Former Green Beret, Army reservist who wore Hitler mustache jailed pending trial on Jan. 6 Capitol riot charges
By RACHEL WEINER, SHAYNA JACOBS AND EMILY DAVIES | The Washington Post | Published: March 24, 2021
WASHINGTON — A U.S. Army Reserve sergeant and a former Army Special Forces soldier were ordered jailed pending trial Tuesday on charges stemming from the Jan. 6 Capitol riot, while a veteran New York Police Department officer turned herself in to face trespassing charges.
Timothy Hale-Cusanelli, an Army reservist and military contractor, was ordered detained on civil disorder and related charges. Prosecutors also said at his hearing that his supervisor at a U.S. naval base was suspended for defending Hale-Cusanelli against allegations that he held white-supremacist views.
Hale-Cusanelli ran an anti-Semitic podcast, wore a Hitler mustache to work and shared violent, racist fantasies with colleagues, prosecutors said. After the Capitol breach, which disrupted Congress's confirmation of the 2020 presidential election results and the peaceful of transfer of power, Hale-Cusanelli expressed hope for a "civil war, at a time when we're having concerns about that in this country," Assistant U.S. Attorney James Nelson said.
U.S. District Judge Trevor McFadden of Washington ordered Hale-Cusanelli detained, saying it was a "close case" given that the defendant is not accused of hurting anyone or associating with a violent group Jan. 6.
"We don't typically penalize people for what they say and think," the Trump appointee said, and "hateful conduct" is not the same as "violent conduct." But he added, "I am concerned about all the violent language."
According to court records, Hale-Cusanelli admits using hand signals to encourage others to push past police lines and entering the building through a door kicked open from the inside.
Defense attorney Jonathan Zucker argued that Hale-Cusanelli "simply is not a dangerous person by his actions."
Zucker had submitted a letter to the court from someone who supervised Hale-Cusanelli at Naval Weapons Station Earle in New Jersey, saying his subordinate was "slandered in the press in regards to him being a 'white supremacist.' "
However, the supervisor has been placed on administrative leave after prosecutors revealed that he told the Naval Criminal Investigative Service in January that Hale-Cusanelli was a Nazi sympathizer whom he had cautioned about "joking but not" racist comments. Thirty-four of the 44 colleagues interviewed by investigators agreed that Hale-Cusanelli held "extremist or radical views pertaining to Jewish people, minorities, and women."
Separately, a federal magistrate denied bond for Jeffrey McKellop, 55, of Augusta County, Va., who served two enlistments totaling 22 years in the Army, including as a Special Forces communications sergeant.
McKellop is accused of throwing a flagpole at a police officer like a spear and assaulting three other officers, according to the FBI and court documents.
U.S. Magistrate Judge Zia Faruqui of Washington called the decision "very difficult."
Defense attorneys Greg Hunter and Seth Peritz cited McKellop's military record as evidence of his character, including multiple tours overseas and three Bronze Star Medals. Prosecutors said that his training made him more dangerous and that he should have known better.
"It's really difficult to resolve those two seemingly intractable divisions, that someone who could be a patriot could do something that was so undemocratic at the same time," Faruqui said.
Ultimately, he said a government video exhibit that allegedly showed McKellop slamming a flagpole on a police captain's shield and then throwing it at him was "one of the most egregious" assaults against police, ordering McKellop held because he was a danger to the community.
Also Tuesday, retired veteran New York Police Department officer Sara Carpenter surrendered to authorities and was released on personal recognizance to face trespassing and disorderly conduct charges after she was allegedly seen in the U.S. Capitol carrying a tambourine. Carpenter, 51, retired from the department in 2004 after serving 20 years, including in its public relations branch, a person familiar with her career said. A department spokesman said in a statement it "worked closely with the FBI Joint Terrorism Task Force culminating" in Carpenter's arrest.
An attorney for Carpenter declined to comment when reached Tuesday.
Another retired NYPD officer, Thomas Webster, 54, was arrested last month, accused of assaulting a police officer outside the Capitol with a metal pole. Prosecutors said Webster beat the District of Columbia police officer with a flagpole that he had used to display a Marine Corps flag and was also seen tackling the officer to the ground.
The Washington Post's Spencer S. Hsu and Tom Jackman contributed to this report