Hostetter Going To Trial In July On January 6 Insurrection Charges

On July 6 and the days or even weeks that are to follow, American society will perhaps come to terms with the mass of contradictions and paradoxes that are Alan Hostetter, just as Allen Hostetter may at last come to terms with the mass of contradictions that are American society.
On that day, the case of the People of the United States vs. Alan Hostetter is scheduled to go to trial.
With the exception of Jacob Chansley, the Q-Anon Shaman wearing American flag facepaint and a horned Native headdress who carried a menacing-appearing spear when he boldly stormed past Capitol Police officers after breaking into the Capitol building before seating himself at the presiding officer’s chair where he penned a jeering note to then-Vice President Mike Pence,” Hostetter is perhaps the most notable – famous or infamous – of the more than 1,000 defendants charged by the U.S. Government with insurrection in, at and around U.S. Capitol on January 6, 2021. Hostetter certainly can make a claim to being the most fascinating of those criminally charged in the matter, which grows out of the conflicting, indeed what come across as strikingly schizophrenic – diametrically opposite and radically changeable – elements of his personality.What Hostetter’s upcoming trial promises to test is the schizophrenic nature of American society, the immense contradiction and tension between the dual freedoms of thought and speech when the practice thereof runs head on into the preservation of civil order intended to preserve those very principles. To be determined is whether Hostetter, who it does not appear actually engaged in violent action himself, crossed the line into anarchic rebellion and sedition when he uttered words, repeatedly and with unwavering conviction, which called for, and ultimately incited others to, violent and indeed deadly confrontation with civil authorities.
At multiple levels, Hostetter embodies a paradox, what might be termed the duality of man.
One would be hard pressed to find someone who lived into the concepts of the All-American image of J. Edgar Hoover-like rectitude than Hostetter did. After graduating from high school in 1983, he joined the Army, training as an infantryman. He was stationed at Fort Hood in Texas with the 1st Cavalry Division and did a tour of duty with the 3rd Infantry Division in Aschaffenburg, West Germany.
In 1986, after leaving the Army, he was hired by the Orange County Sheriff’s Department. In 1989, he transferred to the Fontana Police Department.
Hostetter was a creature of, and identified closely with, the Fontana Police Department, one of the more aggressive of the region’s law enforcement agencies, as might have been expected in a city that was the birthplace of the Hells Angels and Devils Diciples outlaw motorcycle gangs. In tight, and sometimes not-so-tight, situations, officers felt, with the consistent backing of the San Bernardino County District Attorney’s office, that they had license to shoot first and ask questions later. In dealing with suspects and potential suspects of any type of crime, the general attitude was to arrest everyone and let the prosecutors deal with determining whether the arrests were justified by confirming the ones who were lawbreakers with the filing of charges against them. Safeguarding the constitutional rights of the accused or the public at large was not a high priority with the officers of the department.
As a young, upstanding Strom Thurmond type, Hostetter fit right in. Shortly after he began working at Fontana PD and was still working as a patrol officer, he began dating a police dispatcher who eventually became the police department’s dispatch and communications division supervisor. Alan and Wendy Hostetter had a son, Corey, who was hired as a rookie police officer with the Fontana Police Department in 2016, who then left Fontana and went to work as a police officer in Upland in 2017.
Alan Hostetter was a climber, and while he was in Fontana working the posts typical of police officers – in the patrol division, on the special weapons and tactics team, in the narcotics unit, detective bureau, traffic unit and internal affairs unit – his advancement through the department was paralleled by academic achievement. He obtained a correspondence bachelor of science degree in education from Southern Illinois University at Carbondale, followed by a master of public administration degree from California State University, San Bernardino, even as he was promoted to police corporal in 1993, sergeant in 1996, lieutenant in 2001, then served in 2006 and early 2007 as the chief of the Fontana School District Police Department before returning to the Fontana Police Department as a captain in April 2007, working the department’s administration division.
Hostetter was a graduate of the 212th session of the Federal Bureau of Investigation National Academy at Quantico, Virginia; Class 38 of the California Police Officers Standards and Training Command College; and Class 105 of the Sherman Block Supervisory and Leadership Institute.
In December 2007, Hostetter narrowly missed being chosen as police chief, placing second among the department’s five top ranking officers competing for the position, losing out to fellow captain and then-Assistant Police Chief Randy Jones, who was six years older with five more years’ experience in law enforcement, all of them with the Fontana Police Department. Hostetter was instead promoted into the assistant chief position.
In 2009, there was trouble in the Hostetter marriage. Though he was on the fast track to become police chief, and it was widely anticipated that he would accede to police chief upon Jones’ eventual retirement, Hostetter, perhaps because of his domestic situation, in the fall of 2009 applied for the soon-to-open police chief’s position in the Orange County city of La Habra, which then had roughly 60,000 residents, making it less than a third of the size of then-190,000 population Fontana. In December 2009, Hostetter was selected to serve as chief from among the 20 final candidates winnowed from the applicants for the La Habra job.
Hostetter began as La Habra police chief in January 2010, but remained in place only until May of that year, going out on leave and then taking a disability retirement officially effective as of August 26, 2010. He was 46 years old. He moved to San Clemente.
