Retired La Habra Police Chief Alan Hostetter, a prominent COVID-19 restrictions critic and activist, was convicted in federal court in Washington D.C. Thursday for his role in the insurrection at the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021.
Hostetter, a 58-year-old yoga instructor who lives in San Clemente, was convicted in a non-jury bench trial before U.S. District Judge Royce C. Lamberth, who ruled he was guilty of conspiracy to obstruct an official proceeding, obstruction of an official proceeding, entering and remaining in a restricted building or grounds with a deadly or dangerous weapon and disorderly and disruptive conduct in a restricted building or grounds with a deadly or dangerous weapon, according to court records.
Co-defendant Russell Taylor pleaded guilty in April and was next due in court Aug. 31.
Hostetter was indicted along with Taylor, and four Riverside County men — Erik Scott Warner, 47, of Menifee, Felipe Antonio “Tony” Martinez, 49, of Lake Elsinore, Derek Kinnison, 41, of Lake Elsinore, and Ronald Mele, 53, of Temecula.
Taylor faces 51 to 87 months in prison.
Lamberth emphasized that Hostetter was “not being prosecuted for engaging in protected First Amendment activity, and I am making my decision without regard to his political beliefs, which I believe he holds sincerely. Mr. Hostetter has a right to believe whatever he likes about the 2020 presidential election, and to voice those opinions. But the First Amendment does not give anyone a right to obstruct or impede Congress by making it impossible for them to do their jobs safely. And it certainly does not give anyone a right to enter a restricted area while carrying a dangerous weapon.”
The judge added that Hostetter “has not presented any evidence that could make out an entrapment defense on the theory that the Jan. 6 riot was a staged event.”
Hostetter and the defendants were accused of putting together a plan after President Joe Biden’s election to halt the certification of the electoral college vote in Congress on Jan. 6, coordinating their efforts through Telegram, an encrypted messaging application.
According to prosecutors, the defendants discussed and planned a cross- country road trip to the Capitol and promoted events sponsored by Hostetter’s American Phoenix Project, which opposed COVID-19 pandemic restrictions and has helped push the lie that the election was stolen from former President Donald Trump.
“Mr. Hostetter and Mr. Taylor communicated extensively regarding their goal of seeing the election result changed,” Lamberth said in court papers. “Mr. Hostetter testified that he and Mr. Taylor agreed to come to Washington, D.C., together on Jan. 6, and that they were closely monitoring efforts to overturn the election results and news regarding the Electoral College Certification process.”
Hostetter “agreed to transport weapons and tactical gear for Mr. Taylor that Mr. Taylor intended to bring to the Capitol, including hatchets, a knife, pepper spray, stun batons, a collapsible baton, an armored plate carrier, a gas mask and a bulletproof helmet,” the judge said.
“This was not the first time that Mr. Hostetter transported weapons and tactical gear on behalf of Mr. Taylor in connection with a protest against the results of the 2020 Presidential Election.”
Lamberth said Hostetter in November of 2020 “transported largely the same inventory of items in connection with a presidential election protest in Washington, D.C.”
When that protest failed to derail Biden’s election, the two “agreed to return to Washington, D.C., to intimidate Congress into definitively resolving the election in then-President (Donald) Trump’s favor,” Lamberth said.
The two met on Jan. 6 and went to the Capitol together and “past a police line to the inauguration stage bleachers, and ultimately ascended together to the Upper West Terrace,” the judge said. “Except for (30) minutes on the Upper West Terrace, Mr. Hostetter and Mr. Taylor were together for the entire duration of the Capitol Riot.”
While police were attempting to stop rioters from crossing police lines and climbing up the inauguration stage, Hostetter went under the stage scaffolding and up the stairs leading to the stage, the judge said.
“While on the stairs, Mr. Hostetter used a bullhorn to cheer on the crowd below as it violently fought against police and attempted to break the police lines,” Lamberth said.
Taylor, who testified in the trial, meanwhile joined a group of rioters “pushing against the officers who were blocking access to the stage,” the judge said.
“Mr. Hostetter followed his co-conspirator’s lead and moved toward the officers,” the judge said. “While Mr. Taylor and other rioters scuffled with police and tried to break their line in full view of the crowd below, Mr. Hostetter stood several feel behind Mr. Taylor, at the rear of the group trying to reach the stage, waving an American flag and using a bullhorn in full view of the crowd.”
When police backed off, Hostetter strode past them onto the stage bleachers, the judge said. When he heard others had gotten into the Capitol building, he went to the Upper West Terrance and stayed there for about two hours even as police tried to clear the crowd, the judge said.
Hostetter approached an entrance to the building, but stopped when police converged on the area, the judge said.
Lamberth said Hostetter’s actions helped stoke a disturbance that prevented Congress from certifying the election.
The judge rejected Hostetter’s contention that he intended to “peaceably sway Congress.”
Lamberth pointed to video showing Hostetter admiring the crowd of Jan. 6 rioters saying, “the people had taken back their House” and that he had never “seen something so beautiful in his whole life.”
Lamberth said the defendant “called for executions of public officials in connection with what he believed to be a fraudulent election.”
The defendant is “a retired police chief with over two decades of experience in law enforcement,” Lamberth said. “Simply put, there is no doubt in my mind after seeing the evidence that Mr. Hostetter knew that he was part of something unlawful. The evidence overwhelmingly supports the court’s finding that Mr. Hostetter acted corruptly with consciousness of wrongdoing.”
Lamberth added, “that even if Mr. Hostetter genuinely believed the election was stolen and that public officials had committed treason, that does not change the fact that he acted corruptly with consciousness of wrongdoing. Belief that your actions are ultimately serving a greater good does not negate consciousness of wrongdoing. … Even if Mr. Hostetter sincerely believed — which it appears he did — that the election was fraudulent, that President Trump was the rightful winner and that public officials committed treason, as a former police chief, he still must have known it was unlawful to vindicate that perceived injustice by engaging in mob violence to obstruct Congress.”
Lamberth also found Hostetter’s contention that when he discussed executions he was contemplating a lawful process leading to them “wholly incredible in light of the context in which those statements were made and the notes he prepared for several of his speeches.”
Lamberth pointed to Taylor’s testimony that Hostetter possessed a hatchet while in the restricted area of the Capitol. In fact, the hatchet was a gift from Taylor, the judge said. Hostetter argued he did not have the hatchet because it had been stolen from his truck, but Lamberth noted Hostetter didn’t report the theft.
Taylor’s attorney Dyke Huish told City News Service that his client testified for three days of the eight-day trial.
“Mr. Taylor was grateful for the opportunity to take responsibility for his actions and to tell the truth about what happened on Jan. 6,” Huish said. “Mr. Taylor continues to believe there were inconsistencies in the election. However, that doesn’t justify inappropriate behavior or impeding the proper transfer of power in the United States. Mr. Taylor loves his country and it pains him that he has caused his country pain, which is why he took responsibility and testified.”