Federal prosecutors filed a comprehensive conspiracy charge Thursday, accusing six Californian men of ties to a radical gun rights movement called the Three Percenters with a plot to attack the Capitol on Jan. 6, in the first charges against everyone involved in the crime. planning one of the political events the week of the attack.
The 20-page indictment was also the first to be filed against a group of alleged Three Percenters, a loosely organized movement that takes its name from the alleged 3 percent of the American colonial population who fought the British. The new charges, filed in the Federal District Court in Washington, came the same day Christopher A. Wray, the F.B.I. director, testified before a House committee that prosecutors were pursuing additional charges of conspiracy against some of the rioters who stormed the Capitol.
Investigators have said for months that several extremist groups were involved in the attack, but while the Three Percenters are occasionally mentioned in court files, most of the accused extremists come from two other groups: the Oath Keepers militia and the far-right nationalist group the Proud guys. The new charges could indicate that prosecutors have begun to pay attention not only to those who directly participated in the attack on the Capitol, but also to those who participated in the attack.
The two top defendants in the charges – Alan Hostetter, 56, a former police chief turned yoga instructor; and Russell Taylor, 40, a wealthy graphic designer with a penchant for red Corvettes — were already under government scrutiny after the F.B.I. raided their homes in January. Mr. Hostetter and Mr. Taylor were leaders of a group called the American Phoenix Project, which was created to combat the "fear-based tyranny" of coronavirus-related restrictions. The group later embraced former President Donald J. Trump's lies about a stolen election and helped organize a well-attended meeting outside the Supreme Court on Jan. 5 that included Roger J. Stone Jr., a former adviser to Mr. Trump.
Mr Hostetter's wife, Kristine, a schoolteacher, also attracted national attention this year after attending "Stop the Steal" rallies in Washington, which caused a stir in their hometown of San Clemente, California, prompting an investigation by the school board into whether she had attacked the capital. She was acquitted by the district in March.
But despite the attention of law enforcement, the news media and neighbors in Orange County, neither Mr. Hostetter nor Mr. Taylor had been publicly associated with the Three Percenters before they were charged Thursday.
The indictment began shortly after the election, saying Mr Hostetter used the US Phoenix Project "to advocate violence against certain groups and individuals who supported the 2020 election results." For example, in late November, he posted a video to the group's YouTube channel in which he accused those who had not challenged the results of committing treason. "Some people at the highest level," he said, "need to be modeled on an execution or three."
The following month, at a meeting in Huntington Beach, California, Mr. Hostetter delivered a speech in which he repeated his death threats against those who doubted that Mr. Trump had won. "Execution is the just punishment of the leaders of this coup," the indictment quotes him as saying.
To plan their role in the Capitol bombing, prosecutors say Mr. Hostetter, Mr. Taylor, and some of their co-defendants — including Derek Kinnison, 39, Felipe Antonio Martinez, 47, and Erik Warner, 45 — texted have used , Facebook and the chat app Telegram. More than 30 people, the indictment said, took part in a Telegram group chat called "California Patriots-DC Brigade," a channel that Mr. Taylor described as being for "healthy individuals going to DC on January 6" and "are" ready and willing to fight.”
On Jan. 1, prosecutors said Mr. Taylor sent a message through the group chat asking if they had military or law enforcement training. "I assume," he wrote, "that you have some kind of weaponry that you take with you."
That same day, Mr. Kinnison in his introductory post on the group chat that he, Mr. Martinez and Mr. Warner, according to the indictment, were part of "so cal 3%." Prosecutors say Mr Kinnison attached a photo to the Telegram message of the three men giving a three percent hand signal.
Mr. Hostetter and Mr. Taylor's bond with the Three Percenters seemed a little weaker. On Jan. 3, the indictment says, Mr. Hostetter posted a message on the American Phoenix Project's Instagram account in language related to the movement. "Only 3% of Americans actually fought in our Revolutionary War," he wrote. "There will probably be another 3% of us who will be fully committed to this fight."
Taylor's attorney Dyke Huish said he was unaware of any involvement of his client with the Three Percenters. "That's something I've never heard of," he added, "even from afar."
Mr Hostetter and Mr Taylor emerged as the rising star in . last year Southern California's Resurgent Distant Battle. Both appear to have been radicalized at the start of the pandemic, helping to bring a new generation of right-wing extremists out of the beach towns of Orange County, where Richard M. Nixon turned an oceanfront villa into his presidential retreat, and John Wayne kept his hunt, Wild Goose.
The area was the cradle of the modern American conservative movement and some of its most vehemently racist, anti-Semitic and paranoid offshoots, such as the John Birch Society in the 1960s and neo-Nazi and skinhead groups that flocked to the surf spots for two decades. later on.
Until last year, Mr. Hostetter seemed very far removed from that history. A former soldier and police chief, he landed in San Clemente nearly a decade ago and embarked on a third career as a yoga guru specializing in "sound healing." with gongs, Tibetan bowls and Aboriginal didgeridoo's. He was conservative, according to those who know him, but no more than many others in and around San Clemente.
Then came the pandemic. He Quit Yoga, Declared Himself a 'Patriotic Warrior' and directed the American Phoenix Project. The group began organizing protests and soon attracted Mr Taylor. Their list of enemies grew rapidly and included Black Lives Matter protesters, and Mr. Hostetter at times seemed to embrace QAnon, the conspiratorial movement that falsely claims that Mr. Trump was secretly fighting devil-worshipping Democrats and international financiers who abuse children.
Prosecutors say Mr Kinnison and his Three Percenter partners were open about their ties to the movement and apparently had plans to bring firearms to Washington on Jan. 6. On Jan. 2, Mr. Kinnison texted Mr. Warner, Mr. Martinez and another co-defendant, Ronald Mele, 51, contained a photo of him carrying a banderoller of shotgun ammunition, according to the charges.
After mr. Taylor had spoken at the Supreme Court meeting on Jan. 5 — "I'm Russell Taylor and I'm a free American" — prosecutors say he posted a video on an encrypted chat app that showed an array of gear on a bed. see: a bulletproof vest, two axes, a walkie-talkie, a sedative stick and a knife. The caption read, "Now you're getting ready for tomorrow."
Decked out in this outfit, the indictment says, Mr. Taylor marched from Mr. Trump's January 6 speech to the Capitol with Mr. Hostetter and someone identified only as Person One. Mr Kinnison and his group of Three Percenters, prosecutors say, approached the building separately and at least one of them – Mr Warner – entered through a broken window.
Prosecutors are not accusing Mr. Hostetter or Mr. Taylor of breaking into the Capitol, though they do allege that both men joined a mob of rioters on the lower west terrace of the building pushing through a line of law enforcement officers.
“I was pushing traitors all day today,” Mr Taylor wrote in a Telegram chat at 6:18 p.m. that evening, prosecutors say. “WE STORM THE CAPITOL! Freedom was fully demonstrated today!”