The following year, because of his disability retirement, he was able to begin pulling his pension, then pegged at $132,907.32 annually through the California Public Employees Retirement System, three years early. With three percent annual cost of living increases, that pension has grown to $165,309.94 and will reach $170,269.24 later this year.
In 2011, Hostetter began as an instructor/facilitator with the University of Phoenix, teaching undergraduate courses in ethics in criminal justice and graduate courses in budgeting. He remained as an instructor until 2013.
In October of 2011, he founded a company, Public Sector Solutions, which provided investigative services to support private businesses with workplace investigations. He maintained that company until September of 2017.
Hostetter had always been mindful of his own conditioning and as a police officer was an advocate of physical fitness for the officers he commanded. After his disability retirement, he had undergone back and neck surgeries, which offered him only limited relief, and which compromised his mobility and dexterity. In 2013, he took up yoga and found it an excellent way to maintain flexibility, suppleness and muscle tone. He rapidly went from being a novice to a dedicated practitioner to, in 2016, a certified teacher of Yin yoga.
In January 2017, he created Alpha Yoga of Orange County, which catered mostly to senior citizens and the wives of wealthy businessmen in San Clemente, Dana Point and San Juan Capistrano. The type of yoga he advocated included a focus on the healing and relaxing potential of hypnotic sound, and he would endeavor to create an atmosphere that used American Indian flutes, Tibetan bowls and Aboriginal didgeridoos to create a “sound bath” to serve as the atmosphere in which those who engaged in the exercises he led, stretches and poses known as asanas and vinyasas accompanied by breathing exercises known as pranayama, could get all of the benefits of the yoga experience. Alpha Yoga of Orange County offered relaxation guidance, sound healing, Reiki energy healing, wellness and sleep workshops.
To those who knew him in his previous life as a police officer, an existence in which force and aggression were routine, Hostetter’s transformation was profound, as he talked about eliminating everything other than “good vibes” and seeking out spiritual fulfillment, getting in touch with his own soul and how yoga could make such cosmic realizations for others possible.
Hostetter had made a remarkable physical transformation as well, having gone from the clean-cut military/police officer model he had typified in his 20s, 30s and early 40s to a bearded and long-haired guru hippy type.
For more than two years, Hostetter adopted not only the guise and outward appearance but seemingly the personality and lifestyle of the sort of individual, whom if he had encountered during his days as a police officer, he would have deemed immediately suspect and worthy of the closest scrutiny, a pat down and search of his person and effects. Having deviated from the rightward path of most of his adult life to make a sharp turn to the left, Hostetter in 2020, with the advent of the COVID-19 crisis, abruptly lurched rightward, even further to the extreme than he had been as an infantryman, police officer and police chief. In April 2020, he shuttered Alpha Yoga of Orange County, reinventing himself once more as a conservative political activist, devoting practically all of his time and energy into the American Phoenix Project, a nonprofit organization, of which he was, with Russell Taylor, the co-founder and director. The American Phoenix Project, he solemnly said, was dedicated he said, to ushering America out of what he termed “this national ‘shelter-in-place’ nightmare, fight back against the corruption taking place at all levels of government, reform and hold accountable the mainstream media, end illegitimate liberal censorship of conservative expression and thought, educate the public regarding vaccinations and vaccination programs and support medical freedom and medical choice by resisting the quarantining of healthy Americans.” His countryman, he inveighed, were being stripped of their civil rights by liberals and communists intent on using the pandemic as a pretext for consigning them to a gulag disguised as medical treatment.
In conjunction with Taylor, a Ladera Ranch businessman, Hostetter sponsored protests against mandates that citizens wear masks out in public and he led rallies in Orange County against coronavirus restrictions in general. Seemingly overnight, Hostetter had transformed from being the prophet of yoga, with dozens or scores of followers, to the Orange County messiah of resistance to the Deep State, with hundreds of faithful hanging on his every word.
Simultaneously, Hostetter utilized the American Phoenix Project to file a lawsuit against Governor Gavin Newsom “to take down all ‘shelter-in-place’ orders currently in place.”
The lawsuit failed but drew to him a sizable contingent of residents either opposed to the government lockdowns from the start or who began to chaff under those restrictions as they continued week after week and month after month.
Robert Ramsey, with whom Hostetter had served the entirety of his career at the Fontana Police Department and who eventually acceded to the police chief position there in 2016 when Police Chief Jones retired, himself retired to San Clemente after a little more than two years in the chief’s position in 2018. In the summer of 2020, Ramsey joined with Hostetter in his protests of beach closures in Orange County, during which they carried bullhorns, defying civil authorities and encouraging others to do the same, taunting the local police sent to break up the crowds and his fellow and sister protesters, daring them to make mass arrests. It was a curious display by two former chiefs of police.
Those who knew Hostetter primarily as a yoga instructor whose focus on achieving inner peace and oneness with the universe said it was if he had become unhinged, having been sent off the deep end by the government precautions against the spread of COVID-19. Former yoga students relate tales of him growing intemperate and profane, cursing when discussing stay-at-home orders or business-closure mandates. One told of Hostetter viciously upbraiding him for wearing a mask when they had a chance encounter on the street.
