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Alleged supporters of right-wing Three Percenters group charged in new Jan. 6 Capitol riot conspiracy

The Washington Post logo The Washington Post 6/10/2021 Spencer Hsu, Rachel Weiner
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Six Southern California men, including four self-described members of the Three Percenters movement, were arrested Thursday and charged with conspiracy in the Jan. 6 Capitol breach.

The new indictment adds the Three Percenters to the list of right-wing groups — mainly the Oath Keepers and the Proud Boys — whose alleged associates have been charged with conspiring to impede police or thwart Congress’s confirmation of the 2020 presidential election results.

The 28-page indictment unsealed Thursday accuses the men of felony counts of conspiracy and aiding and abetting the obstruction of a joint session of Congress, although only one defendant allegedly entered the Capitol.

Alan Hostetter, 56, of San Clemente and Russell Taylor, 40, of Ladera Ranch are accused of working with an uncharged third person, identified only as Person One, to launch the American Phoenix Project last year to oppose pandemic restrictions and then support President Donald Trump’s bogus claims of election fraud.

After the November election, Hostetter, a yoga instructor and former police chief in Orange County, used the project “as a platform to advocate violence against certain groups and individuals” supporting the election’s outcome, which he called an act of treason that stripped citizens of their rights, according to the indictment.

“Some people at the highest levels need to be made an example of with an execution or two or three,” Hostetter said in a video he recorded while traveling to Washington for a pro-Trump MAGA march on Nov. 14 and posted Nov. 27 on the project’s YouTube channel, the indictment alleged.

“That’s not hyperbole when we call it tyranny. . . . And tyrants and traitors need to be executed as an example,” he said, according to charging papers.

Others charged in the eight-count indictment handed up Wednesday include: Erik Scott Warner, 45, of Menifee; Felipe Antonio “Tony” Martinez, 47, and Derek Kinnison, 39, both of Lake Elsinore; and Ronald Mele, 51, of Temecula.

[Read the indictment here]

The men allegedly started planning on Dec. 19 to travel to Washington for Jan. 6. Taylor, Hostetter and Person One were named as speakers for the project on Jan. 5 at the Supreme Court, according to prosecutors, part of what Taylor called the “Wild Rally” Trump had invited supporters to stage before Congress’s joint session the next day.

On Jan. 1, Taylor began a Telegram thread joined by more than 30 others called “California Patriots-DC Brigade” to organize “a group of fighters,” prosecutors allege. In another encrypted chat, he eventually showed off his gear for Jan. 6, including a plate-carrier vest, two hatchets, a radio, stun baton, helmet, scarf and knife, they charged.

“I stand here in the streets with you in defiance of a communist coup that is set to take over America,” Taylor told the Jan. 5 crowd on video quoted in the indictment, speaking alongside Trump confidant Roger Stone and “Stop the Steal” organizer Ali Alexander.

“We are at war in this country. . . . We are at war tomorrow,” Hostetter said, concluding his remarks, “I will see you all tomorrow at the front lines.”

[Roger Stone keeps appearing in Capitol breach investigation court filings]

The indictment alleges that Hostetter, Taylor and Person One met in the early hours of Jan. 6, rallied at the Ellipse where Trump spoke, and walked together to the Capitol. Taylor — armed with a knife — and Hostetter joined rioters and confronted police on the lower and upper West Terrace of the Capitol but did not enter, charging papers allege.

Warner entered through a broken window at the start of the breach, about 2:13 p.m., while the other three men congregated at the upper West Terrace, where Mele recorded himself on video saying, “We stormed the Capitol,” the indictment alleges.


Video: GOP Senators Block January 6 Commission That Would Investigate Capitol Riot (Money Talks News)

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All six were also charged with misdemeanor trespassing and violent and disorderly conduct. Taylor also faces felony counts of carrying a dangerous weapon on Capitol grounds and aiding and abetting obstruction of police in a civil disorder, and Warner and Kinnison are accused of destroying evidence.

Hostetter’s attorney, Bilal A. Essayli, said in an interview that his client was released on an unsecured bond and allowed to keep the firearms in his home after telling the judge he had received death threats.

Essayli said he believed his client “did not do anything ­unlawful” and “is being targeted for his political beliefs.” He said it was “very concerning” that his client was charged with felonies when he’s not accused of entering the Capitol building.

Essayli said the group “was talking about defending themselves against counterprotesters,” not organizing violence against police or lawmakers. “It was for self-defense.”

An attorney for Taylor, Dyke Huish, said his client intends to fight the charges: “These charges five months after the event were a surprise to Mr. Taylor. He intends to appear in court tomorrow, enter a not guilty plea and challenge these charges.”

Mele’s attorney declined to comment. Information about attorneys for others was not immediately available.

Martinez appeared in federal court in Austin and was released without bond.

[U.S. investigating possible ties between Roger Stone, Alex Jones and Capitol rioters]

The indictment said Kinnison identified himself, Martinez, Warner and Mele as part of “so cal 3%” or “3 percent so cal” in two posts to DC Brigade on Jan. 1.

It alleged Taylor also asked Kinnison to lead the group’s communications and that Hostetter on Jan. 3 adopted Three Percenter rhetoric on the project’s Instagram account, posting, “There likely will be 3% of us again that will fully commit to this battle but, just as in 1776 patriots will, prevail.”

The Three Percenters, formed in 2008, is named after the bogus claim that only 3 percent of colonists fought against the British in the American Revolution. The group has allied itself with some self-styled militia groups, espoused right-wing libertarian ideals and embraced Trump.

A national chapter known as The Three Percenters-Original condemned the riot and announced it was dissolving in February because of the damage to the movement.

The group’s founder, Michael Brian Vanderboegh, died in 2016.

U.S. authorities have rounded up about 30 alleged members or supporters of the Proud Boys in the Capitol breach, accusing four leaders of organizing and directing some of the most destructive, aggressive and earliest attacks on police lines on the West Front and into the building’s Senate wing. Leaders of the Proud Boys and the Oath Keepers have denied planning violence that day.

Proud Boys recorded themselves on video gathering at the Capitol that morning even before Trump’s speech near the White House, shouting about taking the Capitol and confronting police, while wearing radio ear pieces and orange tape before breaking barricades and windows.

[Prosecutors allege ‘alliance’ between Proud Boys and Oath Keepers on Jan. 6]

Prosecutors have also charged about 20 alleged associates of the Oath Keepers, a loosely organized but radical anti-government group founded in 2009 that recruits members of the military and police.

Sixteen are charged in one indictment with converging on Washington at what prosecutors say was the urging of founder and doomsday prophet Stewart Rhodes to block Congress’s electoral vote confirmation. Several defendants were in contact with Rhodes before and after moving in a single file, “military ‘stack’ formation” while wearing tactical gear up the east steps and forcibly entering doors leading to the Rotunda, prosecutors have alleged.

Rhodes has denied concocting any plan to storm Congress, while acknowledging the possibility he might be arrested.

All defendants allegedly connected with the Oath Keepers and Proud Boys have pleaded not guilty, except for heavy-metal musician Jon Ryan Schaffer, a self-described founding member of the Oath Keepers who is cooperating with prosecutors.

Opinion | Meet the police chief turned yoga instructor prodding wealthy suburbanites to civil war DOJ seeks to build large conspiracy case against Oath Keepers for Jan. 6 riot a group of people standing next to a pile of stuffed animals: Rioters storming the Captiol on Jan. 6. © Jose Luis Magana/AP Rioters storming the Captiol on Jan. 6.
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