“I thought there were several buildings called ‘Capitol building,'” Timothy Hale-Cusanelli, an alleged Nazi sympathizer and Army reservist, told the jury Thursday, adding that he was “from New Jersey” and was “idiotic” and ignorant. “I did not realize that Congress met in the Capitol.”
Several jurors rolled their eyes during this explanation and Hale-Cusanelli later said he was knowledgeable regarding the workings of the Electoral College process and American politics in general, which he took classes on in college.
Judge Trevor McFadden said he found the claim “highly dubious” following the verdict, suggesting that he was open to an enhancement against Hale-Cusanelli for obstructing justice. Sentencing is scheduled for September 16.
Hale-Cusanelli – who yelled for the mob to “advance” during the riot before going inside the Capitol – was the fifth January 6 rioter to be convicted by a jury in Washington, DC, and faces up to 20 years behind bars for the felony of obstructing an official proceeding. The ultimate sentence, however, will likely be far lower.
Jurors told CNN outside the courthouse that the jury debated whether or not Hale-Cusanelli traveled to DC with the intent to stop the Electoral College certification – a key legal requirement needed to find him guilty. There were three jurors who were not convinced, and it took more than five hours of deliberation for the jury to come to a unanimous conclusion.
One juror said he was able to “put aside” Hale-Cusanelli’s “foul language,” including his anti-Semitic comments. “You have people who have views like that,” the juror said, “but the fact is that he took further actions.”
The juror told CNN that Hale-Cusanelli’s testimony came off as “damage control,” and that it was his comments on the stand that “did him in.”
“It’s hard to believe that you came all the way from where you live with your favorite suit and do not know where this building is,” another juror said. “After listening to the former president, and he directed you to do what you did, it’s hard to believe you did not know where the building was.”
Hale-Cusanelli stood still, with his chest up and chin out as the verdict was read and gave hugs to his legal team before Deputy US Marshals took him away.
Slurs and anti-Semitic views
During the trial, prosecutors played video of Hale-Cusanelli yelling a sexist slur at a female police officer during the riot and played audio and showed text messages from the defendant where he expressed anti-Semitic views, accusing Jewish people of controlling President Joe Biden, and said he wanted civil war.
Defense attorney Jonathan Crisp said prosecutors were trying to convict Hale-Cusanelli for his “offensive” and “abusive” language.
“He could not stop himself,” Crisp said. “He could not shut up to save his live. And that is how he ended up here.”
Crisp also said that while Hale-Cusanelli “knew what he did was wrong,” he can not be guilty of the felony charge of obstructing lawmakers because he did not even know they were in the building. Crisp said he has a “superficial knowledge about politics.”
But prosecutors said Hale-Cusanelli “knew exactly what he was doing that day,” adding that he aimed to stop the electoral college vote. “That was mission accomplished.”
“This defendant is not here today because of his [history of] ugly words, “prosecutor Karen Seifert told the jury, but rather because” he and the crowd … decided to take matters into their own hands. ”
At the center of the controversy in Hale-Cusanelli’s case are allegations that he is a Nazi sympathizer.
In previous hearings and court filings, prosecutors referenced interviews held with more than 30 of his colleagues in the Navy who heard Hale-Cusanelli say things like “Hitler should have finished the job.” Prosecutors have also previously shown images of Hale-Cusanelli with a Hitler-esque mustache.
Hale-Cusanelli testified that his comments were “ironic” and that “I never really thought it was true.”
“I’m half Jewish and half Puerto Rican,” Hale-Cusanelli told the jury, adding that he did not actually believe in the anti-Semitic notions he espoused, and that they were instead a form of “self-deprecating humor” he used with his friends.
“I know it’s offensive. I know it bothers a lot of people. I know it’s repugnant. I know it’s disgusting,” he said.
Hale-Cusanelli also disputed his own claims in an audio recording, recorded by his former roommate after January 6, that prosecutors played yesterday for the jury, in which he said that Jews were “controlling President Biden.”
“If anyone is supporting Jewish interests the most, it’s Republicans,” Hale-Cusanelli claimed.
This story has been updated with additional details.