Others have consistently depicted Hostetter as reacting virulently, during any discussion he was involved in relating to the lockdown and governmental mandates at that time, to any suggestion that the COVID-19 pandemic represented a legitimate health crisis that was best managed with precautions to limit the spread of the virus and protect those elements of the population most vulnerable to it. The government’s effort to reduce the strain on healthcare facilities and institutions – hospitals and both acute care and recovery/long term care homes – where those most critically impacted by the disease were to be treated, was an out-and-out ruse to compromise constitutional rights and liberty, he said. Hostetter would dismiss with anger and derision any expression of trust in California’s government or faith that Governor Gavin Newsom was seeking to protect the state’s citizens, insisting his interlocutor had been brainwashed or was a tool of the Democrats and the socialists who had commandeered the State of California and were ruling the roost in Sacramento.
Hostetter said the State of California’s response to the coronavirus outbreaks exposed the Democrats as power mad tyrants hell bent on lording it over California’s citizens. The Democrats in Washington, D.C. were attempting to use the virus as means of recapturing national political primacy, as well, he said.
The government had skewed the statistics on the disease by “monetizing COVID deaths,” that is, paying hospitals money for every reported COVID-related death of their patients, which he said had induced those hospitals to falsify the cause of death data those institutions kept to show that virtually all who died at those facilities in 2020 had contracted COVID-19.
A comparison of death statistics going back five years demonstrated, he said, “There’s no pandemic. There’s never been a local health emergency.”
He likened the call for self-quarantining to being “placed under house arrest. We’re going to be wearing masks for the rest of our lives, according to [Dr. Anthony] Fauci [the chief medical advisor to the president]. We are going to be digitally tracked for the rest of our lives. First masks, then vaccines, then vaccine passports. Next thing you know, you’re on the cattle cars.”
He accused Democratic officeholders and the Republicans who failed to oppose them of being “hack politicians. These politicians are bought off by Big Pharma and God only knows the corruption that is involved in keeping them dogging us and dogging us and dogging us like they have been for a year.”
With the 2020 election approaching, Hostetter became ever more convinced that Donald Trump represented the last hope for humanity, and that his reelection as president was imperative for the United States to survive as a nation.
On September 19, 2020, during a public address in Orange County, he referenced the trade war with China. “The United States was about to win that war and then that war went suddenly literally viral, manufactured in a Wuhan bio-weapons lab,” he said. “The China virus was unleashed on the world, with the Chinese Communist Party flying their infected citizens all across America and all across the world. And whether by design or simple opportunism, the domestic enemies that have been infiltrating and proliferating within the United States for generations now saw their opportunity six months ago to crash the hottest economy on Planet Earth and try to take out the best president ever. These domestic enemies have used this virus to divide us, to strike fear in us, to subjugate and oppress us, with the ultimate goal being to remove President Donald J. Trump, one of the most amazing and effective leaders this country has ever seen.”
Those around him said he was elated in the immediate aftermath of the election, when on election night it appeared that Donald Trump had narrowly gained reelection, seeming to have won in the crucial swing states of Ohio, Pennsylvania, Michigan and Wisconsin. But with results from the more populous major urban areas of those states coming in the following day, Pennsylvania, Michigan and Wisconsin slipped from the Republicans grasp and on November 4, 2020, President Trump tweeted from @realDonaldTrump, “Last night I was leading, often solidly, in many key States, in almost all instances Democrat run & controlled. Then, one by one, they started to magically disappear as surprise ballot dumps were counted. VERY STRANGE, and the “pollsters” got it completely & historically wrong!”
From that point on, President Trump and his supporters propounded that the election was being stolen.
Eleven days after the election, a million-man Make America Great Again March aimed at convincing government officials that a recount of the presidential election votes was in order was organized to take place in the nation’s capital. Hostetter resolved to attend. On November 12, 2020, during his drive from California to the march in Washington, D.C. to support the president, Hostetter videoed himself as he was driving through Arkansas, noting that he was on schedule to arrive in Virginia that evening.
“It was so brazen what they did to us, the theft of this election,” he said on the video. “They did this to us in broad daylight. They stole this election while everybody was watching, and they were flipping us the middle finger as they did it. The Deep State has been assuming power in this country and slowly taking everything over in this country. There’s been no honest vote probably in decades, if not longer. They think they’re firmly in control and they’re about to be proven otherwise.”
When the million-man MAGA March did not result in reversing the presidential election outcome, President Trump’s supporters and their efforts to prevent what they said was the theft of the election coalesced around the hope that Vice President Mike Pence would use his authority as president of the Senate to prevent the hijacking of the election from occurring. President Trump’s advocates believed that when the House of Representatives and the Senate met in a joint session to certify the election, Pence could overturn the election results in favor of Joseph Biden in key swing states by mandating that votes cast there which were in dispute not be counted, thereby making a determination that the Trump-Pence ticket had prevailed in the presidential/vice presidential election. The “Stop the Steal” movement was born and Hostetter became its self-appointed Southern California leader.
