WASHINGTON — A former U.S. Army reservist and Naval station security guard who told his roommate he hoped for civil war ahead of Jan. 6 was sentenced Thursday to four years in prison.
Timothy Hale-Cusanelli, 32, was convicted by a jury in May of one felony count of obstruction of an official proceeding and four misdemeanor counts for his role in the Capitol riot. At trial, prosecutors showed jurors videos of Hale-Cusanelli moving barricades and taunting police outside the Capitol. Once inside, Hale-Cusanelli made his way to the underground visitor’s center and attempted to encourage others to join the mob in the building before interfering with an officer who was trying to arrest another rioter.
Hale-Cusanelli’s roommate at Naval Weapons Station Earle in Colts Neck, New Jersey – where he was working as a security guard at the time of his arrest – served as a key witness for the prosecution. The roommate, who testified under a pseudonym to protect his identity, agreed to wear a wire and provided investigators with audio recordings and copies of text conversations he and Hale-Cusanelli had. In those conversations, Hale-Cusanelli repeatedly brought up the subject of civil war, saying it one point he thought it was “the simplest solution, the most likely outcome and the best shot at a clean bill of health for our society.”
The roommate also testified at trial that Hale-Cusanelli would speak frequently about his racist and anti-Semitic beliefs, including the idea that Democrats and President Joe Biden were “puppets” for Jewish interests. Dozens of Hale-Cusanelli’s coworkers at Naval Weapons Station Earle told investigators he frequently made anti-Semitic comments, including telling one Navy petty officer he thought “Hitler should have finished the job.”
Though much of Hale-Cusanelli’s history of racist and anti-Semitic comments was excluded from trial – including a photograph in which he posed while wearing a Hitler mustache – U.S. District Judge Trevor McFadden said Thursday he could look to it to determine Hale-Cusanelli’s dangerousness for sentencing purposes. McFadden said the Justice Department had convincingly shown Hale-Cusanelli’s “animus toward racial and religious minorities” was a significant motivation for his actions and “helped you justify your conduct on Jan. 6.”
McFadden also said Hale-Cusanelli’s sentence would be higher because of false testimony he gave during trial. In particular, McFadden pointed to “absurd” testimony that Hale-Cusanelli didn’t realize the man he was trying to prevent from arresting another rioter in the visitor’s center was a police officer, as well as Hale-Cusanelli’s testimony that he didn’t know Congress met at the Capitol — which McFadden called a “risible lie.”
All of that served to offset, somewhat, one victory Hale-Cusanelli did achieve, which was to convince McFadden to deny a significant sentencing enhancement the government requested for obstruction of the administration of justice. Hale-Cusanelli was represented during trial by attorney Jonathan Crisp, but brought on an additional lawyer, Nick Smith, after his conviction to help with that argument, and on Thursday, Smith successfully convinced McFadden the language of the applicable sentencing guideline didn’t include obstructing and official proceeding —although, McFadden said, it probably should.
“If the [sentencing] commissioners were all sitting around here, I think they’d all agree we want this offense to be within the definition of this enhancement,” McFadden said.
Hale-Cusanelli spoke briefly Thursday, apologizing for his actions and explaining he’d gone to trial not out of a lack of remorse but on advice of his attorney.
“I disgraced my uniform and I disgraced my country,” Hale-Cusanelli told the judge.
Before delivering his sentence, McFadden told Hale-Cusanelli he was appalled by statements he’d made to police on Jan. 6 and by the “deep hostility and insensitivity toward people who aren’t like you” he’d shown. He also said that, while he acknowledged Hale-Cusanelli’s troubled upbringing, it couldn’t serve as an excuse for Jan. 6.
“You’re 32 years old and you’re responsible for your actions,” McFadden said.
McFadden ordered Hale-Cusanelli to serve 48 months in prison, to be followed by 36 months of supervised release, and to pay $2,000 in restitution. That represented a downward departure from the 78 months prosecutors requested and the 60 months the probation officer recommended, but an upward departure from the 21-27 months recommended guideline as McFadden calculated it after denying the additional obstruction enhancement. Hale-Cusanelli will receive credit for the approximately 21 months he’s already served in jail on pretrial detention since his arrest last January.
McFadden told Hale-Cusanelli he recognized his sentence meant he would be spending several more years in prison, but told him he didn’t think he was “unredeemable.”
“You’ll still be a young man when you’re released, and I hope you will continue serving your country and making a life for yourself when you get out,” McFadden said.
McFadden ended the hearing by granting a request from Hale-Cusanelli’s attorneys to recommend his placement at the low-security federal prison at Fort Dix in New Jersey.
We're tracking all of the arrests, charges and investigations into the January 6 assault on the Capitol. Sign up for our Capitol Breach Newsletter here so that you never miss an update.