Six Men Allegedly Associated with the Three Percenters Movement Face Charges in the Capitol Riot.
The indictment is the first to name individuals associated with the radical gun rights group or who were involved in planning any of the political events held during the week of the attack.
Federal prosecutors charged six California men allegedly connected to a radical gun rights group called the Three Percenters with plotting to attack the Capitol on Jan. 6, the first time anyone has been charged with planning any of the political events held the week of the attack.
The 20-page indictment was also the first leveled against a group of alleged Three Percenters, a loosely organized movement named after the alleged 3% of the colonial population in the United States who fought the British. The new charges were filed in Federal District Court in Washington on the same day that F.B.I. Director Christopher A. Wray testified before a House committee that prosecutors were pursuing additional conspiracy charges against several of the Capitol rioters.
Investigators have claimed for months that the attack was carried out by several extremist groups, but while the Three Percenters have been mentioned in court filings, the majority of accused extremists have come from two other organizations: the Oath Keepers militia and the far-right nationalist group the Proud Boys. The new charges may indicate that prosecutors have begun to focus their attention not only on those directly involved in the Capitol attack, but also on those who assisted in fomenting the attack.
Alan Hostetter, 56, a former police chief who became a yoga instructor, and Russell Taylor, 40, a wealthy graphic designer with a penchant for red Corvettes, were already under investigation by the government following an F.B.I. raid on their homes in January. Mr. Hostetter and Mr. Taylor were co-founders of the American Phoenix Project, which was formed to combat the "fear-based tyranny" of coronavirus-related restrictions. Later, the group embraced former President Donald J. Trump's lies about a rigged election and helped organize a well-attended rally outside the Supreme Court on Jan. 5 featuring former Trump adviser Roger J. Stone Jr.
Mr. Hostetter's wife, Kristine, a schoolteacher, also garnered national attention this year after attending “Stop the Steal” rallies in Washington, sparking outrage in their hometown of San Clemente, Calif., and prompting the school board to investigate whether she had attacked the Capitol. The district cleared her in March.
Despite the attention from law enforcement, the news media, and neighbors in Orange County, Mr. Hostetter and Mr. Taylor had not been publicly linked to the Three Percenters prior to their arrests on Thursday.
Mr. Hostetter, the indictment stated, began using the American Phoenix Project shortly after the election to "advocate violence against certain groups and individuals who supported the 2020 election results." For example, at the end of November, he posted a video on the group's YouTube channel accusing those who did not challenge the results of treason. “Some individuals at the highest levels,” he stated, “need to be made an example of through one or three executions.”
Mr. Hostetter repeated his death threats against those who doubted Mr. Trump's victory the following month at a rally in Huntington Beach, Calif. “Execution is the just punishment for the coup leaders,” he is quoted as saying in the indictment.
Prosecutors allege that Mr. Hostetter, Mr. Taylor, and several of their co-defendants — including Derek Kinnison, 39, Felipe Antonio Martinez, 47, and Erik Warner, 45 — used text messages, Facebook, and the chatting app Telegram to plot their role in the Capitol attack. According to the indictment, more than 30 people joined a Telegram group chat called "California Patriots-DC Brigade," which Mr. Taylor described as a channel for "able-bodied individuals who are traveling to Washington, DC on January 6" and are "ready and willing to fight."
Prosecutors allege that on Jan. 1, Mr. Taylor sent a message to the group chat asking members to disclose any military or law enforcement training. “I am assuming,” he wrote, “that you are bringing some sort of weaponry with you.”
Mr. Kinnison wrote the same day, in his introductory post to the group chat, that he, Mr. Martinez, and Mr. Warner were members of the "so cal 3%," according to the indictment. Prosecutors allege that Mr. Kinnison attached a photograph of the three men flashing a Three Percenter hand signal to the Telegram message.
Mr. Hostetter and Mr. Taylor appeared to have a more tenuous connection to the Three Percenters. Mr. Hostetter, the indictment states, used language associated with the movement to post a message on the American Phoenix Project's Instagram account on Jan. 3. “Only 3% of Americans served in our Revolutionary War,” he wrote. “There will almost certainly be another 3% of us who will fully commit to this battle.”
Mr. Taylor's attorney, Dyke Huish, stated that he was unaware of his client's involvement with the Three Percenters. “That is something I have never heard of, even remotely,” he added.
Mr. Hostetter and Mr. Taylor emerged as rising stars last year in Southern California's resurgent far-right movement. Both appear to have been radicalized at the outbreak and have aided in the emergence of a new generation of right-wing extremists from Orange County's beach towns, where Richard M. Nixon maintained an oceanfront villa as his presidential retreat and John Wayne maintained his yacht, Wild Goose.
The area was a breeding ground for the modern American conservative movement and some of its most virulently racist, anti-Semitic, and paranoid offshoots, such as the John Birch Society in the 1960s and neo-Nazi and skinhead groups that flocked to its surf spots two decades later.
Until last year, Mr. Hostetter appeared to be a long way removed from that history. He arrived in San Clemente nearly a decade ago as a former soldier and police chief and began a third career as a yoga guru specializing in "sound healing" with gongs, Tibetan bowls, and Aboriginal didgeridoos. According to those who knew him, he was conservative, but no more so than many others in and around San Clemente.
Then the pandemic struck. He abandoned yoga, self-identified as a "patriotic warrior," and founded the American Phoenix Project. The group began organizing protests and quickly gained the attention of Mr. Taylor. Their list of adversaries quickly expanded to include Black Lives Matter protesters, and Mr. Hostetter appeared to embrace QAnon, the conspiracy theory movement that falsely claims Mr. Trump is secretly battling devil-worshiping Democrats and international financiers who abuse children.
Prosecutors allege that Mr. Kinnison and his Three Percenter associates were open about their membership in the movement and allegedly planned to bring firearms to Washington on Jan. 6. According to the indictment, on Jan. 2, Mr. Kinnison sent a text message to Mr. Warner, Mr. Martinez, and another co-defendant, Ronald Mele, 51, containing a photo of himself wearing a bandoleer of shotgun ammunition.
Mr. Taylor is charged with posting a video on an encrypted chatting app showing an array of gear on a bed following his speech at the Supreme Court rally on Jan. 5 — "I am Russell Taylor and I am a free American." Prosecutors allege that he posted the video showing a bulletproof vest, two hatchets, a walkie-talkie, a stun baton, and a knife. “Now preparing for tomorrow,” the caption read.
Mr. Taylor, the indictment states, marched from Mr. Trump's Jan. 6 speech to the Capitol with Mr. Hostetter and someone identified only as Person One while dressed in this equipment. Prosecutors allege that Mr. Kinnison and his Three Percenters approached the building separately and that at least one of them — Mr. Warner — entered through a broken window.
Prosecutors do not charge Mr. Hostetter or Mr. Taylor with breaking into the Capitol, but they do allege that both men joined a mob of rioters who pushed through a line of law enforcement officers on the building's lower west terrace.
Prosecutors allege that Mr. Taylor wrote on a Telegram chat at 6:18 p.m. that evening, "I was pushing through traitors all day today." “WE TAKEN OVER THE CAPITOL! Today, complete liberty was demonstrated!”