers and proceeded to the Upper West Terrace, and Taylor allegedly shouted at the other rioters, “Inside! before heading to the Capitol. Taylor then texted others to say that although he “stormed the capital” he did not enter the building because he “had weapons.”
At around 6:15 pm, Taylor posted on Telegram: “I’ve been pushing traitors all day today. WE HAVE TAKEN THE STORM IN THE CAPITOL!”
Later that night, someone texted Taylor asking what would happen next. He replied: “Insurrection!”