Former Orange County police chief indicted along with five others on Capitol riot conspiracy charges
Two Orange County extremists — a former police chief and his partner in organizing Stop the Steal rallies — have been charged in connection with the Jan. 6 Capitol insurrection, along with members of the Three Percenters militia.
Alan Hostetter, a former La Habra police chief, is charged on multiple counts alongside fellow Californians Russell Taylor, Erik Scott Warner, Felipe Antonio “Tony” Martinez, Derek Kinnison, and Ronald Mele.
While all of the indictees face charges of being in restricted areas of the Capitol, Warner, a registered nurse, is the only one charged with entering the building through a broken window. Kinnison and Warner face charges of evidence destruction, while Taylor faces a weapons charge for possessing a knife with a blade longer than three inches.
The grand jury indictment, which was unsealed Thursday, alleges that the men conspired on social media prior to the riot, including on a Telegram channel dubbed California Patriots – Answer the Call on Jan. 6 and via text messages, to create travel plans that included discussions about bringing weapons to the Capitol. They breached off-limits areas of the Capitol on the day of the riot and encouraged others to do the same, the indictment states, posting videos and photographs along the way.
The indictment — the latest in connection with the riot — is not the first time federal prosecutors have charged those involved with conspiring together, with the majority of the charges stemming from attempts to delete social media posts following the incident or communicate via radio during the insurrection. Proud Boys and Oath Keepers members have already been charged with conspiracy. However, the indictment of the six California men marks the first time that multiple Three Percenters members or associates have faced that criminal charge.
Additionally, new charges were filed Wednesday against a previously charged Northern California man, alleging that Tommy Allan, 53, of Rocklin, stole a United States flag and Senate documents while inside the Capitol. Since Jan. 6, approximately 465 people have been arrested on Capitol breach-related charges, with more than 130 charged with assaulting or impeding law enforcement, according to officials with the US Department of Justice.
Prosecutors allege in the Hostetter case that as early as November, the six men were communicating on social media platforms such as Telegram about their outrage over the presidential election results. Kinnison, Mele, Warner, and Martinez allegedly joined a chat started by Taylor in January, identifying themselves as “part of the so-called 3%,” a reference to the anti-government militia known for recruiting military and law enforcement personnel. Taylor described the Telegram channel as a communications hub for militants traveling to the Capitol, according to court documents.
As their trip to Washington drew nearer, the men began posting about their plans to bring shotguns, radios with ear pieces, and ammunition.
Taylor allegedly wrote on Telegram on Dec. 29: “I personally want to be on the front steps and one of the first to breach the doors!”
Taylor texted Hostetter that same day to inquire whether he was bringing firearms, according to the indictment. Hostetter allegedly responded, “NO NEVER (Because Instagram now monitors all text messages, this is a public service announcement.)” Hostetter then texted three emojis depicting “faces laughing with tears streaming from their eyes,” according to court documents.
Prosecutors allege that Taylor urged rioters attempting to push through police to “move forward Americans” during the rally. Taylor is seen in video footage from the Jan. 6 riot joining a mob outside the Capitol doors, screaming at a line of police and occasionally attempting to push through them.
Hostetter’s bullhorn is visible in videos. Hostetter and Taylor were photographed on social media smiling from one of the Capitol’s terraces while the Capitol was under siege.
Martinez and Kinnison were among rioters on the Capitol’s restricted Upper West Terrace, while Mele took a selfie with his cellphone proclaiming, “We stormed the Capitol,” according to the court filing.
Five of the six men are in custody, according to a Justice Department official; Taylor remained at large as of 6:15 p.m. Thursday, according to an FBI spokeswoman.
Bilal Essayli, Hostetter’s attorney, said he was “extremely disturbed” by the indictment and that Hostetter “did nothing more than exercise his 1st Amendment rights.”
Essayli, a former federal prosecutor, stated that protesters previously occupied Hostetter’s Capitol location without being charged, and that his client is not a conspirator with those named in the court filing.
“He is unfamiliar with a large number of the individuals charged in this indictment. They’re just people chatting on a message board,” Essayli explained. “There is no evidence that he entered the Capitol. He was merely the tip of the iceberg of people outside the Capitol.”
Taylor’s attorney, Dyke Huish, stated that his client would “challenge the government’s allegations where appropriate” and planned to “appear tomorrow.”
“After six months of silence, we were taken aback by the government’s position,” Huish explained.
Huish characterized the American Phoenix Project, the organization founded by Hostetter to promote his beliefs and in which Taylor was a member, as “three dudes who organized some things and gave speeches.”
Hostetter turned himself in in Santa Ana on Thursday and was arraigned and released on $20,000 bail. He entered no plea but was ordered to appear via Zoom on June 14 for a hearing.
Martinez appeared Thursday morning in a Texas court, while Mele, Kinnison, and Warner will appear in a Riverside court.
Martinez stated over the phone that he was looking for a lawyer and would call back in 48 hours.
Kinnison, Warner, and Mele could not be reached for comment immediately. Kinnison, according to public records, owns a pressure washing business in Lake Elsinore that he started this year. According to his LinkedIn profile, Mele works as a sales representative for a French-owned dairy products company.
None of the four alleged militia members appears to have previously faced serious criminal charges. Mele and Warner have both previously filed for bankruptcy.
Hostetter is also facing misdemeanor charges in Orange County for attempting to demolish a fence restricting beach parking during a San Clemente protest against coronavirus restrictions in May 2020. He was charged with resisting arrest, trespassing, and refusing to disperse when directed to do so. He entered a not guilty plea and the case is scheduled to go to trial this fall.
Alan Hostetter clings to a fence at the Pier Bowl parking lot on May 21, 2020, as part of a rally he organized to protest the lot’s fencing.
Hostetter and Taylor’s indictments are the latest chapter in the tumultuous transformation of a ponytailed yoga instructor and a print shop owner into suburban radicals.
After retiring from law enforcement, Hostetter found a second career in the new age industry — he was sworn in as chief of the La Habra police department in January 2010. However, by May of that year, he had been placed on medical leave and by August had taken a disability retirement, citing mental health concerns, according to documents obtained through a Public Records Act request.
Taylor is a technology entrepreneur who dubbed his red Corvette the “Patriot Missile” and founded a community group that policed local Black Lives Matter events under the guise of defending their neighborhood.
The two men appeared to have formed a bond in recent months over their shared contempt for coronavirus restrictions and, later, a misguided belief that the presidential election outcome was tainted by illegal voting and vote-counting machine conspiracies. These theories have been thoroughly refuted.
However, according to court documents, the two were instrumental in organizing Stop the Steal rallies throughout California and planning the trip to Washington, D.C.
Hostetter has since resumed activism, assisting in protests against a proposed vaccine identification card aimed at assisting local businesses in reopening to the public, but he and Taylor have sought to distance themselves from the DC uprising.
Three weeks after that violent altercation, FBI agents searched the homes of Hostetter and Taylor with the assistance of SWAT officers. Taylor portrayed himself as the victim in his private Telegram channel.
“The fbi is fully weaponized against patriots,” he wrote in a Facebook post. “I never entered the Capitol; there was no violence or vandalism. All of this for the simple act of waving a flag and singing the national anthem!
Taylor’s attorney offered a different account, acknowledging that his client carried a knife onto Capitol grounds but not into the building, claiming he was “swept up in a wave of rhetoric and excitement.”
“Russ Taylor is a normal person who became emotionally invested in his belief in the liberties that helped shape the America he believes in,” Huish told The Times in March.
What occurred, Taylor’s attorney stated, is a “warning tale of what happens when there is too much political noise and one cannot see clearly.”