When Trump tweeted, “Statistically impossible to have lost the 2020 Election,” both Hostetter and Taylor saw that posting, and each reported that it had a profound impact on them. Trump followed up with, “Big protest in D.C. on January 6th. Be there, will be wild!”
According to federal officials, Taylor and Hostetter reacted to that signal from the president in a text exchange in which they resolved to travel to the Capitol in order to “intimidate Congress.”
While yet in Southern California in December 2020, at rallies in Orange County, Hostetter appealed to as many “patriots” as possible to heed the president’s call and go to Washington ahead of the joint session of Congress to certify the election results on January 6 in order to protest that certification, which would be, if it went to Joseph Biden, he insisted, invalid.
At that time, Hostetter spoke almost exclusively in circumstances where he was surrounded by like-minded Trump supporters. On two known occasions, when someone present asked Hostetter what evidence he could marshal to show the election had in fact been stolen, violence nearly erupted.
During one of those rallies, Hostetter propounded that the “elected whores,” meaning the members of Congress, should “fix this mess and keep America America.” Allowing the crooked Democrats who had stolen the election to put their kingpin Joseph Biden in the White House was tantamount to treason, he said, which “patriots” would not stand for. Those members of Congress directly participating in the theft – meaning the Democrats – and the ones passively allowing it to happen – meaning the Republicans who were RINOs or Republicans In Name Only – would suffer the fate of being “tie[d] to a fucking lamppost,” he said.
During the anti-masking and anti-pandemic restriction campaign that took place earlier in 2020 and the pro-Trump campaign efforts of late summer and fall 2020, Hostetter and the 39-year-old Taylor had loosely affiliated themselves with Felipe Antonio “Tony” Martinez, 47 of Lake Elsinore, Erik Scott Warner, 45 of Menifee, Derek Kinnison, 39 of Lake Elsinore and Ronald Mele, 51 of Temecula, all of whom were involved to a lesser or greater extent in the Southern California Make America Great Again, Three-Percenter, QAnon and Proud Boys movements, as well as Morton Irvine Smith, 55 of San Juan Capistrano, a sixth-generation member of the Irvine family that was responsible for the development of the city that bears his middle name.
Taylor, Warner, Martinez, Kinnison and Mele all looked up to Hostetter, based on his military and police experience, his charisma and the financial independence his police pension provided him, which allowed him to devote so much time to conservative political causes. All became charter members of the American Phoenix Program. In response to the president’s call to make a nationwide and coordinated effort focused on the election certification that was scheduled to take place on January 6, 2021, the six began to coordinate while they were in Southern California to sojourn to Washington, D.C. in early January 2021 so they might rendezvous there ahead of the election certification to engage in various efforts to further the “Stop the Steal” effort, such as speechmaking and inciting the masses they anticipated would be assembled there to action.
Using various messaging applications and social media, including the encrypted messaging application Telegram, Hostetter, Taylor, Warner, Martinez, Kinnison and Mele communicated with one another and shared information regarding progress being made internally in the government toward certifying the election, coordinating their travel to Washington, D.C., and promoting events sponsored by the American Phoenix Project.
On December 28, 2020, Warner initiated a group text message thread in which he, Mele, Kinnison and Martinez discussed logistics and expenses for a cross-country road trip. On December 29, Hostetter and Taylor texted each other regarding travel and whether they would bring firearms.
On January 1, Taylor created a Telegram chat called “The California Patriots-DC Brigade,” which the defendants, along with more than 30 others, joined and used to identify themselves, communicate and coordinate with each other. In the “about” section, Taylor wrote: “This group will serve as the Comms for able bodied individuals that are going to DC on Jan 6. Many of us have not met before and we are all ready and willing to fight. We will come together for this moment that we are called upon.”
Using Telegram, Taylor told the other five they needed “to have each other’s backs and ensure that no one will trample on our rights” and “we need to be aware of possible threats. I am assuming that you have some type of weaponry that you are bringing with you and plates as well.” Taylor also asked members to identify if they had previous law enforcement experience, military experience or “special skills relevant to our endeavors.”
Kinnison told the others that he, Mele and Warner were “[l]eaving tomorrow and driving instead of flying because our luggage would be too heavy. We will have lots of gear from medical kits, radios, multiple cans of bear spray, knives, flags, plates, goggles, helmets…I think we should clear all text in this chat in the morning of the 5th just in case for opsec [operational security] purposes.”
Kinnison, Mele, Martinez and Warner exchanged plans on a group text thread with regard to coordinating and planning their trip, including whether they wanted to bring firearms with them on their cross-country drive. Mele told the group, “shorter the better. Mine will be able to be stashed under the seat. I’ll bring it. 18” barrel.”
On January 5, at a rally near the U.S. Supreme Court, Alan Hostetter told a frenzied crowd, “Our voices tomorrow are going to put the fear of God in the cowards and the traitors, the RINOs and the communists of the Democrat Party. They need to know, we of the people, 100 million strong, are coming for them if they do the wrong thing.” He told those assembled that they should ready themselves for “war tomorrow” to be carried out against the “vipers” in Congress who were refusing to declare the election of Joseph Biden null and void.
At the same rally, Russell Taylor said, “In these streets we will fight and we will bleed before we allow our freedom to be taken from us. We will not return to our peaceful way of life until this election is made right.”
