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Roommate who wore wire for FBI testifies at Army reservist's Capitol riot trial

The former roommate, testifying under a pseudonym, said Timothy Hale-Cusanelli spoke about how he believed a civil war was "the simplest solution."

WASHINGTON — Jurors in the trial of a former Army reservist charged in the Jan. 6 assault on the U.S. Capitol Building heard testimony Wednesday from a key government witness: the defendant’s former roommate, who agreed to wear a wire for federal investigators.

The roommate, who testified under the pseudonym “Mike Jacobs” due to concerns about retribution by Timothy Hale-Cusanelli’s supporters, was called to the stand Wednesday afternoon. He said Hale-Cusanelli was assigned as his roommate in 2018 while both were stationed at Naval Weapons Station Earle in Colts Neck, New Jersey. Jacobs was serving at the time as a medic in the U.S. Navy. Hale-Cusanelli was an Army reservist working as a private security contractor on the base.

Jacobs described their relationship over roughly three-and-a-half years as “cordial,” though said they didn’t really socialize after work. He said they would frequently talk – almost always about politics or social issues and often specifically about how Hale-Cusanelli believed Democrats and President Joe Biden were “puppets” for Jewish interests. Jacobs, who is Black, said he and Hale-Cusanelli, who is white, were “definitely on different” sides politically, but that he enjoys speaking to people who disagreed with him and that it never had a negative impact on their living situation. The one thing they found they couldn’t discuss without the conversation becoming too heated, Jacobs said, was race relations in America.

Though the two lived together for years, the bulk of Jacobs’ testimony focused on a single conversation they had a few days after the Capitol riot. Jacobs said FBI and NCIS agents had spoken to him and asked him to wear a wire to record Hale-Cusanelli discussing what he’d done on Jan. 6. Jacobs agreed, testifying that he believed it was the right thing to do. Federal investigators eventually paid Jacobs $4,000, but he said he wasn’t aware he would be compensated when he agreed to wear the wire.

The recording played in court began with Jacobs asking Hale-Cusanelli a question: “Why are you so scared of getting caught?”

“You know,” Hale-Cusanelli responded. “The 10-year felony thing… I could be labeled a domestic terrorist. It’s a thing they’re saying.”

Jacobs then asked Hale-Cusanelli if he was one of the people who entered the Capitol in a military-style stack formation. Hale-Cusanelli said no, but that he had used “a lot of hand signals” that could be viewed as tactical signals.

“I know I was yelling ‘advance’ a lot,” Hale-Cusanelli said.

Hale-Cusanelli also told Jacobs he’d stashed some of the clothing he’d worn on Jan. 6 at a friends house, and that he had a flagpole he’d seen used to strike a police officer in the head.

“I think maybe I have a murder weapon on me,” Hale-Cusanelli said. “That’s still in my truck. I’ve got to dispose of that.”

About the riot itself, Hale-Cusanelli spoke enthusiastically about his participation.

“I can’t describe how exhilarating it was,” he said. “The adrenaline. The rush. The sense of purpose.”

How do you recreate that, Jacobs asked?

“War,” Hale-Cusanelli said.

When Jacobs said he didn’t think civil war was going to happen in the U.S., Hale-Cusanlli responded, “Not yet.”

“How would you even make that happen?” Jacobs asked.

“Let me tell you. If we had more people, we could have cleared that whole building,” Hale-Cusanelli said, adding a short time later, “It’s only a matter of time. They don’t want to be the ones to fire the first shot.”

He broached the subject of civil war again several more times, at one point saying, “Civil war, not that I want that, but I think it is the simplest solution, the most likely outcome and the best shot at a clean bill of health for our society.” At another point, Hale-Cusanelli told Jacobs he didn’t necessarily want to see violence.

“It’s not like I want to see people dead on the street,” he said. “I’m not a complete sociopath. But I literally don’t see a political future going forward.”

For prosecutors, who had in the first day of the trial described Hale-Cusanelli as someone who “genuinely believes in civil war” as proof he intended to obstruct Congress on Jan. 6, the recording from that point became a mixed bag. Hale-Cusanelli told Jacobs several times there was no plan to obstruct the certification of electoral votes and claimed that he became agitated only when police began firing rubber bullets at protestors. But, Hale-Cusanelli also spoke favorably of a future, hypothetical conflict.

“There was no plan to overthrow the government like they keep saying,” Hale-Cusanelli told Jacobs. “But there will be.”

On cross-examination, Hale-Cusanelli’s attorney, Jonathan Crisp, pressed Jacobs on statements he made suggesting he didn’t really think his roommate was serious about any of the things he was saying.

“Didn’t you actually say you could tell this was all fantasyland?” Crisp asked.

“Yes,” Jacobs said.

“He never says, ‘I went in there to stop the electoral count, does he?” Crisp followed up.

“No,” Jacobs responded.

While the recordings and Jacobs’ testimony took up much of the afternoon, it’s not all jurors will have to look at. On Tuesday, prosecutors entered dozens of text messages from Hale-Cusanelli expressing his belief that the election was stolen and that Jan. 6 would result in a reversal through slates of faithless electors he believed multiple states were sending. In the texts, Hale-Cusanelli also repeated his desire to “get the civil war started already” – something assistant U.S. attorney Karen Seifert hammered home one last time during her final questions for Jacobs.

“Who brings civil war into the conversation?” she asked.

“Tim did,” Jacobs said.

The trial was set to resume Thursday morning with both prosecutors and the defense expected to rest their cases that day.

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