A retired California police chief-turned-yoga instructor and five others in his crew are the latest defendants charged with conspiring to disrupt the congressional certification of Joe Biden’s victory on Jan. 6.
The conspiracy charges in the indictment against the Alan Hostetter and five others, which was filed online Wednesday and unsealed Thursday, are more serious than the typical trespassing or disorderly conduct charges faced by most defendants in the Jan. 6 attack.
Conspiracy allegations are reserved for those who prosecutors believe planned their actions ahead of time and worked together. They’ve also been lodged by feds against members of the Oath Keepers and Proud Boys. In this case, the indictment against the crew noted several indications of ties to the Three Percenter militia movement, which so far has been largely absent from Jan. 6 case dockets.
The indicted men allegedly participated in the riot at the Capitol with the intent of preventing the certification of Joe Biden’s electoral win.
Hostetter founded the group American Phoenix Project last year to protest COVID-19 public health orders, and his presence in D.C. on Jan. 6 was the subject of a late January Washington Post column on support for Trump among the “wellness community.” TPM has covered Hostetter and the American Phoenix Project’s intimidation tactics aimed at local officials.
The indictment of Hostetter and five others with whom he is said to have conspired — Russell Taylor, Erik Scott Warner, Felipe Antonio “Tony” Martinez, Derek Kinnison and Ronald Mele — alleges that the group began brainstorming a trip to D.C. after Trump beckoned supporters to the nation’s capital with his Dec. 19 tweet promising a “wild” time.
“Late last night President Trump tweeted that all patriots should descend on Washington DC on Wednesday 1/6/2021,” Hostetter allegedly wrote on the American Phoenix Project Instagram handle. “This is the date of the Joint Session of Congress in which they will either accept or reject the fake/phony/stolen electoral college votes. I will be there, bullhorns on fire, to let the swamp dwellers know we will not let them steal our country from us. I hope you can join me!”
The indictment noted Hostetter’s previous appeals to violence over the election results, including in a Dec. 12 speech at a “Stop the Steal” rally in Huntington Beach, CA where he said, “There must be long prison terms, while execution is the just punishment for the ringleaders of this coup.”
‘We Are All Ready And Willing To Fight’
The crew weren’t exactly subtle as they made their plans, according to the indictment: On Dec. 29, Taylor allegedly posted to Facebook, “I personally want to be on the front steps and be one of the first ones to breach the doors!” Hostetter allegedly texted Taylor the same day to coordinate their plans, concluding the message to his brother-in-arms with three hatchet emojis.
When Taylor asked Hostetter if he’d be bringing firearms for the trip, Hostetter allegedly responded, “NO NEVER (Instagram now monitors all text messages … this has been a public service announcement,” followed by three “crying laughing” emojis.
On Jan. 1, Taylor created a Telegram chat that the other five defendants joined, along with “more than 30 others,” according to the indictment.
“Many of us have not met before and we are all ready and willing to fight,” he allegedly wrote in the group’s “about section. “We will come together for this moment that we are called upon.” Separately, Taylor allegedly wrote to the group, “I am assuming that you have some type of weaponry that you are bringing with you and plates as well.”
The same day, Kinnison sent the group a picture of him, Martinez and Warner flashing the Three Percenter hand signal with the text, “We are 3 percent so cal,” according to the indictment. In a second post, Kinnison added that Mele was also part of “so cal 3%.”
The following day, Jan. 2, the Telegram conversation allegedly shifted to what weapons could be brought into D.C. Taylor suggested hatchets, bats, or large metal flashlights, according to the indictment, adding that “I believe that you can carry most fixed blades just not into government buildings.”
“Something tells me though if we are inside government buildings it won’t be on the top of our list,” he allegedly continued.
In a speech on Jan. 5 in front of the Supreme Court, part of a lineup that included Roger Stone and Alex Jones, Hostetter claimed among other things that Trump had won the state of California. “They are going to hear our voice tomorrow,” he said of Congress. “They are going to hear us loud and clear. We are at war in this country!”
“They need to know we as a people, 100 million strong are coming for them if they do the wrong thing,” he added.
‘Move Forward Americans!’
On the day of the attack, Taylor allegedly carried a backpack with a stun baton and a knife in his vest pocket, the latter of which earned him an additional charge for allegedly carrying a knife onto Capitol grounds.
He also allegedly took steps to urge the crowd forward, shouting “Move forward Americans!” as rioters attempted to push through a line of law enforcement on the lower level of the Capitol’s West Terrace.
Taylor later met up with Martinez and Kinnison on the Capitol’s Upper West Terrace, according to the indictment. Warner allegedly entered the Capitol Building through a broken window.
“We stormed the Capitol,” Mele allegedly said while recording a selfie video on his cell phone from the steps next to the Upper West Terrace.
Hostetter allegedly posted a photo from the Upper West Terrace on the American Phoenix Project’s Instagram page, with the caption, “This was the ‘shot heard round the world!’ … the 2021 version of 1776. That war lasted eight years. We are just getting started.”
According to the indictment, Taylor texted several people saying that while he stormed the Capitol, he did not go inside because he “had weapons.”
Asked what he expected to happen next, Taylor allegedly responded “Insurrection!”