They would never give in to communists, the Deep State or Antifa, Taylor vowed.
At 11:28 p.m. on January 5, Taylor posted a photo to a chat on another encrypted messaging service showing gear arranged on a bed, including a khaki backpack, a black plate-carrier vest, two hatchets, a walkie talkie-type radio, a stun baton, a helmet, a scarf and a knife. In the caption, he wrote, “Now getting ready for tomorrow.”
On January 6, the defendants congregated on the National Mall for the rally, where Mele, Martinez, Kinnison and Warner posed for a photo. Martinez, Kinnison and Warner flashed a hand signal showing affiliation with the Three Percenter group. Taylor, Hostetter and others walked down Pennsylvania Avenue toward the Capitol, and Taylor took a selfie-style video as he walked, in which he stated, “We are on the move. Heading up to the Capitol.” At 2:13 p.m., Warner entered the Capitol through a broken window. At approximately 2:30 p.m., Taylor and Hostetter joined rioters on the lower west terrace who were pushing through the line of law enforcement officers seeking to keep the crowd from advancing. Taylor was carrying a knife in the front chest pocket of his plate carrier vest and urged on rioters before pushing through the police line and moving up the stairs and onto the Upper West Terrace.
Taylor at that point beckoned the rioters, “Move forward, Americans,” and told the officers seeking to hold the line against the rioters, “Last chance boys. Move back!” At that point, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office, Taylor, closely followed by Hostetter, pushed through the area that the capital police had been blocking, moved up the stairs onto a structure erected for the Inauguration and continued moving up on to the Upper West Terrace.
Once Taylor and Hostetter were in place on the Upper West Terrace, Hostetter addressed the crowd, saying, “The people have taken back their house. Hundreds of thousands of patriots showed up today to take back their government!” Taylor yelled to the crowd, “Inside!” Taylor and Hostetter then moved toward the Capitol building.
At 2:38 p.m., the plate-carrier vest clad Martinez and Kinnison, wearing a gas mask, made it onto the restricted are on the Upper West Terrace of the Capitol Building.
The Sentinel has seen no direct evidence that Mele made it onto the West Terrace, though a video depicts him on the steps next to it. In that video, he can be heard saying, “We stormed the Capitol.”
At 6:18 p.m., Taylor posted to Telegram, “I was pushing through traitors all day today. We stormed the Capitol! Freedom was fully demonstrated today!”
Hostetter posted a photo to his American Phoenix Project Instagram account of himself and Taylor taken from the Upper West Terrace of the Capitol in which a crowd of rioters can be seen in the background. Hostetter captioned the photo thusly: “This was the ‘shot heard round the world’ … the 2021 version of 1776. That war lasted 8 years. We are just getting started.”
Between 7:52 and 9:11 p.m., Taylor sent text messages to several people, saying that he “stormed the capital (sic)” but because he “had weapons,” he did not go inside. When asked by one of those he was texting what was to happen next, Taylor responded, “Insurrection.”
Hostetter, Taylor, Warner, Martinez, Kinnison and Mele returned to their homes in Southern California later that month. On January 27, 2021, the FBI served search warrants at Hostetter’s San Clemente and Taylor’s Ladera Ranch homes.
On June 10, 2021, a federal indictment naming Hostetter, Taylor, Warner, Martinez, Kinnison and Mele was unsealed. It charged them with participating in the January 6, 2021 Washington, D.C. insurrection, alleging that in so doing they disrupted a joint session of Congress at the U.S. Capitol to tally the electoral college votes for the November 3, 2020 election. On the same day, arrest warrants for Hostetter and the five others were returned and executed.
According to the indictment, Hostetter, Taylor, Warner, Martinez, Kinnison and Mele conspired to obstruct, corruptly influence and impede the vote certification and Hostetter, Taylor, Warner, Martinez, Kinnison and Mele in fact did obstruct and impede the tallying of the vote.
Taylor, according to the indictment, obstructed law enforcement officers during the civil disorder that occurred on January 6, 2021.
The indictment stated Hostetter, Taylor, Warner, Martinez, Kinnison and Mele knowingly entered and remained in a restricted building and grounds or otherwise cordoned-off area within the Capitol and its grounds where the vice president was temporarily visiting without authority to do so and that in doing so, Taylor, specifically, was carrying a deadly and dangerous weapon.
Taylor, without authorization by the Capitol Police Board, carried and had readily accessible a dangerous weapon, a knife with a blade over three inches in length, on the United States Capitol Grounds, according to the indictment.
Kinnison, according to the indictment, altered, destroyed mutilated or concealed records documents or other materials, i.e., by erasing a DC Brigade Telegram chat from his cell phone, with the intent to impair its integrity and availability for use in the investigation of the crimes he and others committed on January 6, 2021.
Warner, according to the indictment, altered, destroyed mutilated or concealed records documents or other materials, i.e., by erasing a DC Brigade Telegram chat from his cell phone, with the intent to impair its integrity and availability for use in the investigation of the crimes he and others committed on January 6, 2021.
