Timothy Hale-Cusanelli, who was in the U.S. Army Reserves when he stormed the Capitol, was convicted Friday on all five counts he faced, including a felony charge of obstruction of an official proceeding.
Hale-Cusanelli, who has been in jail since Feb. 2021, did not dispute that he entered the Capitol on Jan. 6, and his defense lawyer explicitly admitted that Hale-Cusanelli engaged in criminal activity that day. Video shows Hale-Cusanelli yelling at cops outside the Capitol, entering the Capitol moments after it was breached, waving other members of the mob into the building, and attempting to grab another rioter away from police.
Yeah, that sounds like a pretty open-and-shut case. Even a diehard, rule-of-law-flouting Trumpy would have a hard time arguing he was—oh, what fresh hell is this?
But Hale-Cusanelli attempted to defend himself against charges by saying he didn’t know that the Capitol was where the House and Senate sit — despite having described himself during the trial as a history buff who closely followed the electoral college certification process. He claimed in testimony on Thursday that he didn’t realize that senators and House members were in the Capitol building on Jan. 6.
Sheesh. That’s some expert-level gaslighting right there. Was Ted Cruz in the bushes like Cyrano de Bergerac, feeding this guy his lines? Or was he in the bushes doing regular Ted-Cruz-crouching-in-the-bushes things? To be clear, I don’t really know what Ted Cruz does in the bushes, or if he’s even in the bushes at all. I really don’t want to know. My guess is whatever he’s doing is at least tangentially connected to elective surgery on house pets, but those are just rumors. Rumors that I made up mere moments ago. But they feel true, don’t they? Anyway, this isn’t about Cruz. It’s about Capitol insurrectionists and Hitler. Okay, that’s close to being about Cruz, but I’m starting to fear I’ve lost the plot. So on with the story.
According to reports, Hale-Cusanelli told a federal prosecutor, “I didn’t know the Capitol building was the same as the congressional building.” He used the same unlikely defense when appealing to the jury: “I know this sounds idiotic, but I’m from New Jersey. I feel like an idiot, it sounds idiotic, and it is.”
Of course, whether or not Hale-Cusanelli knew Congress met at the Capitol is an important detail, as prosecutors needed to show that he acted “knowingly” when he attempted to “obstruct, influence, and impede an official proceeding.” And somewhere along the line he got the idea that flatly asserting the truth of things that were obviously false was an effective strategy.
Hale-Cusanelli should have plenty of time to brush up on his civics. He’s scheduled to be sentenced on Sept. 16, and Judge Trevor N. McFadden, a Trump appointee, said he was considering a sentencing enhancement because Hale-Cusanelli’s testimony seemed “highly dubious.”
By the way, in addition to balls-out-rocking the “Crystal Meth Hitler” look, Hale-Cusanelli has flirted shamelessly with white supremacy in the past. According to prosecutors, the defendant was arrested in 2010 for using a potato gun adorned with a Confederate flag and the words “WHITE IS RIGHT” to shoot frozen corn at houses in New Jersey.
He also reportedly sent racist texts, including one that said Democrats would try to steal the election through “n****r rigging.”
We can only hope Hale-Cusanelli makes the most of his time in prison. Maybe he can knock off every selection in Donald Trump’s Nazi Book Club. Or, if he really wants to acquire a fuller understanding of the world, he could just watch this: