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By Shawn Raymundo
Six men, including far-right activist and San Clemente resident Alan Hostetter, have been hit with a federal conspiracy charge and each faces a series of other offenses in connection to the breach of the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6.
The 56-year-old Hostetter, a former La Habra police chief and yogi who last year led several anti-lockdown rallies in San Clemente through his group, the American Phoenix Project, was arrested June 10 on charges that include conspiracy, obstructing an official proceeding, and unlawful entry on a restricted building or grounds, according to the U.S. Justice Department.
Russell Taylor, a close associate of Hostetter’s, along with Erik Scott Warner, Felipe Antonio Martinez, Derek Kinnison and Ronald Mele, also face multiple charges related to the Capitol insurrection.
Taylor, 40, who was indicted on additional charges including obstructing law enforcement and unlawfully possessing a dangerous weapon on Capitol grounds, aided Hostetter in organizing Stop the Steal rallies, such as one outside the U.S. Supreme Court on Jan. 5.
The indictments come months after Hostetter’s San Clemente apartment and Taylor’s Ladera Ranch home were raided by the FBI. Hostetter is already facing charges connected to his arrest at a protest he had organized last summer to remove fencing the city had placed around the Pier Bowl parking lot.
Bilal Essayli, Hostetter’s attorney, said the federal charges and indictment brought against Hostetter were troubling, stating that his client didn’t enter “the Capitol building or engage in any acts of violence or had any weapons.”
“He was there to protest and exercise his First Amendment right,” Essayli continued. “Today, he was charged with multiple felony counts, and I think it’s just very troubling, as an American citizen.”
Taylor’s attorney, Dyke Huish, said last week he and his client will “challenge the charges where appropriate.”
The 20-page grand jury indictment that was made public on June 10 alleges that the men, all from California, conspired “to obstruct, influence, and impede” the joint session of Congress on Jan. 6, when lawmakers were certifying the Electoral College votes.
Following the Dec. 19 tweet from former President Trump predicting that the protest of the election results in D.C. would “be wild,” Hostetter and the others began making plans to attend.
“I will be there, bullhorns on fire, to let the swamp dwellers know we will not let them steal our country from us,” Hostetter wrote from his American Phoenix Project Instagram account the same day. “I hope you can join me!”
Using social media and Telegram, an encrypted messaging app, the group of men—some of whom have self-identified as belonging to the Three Percenters anti-government militia group—coordinated travel plans to Washington, D.C., and promoted American Phoenix Project rallies.
In the chat, which Taylor titled “The California Patriots-Answer the Call Jan 6,” the men also shared details about “gear” and weapons and firearms that they were planning to bring on their cross-country road trips, according to the indictment.
Hostetter, in a text message to Taylor on Dec. 29, explained that he’d be departing for D.C. on Dec. 31, and asked to meet so “you can give me your backpack,” which was followed by three hatchet emojis, the indictment stated.
“Taylor responded, ‘Oh shiz. I need to pack that up. Alan, are you bringing firearms?’ ” the indictment continued to outline. “Hostetter texted back, ‘NO NEVER’ (Instagram now monitors all text messages), followed by three emojis of faces laughing with tears.”
Taylor, the court filing stated, had also that same day posted to the California Patriots chat on Telegram to state: “I personally want to be on the front steps and be one of the first ones to breach the doors!”
The night before the march on the Capitol, Taylor had posted a photo to a separate encrypted chat app, displaying gear he had laid out on a bed that included such things as a black plate-carrier vest, two hatchets, a stun baton, and a knife, among other things, according to the indictment.
The court filing goes on to allege that on the day of the protest, Hostetter and Taylor, who reportedly was carrying a knife in his front chest pocket, were among a group of rioters who had pushed through a line of police officers on the Lower West Terrace of the Capitol, and had urged others to follow.
“Taylor, followed closely by Hostetter, then pushed through the area that the law enforcement officers had been blocking, moved up the stairs onto a structure erected for the Inauguration, and continued moving to the Upper West Terrace,” the indictment stated.
Later that evening, the indictment added, Taylor sent out texts stating that he “stormed the capital (sic).” He also said in the text that he didn’t go inside the building, because he “had weapons.”
“When asked by one of the individuals with whom he was texting what happens next, Taylor responded, ‘Insurrection!’ ” the indictment continued.
FBI spokesperson Laura Eimiller said that Hostetter had his initial appearance in federal court in Orange County on June 10. Three of the others had court hearings in Riverside, and the fifth had a court hearing in Texas, she said.
According to Essayli, the judge released Hostetter on a $20,000 signature bond with minimal conditions, such as surrendering his passport and abiding by all court orders.
This past Monday, Hostetter appeared virtually in federal court to plead not guilty. During the arraignment, the judge ordered that Hostetter also surrender all of his firearms and barred him from traveling to Washington, D.C.
Shawn Raymundo is the city editor for the San Clemente Times. He graduated from Arizona State University with a bachelor’s degree in Global Studies. Before joining Picket Fence Media, he worked as the government accountability reporter for the Pacific Daily News in the U.S. territory of Guam. Follow him on Twitter @ShawnzyTsunami and follow San Clemente Times @SCTimesNews.