In the immediate aftermath of his indictment, Hostetter was represented by Bilal Essayli, a California-based attorney who had run unsuccessfully for the California Assembly in 2018 and who has since, in 2022, succeeded in obtaining a berth in California’s lower legislative house. In hearings before the U.S. District Court in the District of Columbia where the case against him and his co-defendants is scheduled to be held, Hostetter was also represented by John Pierce, and more recently by Karren Kenney.
Initially, in keeping with the dictum of one of the leaders of the American Revolution, Benjamin Franklin, that those involved in rebellion must “hang together or most certainly we shall all hang separately,” Hostetter put on a united front with Taylor, Warner, Martinez, Kinnison and Mele.
In October 2021, however, Hostetter undertook a radical change of strategy in his legal defense. On October 14 of that year, Hostetter told U.S. District Court Judge Royce Lamberth, who is overseeing his case, that he wanted to represent himself, basically because of financial circumstance, his stated rationale for doing so being that the federal government knows that it has no case against him and is proceeding with the criminal charges in an effort to both discredit him and bankrupt him financially.
Lamberth said that whatever Hostetter’s impressions were of the case against him and the justice system and despite his knowledge of the law gained by his more than 23 years as a police officer, it was ill-advised for him to seek to represent himself in the legal arena with which he has virtually no expertise. He told Hostetter he had “never seen a pro se defendant actually succeed. A trained lawyer would defend you far better than you could defend yourself.”
Hostetter intimated to Lamberth that he believes the Justice Department and the courts are corrupt, and that he wants the opportunity to illustrate that through his trial, and does not want to be hampered by an attorney who is likewise corrupted by the system. He said he would be willing to be advised though not represented by an attorney who was not a member of any secret societies such as the Masons, Book and Snake and Skull and Bones.
Ultimately, at Hostetter’s insistence, Lamberth consented to Hostetter acting as his own attorney.
Thereupon, Hostetter made a sharp break with his codefendants.
Asserting he was the target of a “classic FBI counterintelligence program operation” and that he has come to believe that at least some of those among Taylor, Warner, Martinez, Kinnison and Mele and perhaps all are government informants, Hostetter sought to have the charges against him dismissed.
Referencing “secret societies,” including Freemasons and the Skull and Bones fraternity at Yale University and religious “cults” such as Scientologists and the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Hostetter in a motion to the court ultimately rejected by Lamberth said he was targeted by the government and its Justice Department and the FBI for taking a stand in opposition to “Covid-19 lockdowns and stay-at-home orders” instituted during the coronavirus pandemic.
Hostetter believes that his allies in the fight against government-imposed COVID-19 precautions – Taylor, Warner, Martinez, Kinnison and Mele – were being directed by the government to insinuate themselves into his orbit in order to entrap him.
“The government attempted to concoct, direct and supervise the enterprise from start to finish,” according Hostetter’s motion. Despite what he said was “their incessant efforts to direct defendant into criminal activity,” Hostetter said, he did not take the bait and had “never engaged in criminal activity.”
Prime candidates for those who were serving as government informants, Hostetter claims, are Taylor, his ally in the formation of the American Phoenix Project, and Morton Irvine Smith, who for nearly a generation has been prominent in Orange County conservative political efforts, served as an American Phoenix project board member and traveled to Washington, D.C. separately from Hostetter, Taylor, Warner, Martinez, Kinnison and Mele to participate in the January 6, 2021 protest but was not charged in any indictments related to the January 6 insurrection.
Judge Lamberth denied Hostetter’s motion.
Hostetter initially declared his intention of insisting on a speedy trial, but the deadline for the government putting on its case against him was tolled when he himself made motions which suspended the trial date countdown. In December, all six of the defendants were given a trial date of July 6, with the government being provided a deadline of today, April 21, by which it had to disclose its expert witnesses, both parties being provided a deadline of May 5 for pretrial motions, with oppositions to those motions due by May 19 and replies by May 26. A pretrial conference and motions hearing is set for June 16, the satisfying of reciprocal discovery requests is to take place by June 18 and witness and exhibit lists from both sides are to be presented by June 22.
On January 16, Hostetter entered a waiver of jury trial, consenting to have Judge Lamberth hear all of the charges against him.
This week, on Wednesday April 19, Russell Taylor pleaded guilty to a count of obstruction of an official proceeding. His sentencing was deferred until the trial for his five codefendants is completed. In the course of Wednesday’s hearing at which his plea was accepted, Taylor’s attorney, Dyke Huish, stated that his client had already begun the process of cooperating with prosecutors, having met with the government on at least four occasions in the lead-in to prepare the way for Wednesday’s plea.
Warner, Martinez, Kinnison and Mele remain on a trajectory toward a jury trial that will correspond with Hostetter’s bench trial still set to commence on July 6.
In previous public statements and video postings to his website, Hostetter has maintained that he is confident of obtaining vindication at trial. Lately, however, his postings have ceased, and he has spurned multiple requests for interviews from media outlets, including the Sentinel. With the prospect of the trial just around the corner, Hostetter appears to be under duress and in serious difficulty, overwhelmed by the sheer amount of discovery material he is in his capacity as his own lawyer attempting to assimilate, a volume of documents and other materials approaching 100,000 pages.
