New trial begins for Navy reservist and Capitol riot suspect facing weapons charges
Associated Press January 17, 2023
ALEXANDRIA, Va. — A Navy reservist who is charged with storming the Capitol on Jan. 6 is going back on trial in Virginia on separate charges that he illegally bought silencers — and talked about using them against Jewish people and others he considered to be enemies.
Opening statements Tuesday in U.S. District Court in Alexandria against Hatchet Speed, a northern Virginia resident, marked the second trial he has faced on the weapons charges in the past two months. A mistrial was declared last month in the first case after the jury failed to reach a verdict.
The trial hinges on three devices that Speed bought in March 2021 that the government said are unregistered silencers. Speed contends the devices are "solvent traps" to collect excess liquid that spills out when a gun is cleaned.
In her opening statement Tuesday, prosecutor Amanda Lowe called the devices purchased by Speed "unregistered silencers masquerading as solvent traps."
She said the devices are designed to be easily converted into silencers — which is why people spend more than $300 for them.
The devices that Speed purchased are made of titanium and can be screwed onto the threaded barrel of a 9 mm handgun. A firearms expert for the government said it takes about 10 minutes to convert the device that he purchased into a fully functional silencer.
Speed's public defenders, though, said the devices are exactly what they are marketed as — solvent traps. Defense lawyers have pointed out that there is no hole at the end of the silencer for a bullet to pass through. Speed never modified the devices in any way to make them operable as silencers.
"The government jumped the gun" on filing weapons charges against Speed, public defender Brook Rupert told jurors.
But prosecutors said the device is designed in a way that the proper size hole can easily be made with a hand drill.
In recent years, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms has shut down and seized several websites that sold solvent traps, including the one from which Speed purchased his devices.
The first witness that jurors heard from on Tuesday was an undercover FBI employee identified only as "Al." A large screen was placed in the courtroom to shield Al's face from the public.
The jury heard recordings of conversations between Al and Speed in which Speed said the devices work well as silencers.
In the recording, Speed also made antisemitic comments and proposed targeting Jewish people with acts of violence.
Rupert acknowledged in her opening statement that jurors would hear "shocking and unpleasant" conversations but urged them to distinguish "between what is distasteful and what is illegal."
Speed is expected to go on trial later this year in Washington, D.C., on misdemeanor charges that he stormed the U.S. Capitol with members of the far-right Proud Boys extremist group. If convicted, the firearms charges could carry much longer potential prison sentences than the misdemeanor charges related to the Capitol riot.
After the Capitol riot, prosecutors said Speed engaged in "panic buying" firearms, ammunition and accessories — including several silencers — spending more than $40,000. Prosecutors said that when Speed learned in March 2021 that paperwork and registration requirements for silencers would significantly delay the delivery time to him, he bought the devices marketed as solvent traps several days later and received them immediately.