Timothy Hale-Cusanelli, an Army reservist and alleged White supremacist on trial for his actions during the January 6 Capitol riot, was “full of adrenalin and stupidity” when he told his roommate that he wanted a civil war, his defense attorney said during opening statements Tuesday.
The trial of Hale-Cusanelli, who was employed as a guard with secret security clearance at a Naval base in New Jersey before the riot, is expected to run until the end of the week. He faces five charges including the felony of obstructing an official proceeding.
During opening statements, prosecutors said Hale-Cusanelli entered the Capitol in the first 90 seconds of the initial breach and encouraged other rioters to follow suit.
Prosecutor Kathryn Fifield told the jury that Hale-Cusanelli yelled for the crowd to “advance” several times during the riot and used tactical hand signals to communicate with other rioters. Hale-Cusanelli and the other rioters “were successful at stopping” the certification of electoral college votes that afternoon and he did so, according to Fifield, “with consciousness of wrongdoing.”
Hale-Cusanelli’s attorney, Jonathan Crisp, said that his client just wanted to be “a part of something” and suggested that there’s no evidence that he knew the electoral count was going on inside the Capitol and thus couldn’t intend to stop the count.
Hale-Cusanelli is perhaps most known for pictures released by prosecutors which he took of himself sporting a Hitler-esque mustache. It’s unclear, according to court filings, how much of Hale-Cusanelli’s alleged beliefs prosecutors will be allowed to discuss during the trial.
Prosecutors were able to cite comments Hale-Cusanelli allegedly made to his roommate that Jews were “controlling President Biden” and that the only solution, in his mind, “was war, civil war,” Fifield told the jury.
This was just an instance of “bombastic” language Hale-Cusanelli would use to rile up others, his defense attorney said. “What he says is ridiculous,” Crisp told the jury, adding that his client will “say things to agitate” others.
“He makes extreme statements to get attention (and) offends people along the way,” Crisp said, claiming Hale-Cusanelli simply went along with the crowd on January 6. “It was groupthink.”
Allegations of Nazi beliefs
Hale-Cusanelli has been detained since his arrest in January 2021, a decision that was re-affirmed by Judge Trevor McFadden following a report that 34 of his colleagues at the Naval base told investigators Hale-Cusanelli held “extremist or radical views pertaining to the Jewish people, minorities and women.”
According to these interviews which were revealed in court documents, Hale-Cusanelli said babies born with deformities should be shot in the head and that “Hitler should have finished the job.”
One Navy seaman recalled Hale-Cusanelli saying that if he was a Nazi “he would kill all the Jews and eat them for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, and he wouldn’t need to season them because the salt from their tears would make it flavorful enough.”
Hale-Cusanelli has denied that he holds racist views but simply has “traditional values” with views that “are against the modern tide,” according to Crisp.
“Every judge is afraid of releasing somebody who then goes crazy,” McFadden said last year when handing down his initial ruling that Hale-Cusanelli would remain behind bars.
“There’s a lot in here that makes me worried about that,” McFadden concluded, citing the report and other evidence brought by prosecutors.
Prosecutors say they will call Hale-Cusanelli’s roommate to testify, along with a police officer who encountered Hale-Cusanelli during the riot.
CNN’s Marshall Cohen contributed to this report.