The defense theory he had sought to propound – that he was a peaceful dissident who has been victimized by a government plot through the use of a false flag operation to inveigle and entrap him into actions that might be interpreted as sedition which he otherwise would not have engaged in – has seriously eroded. In the first place, Judge Lamberth rejected such a scenario as grounds to dismiss the case against him over year ago. His hope that he yet might put before a jury enough evidence to that effect to raise the specter of reasonable doubt has been dealt setback after setback. His suggestion that Taylor was working for the government from the outset, for which there was never a strong case to begin with, faltered under the withering reality that Taylor remained with him and the four others a defendant, with no disclosure by the government that he was indeed a government operative. Taylor’s guilty plea on Wednesday now stands as a strong indication in the form of an acknowledgment from Taylor himself that he was engaged in seditious activity and was not in any way acting on behalf of the government. The U.S. Attorney’s Office remains determined in the effort to obtain convictions against Warner, Martinez, Kinnison and Mele, indication that they were not in on a conspiracy to frame Hostetter. The last remaining theorem that Hostetter might present relating to how he was set up by the government consists of his allegation that Irvine Smith had somehow induced him to become involved in a circumstance in which he became associated with the actions of others that gave off the false appearance that he was militating to overthrow the government when actually he was not. Pursuing that avenue, however, is not likely to prove fruitful. Both Irvine Smith and his wife, Marianne Campbell Smith, were intensely and sincerely resisting the state and local masking mandates throughout the COVID-19 pandemic and they had allied with Hostetter out of an indisputable sense of common cause. Ultimately, Marianne Smith was arrested, tried and convicted of refusing to wear a mask at Mother’s Market in Costa Mesa as part of an anti-mask rally that Hostetter had organized.
Given that Hostetter will not be making his argument to a jury but rather to Judge Lamberth, that Lamberth has already signaled that he is skeptical of that defense theory when he dismissed Hostetter’s previous motion citing that theory, together with the paucity of evidence to support it, Hostetter pursuit of such a tack is likely to be futile.
In the same way, Hostetter is on shaky ground progressing toward trial based on his past assertions that action he and the other “patriots” who turned out at the January 6 protest engaged in cannot be labeled as criminal or seditious because he and they were merely acting out of loyalty to President Trump and the U.S. Constitution by seeking to prevent an insidious criminal conspiracy by which Joseph Biden, whom Hostetter considers a “communist traitor,” stole the election from Donald Trump, the true winner.
An examination of how Judge Lamberth dealt with Chansley – the Q-Anon Shaman – when he made a similar defense of his action does not bode well for Hostetter.
In a memorandum of his reasoning for not allowing Chansley to be released from custody prior to his trial, Judge Lamberth noted that in an interview with NBC News, Chansley referred to Vice President Pence and senators who were gathered in the Capitol building on January 6, 2021 as “traitors” and that having forced them to “hunker down, put on their gas masks and retreat into their underground bunker, I consider that a win.”
Judge Lamberth noted that “Long before January 6th, defendant [Chansley] publicly promoted the hanging of those he believed to be ‘traitors’ in the United States government. Defendent’s views on that subject did not dissipate with time” and that “after he breached the Senate Chamber, defendant announced that he would sit in the vice president’s chair because Vice President Pence is ‘a fucking traitor.’ Then he left a note to Vice President Pence saying ‘It’s only a matter of time[;] justice is coming!’ Reading that note in the context of the defendant’s earlier promotion of the execution of ‘traitors’ invalidates the notion that defendant breached the Capitol merely to leave peaceful, political commentary on the Senate dais.”
Judge Lamberth continued, “Second, defendant argues that ‘but for the actions and words’ of former President Trump, he would not have entered the Capitol building. He claims that he merely ‘heeded the invitation’ of President Trump to ‘walk down Pennsylvania Avenue and go to the Capitol.” To substantiate this claim, defendant points to former President Trump’s impeachment trial. The Court need not question the sincerity of this claim. Even taking defendant’s claim at face value, it does not persuade the Court that defendant would not pose a danger to others if released. If defendant truly believes that the only reason he participated in an assault on the U.S. Capitol was to comply with President Trump’s orders, this shows defendant’s inability (or refusal to) exercise his independent judgment and conform his behavior to the law. These are not the qualities of a person who can be trusted on conditional release. Moreover, the fact that defendant attributes his actions on January 6th to President Trump does little to persuade the Court that defendant will not act in the same or similar ways again. In fact, in his interview with 60 Minutes+, defendant stated that he does not regret his loyalty to former President Trump.”
It is unclear how thoroughly Hostetter reviewed Judge Lamberth’s rulings with regard to other January 6 Insurrection defendants who have come before him prior to signing the January 16, 2023 waiver to forego a jury trial and have Lamberth hear the case against him.
A significant number of Chansley’s statements, ones which Judge Lamberth found so concerning that he denied him release, are echoed by, or in some cases are barely indistinguishable from, Hostetter’s public statements.
Similarly, in his rulings with regard to Chansley, Judge Lamberth found troubling Chansley’s attempts at minimizing his actions.
In the immediate aftermath of his indictment and that of Taylor, Warner, Martinez, Kinnison and Mele, Hostetter acknowledged that crimes were committed at the Capitol on January 6, 2021, but he attributed those to agents of the government who were seeking to discredit the true patriots who were supporting President Trump in the face of treason by the communists and those seeking to assist Biden in his theft of what rightfully belonged to Donald Trump: the U.S. Presidency from January 20, 2021 until January 20, 2021. At that time, Hostetter still considered Taylor, Warner, Martinez, Kinnison and Mele to be patriots.
Hostetter told the Sentinel at that time, “What happened January 6 was a total false flag staged event,” meaning that Deep State operatives had infiltrated the ranks of President Trump’s supporters and had engaged in illegal actions for which President Trump’s true supporters and those resisting and protesting the theft of the election were being falsely blamed. As a result of the false flag activity, Hostetter said, he and his fellow defendants were “under the microscope from the Deep State.”
“I never ever engaged in any act of violence,” he said. “I never destroyed one piece of property. I never even entered the Capitol building. I think I maybe got a little too close in their eyes, and sang the national anthem a little too loud, maybe a little off key. We patriot warriors will prevail.”
Hostetter in at least one respect is not unlike the individual, President Trump, who, perhaps other than himself, is most responsible for the legal predicament he now finds himself in. One trait of the former president is his stock-in-trade of welcoming someone into his circle with all order of superlatives and compliments, statements of what an honor it is for him personally or his company or his administration to be associated with the newcomer. This was a commonplace with those who came into his presidential administration as cabinet members or as other key officeholders. Then six months, a year, 18 months, two years or maybe even as much as 30 months later, there would be what seemed an inevitable falling out and Donald Trump found himself using superlatives of the opposite kind, informing the world that the individual who is or was no longer is in his orbit is “the worst” or “a disgrace.”
Hostetter has now disowned Taylor, whom he once credited as the cofounder of the American Phoenix Project. He maintains that Taylor was the individual in his circle most responsible for bringing discredit upon him and is “the one primarily engaged in making extreme comments and taking extreme actions at the U.S. Capitol.”
No longer hanging together, it seems that Hostetter and Taylor are now hanging, or are about to hang, separately.
Taylor has already gone down. It seems he is on the brink of taking Hostetter with him.
According to Dyke Huish, Taylor’s attorney, his client will cooperate fully here on out with the FBI and the U.S. Attorney’s Office. According to Taylor, eight days before the January 6 Insurrection, he had conveyed to all of the members of the California Patriots Brigade, including Hostetter, “I personally want to be on the front steps and be one of the first ones to breach the doors!”
The next day, Taylor “delivered to Hostetter a backpack containing, among other items, a knife, a stun baton, two hatchets, and carbon fiber knuckle gloves, which the defendant left in Hostetter’s truck, so Hostetter could transport the bag to Washington, D.C.,” according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office. Taylor traveled by a commercial air carrier to Washington, D.C. Both he and Hostetter recognized that he would not be able to get the items through airport security, and Hostetter, a former police chief with identification to that effect as well as a concealed weapon permit automatically issued to him as a former law enforcement officer, agreed to bring them across country to the nation’s capital for him.
Hostetter’s efforts to minimize his actions and assert that he was merely exercising his right to free speech when advocating that the traitors who had conspired to steal the election from President Trump and give the presidency to Joe Biden be hung or executed may encounter rough going in Judge Lamberth’s courtroom.
With regard to Chansley’s similar rationale for his action, in his ruling that the Q-Anon Shaman would need to remain in jail pending trial, Judge Lamberth wrote, “Defendant, like every other person in this country, has the right to assemble, and to peacefully protest. What he cannot do, however, is storm into the capital building during a joint session of Congress to stop Congress from certifying the results of a lawful election.”
Even though the First Amendment permits an individual to speak freely, Judge Lamberth opined, it does not preclude prosecutors from using the content of that speech in combination with an individual’s action to establish he was engaged in criminal activity or sedition.
“Shedding light on defendant’s actions, and distinguishing him from many others present that day, are the statements defendant made leading up to and on January 6,” Judge Lamberth wrote with regard to Chansley. “Before the Court considers those statements, however, it must first confront an objection defendant raises to doing so: that considering his statements when deciding whether to detain him pending trial would violate his First Amendment right to free expression. Defendant is mistaken. While case law suggests that “mere advocacy” alone is insufficient for a finding of dangerousness, the Supreme Court has explicitly held that courts may consider otherwise-protected speech to establish a defendant’s motive or intent during the commission of some other unlawful conduct. So whether defendant’s speech itself was criminal is an issue the Court need not decide. For even if his statements were themselves protected, the First Amendment does not prohibit their consideration as evidence of motive or intent. Indeed, consistent with that principle, courts often consider a defendant’s statements as evidence of motive or intent when deciding whether he should be detained pending trial. Here, defendant’s statements on and before January 6 show that, over time, defendant cultivated an intent to halt the legitimate functions of the United States government and a willingness to resort to violence to do so.”
Repeated efforts by the Sentinel to get Hostetter to go on the record in recent weeks have been unsuccessful.
-Mark Gutglueck

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