By Marshall Cohen | CNN
An Army reservist charged with storming the US Capitol was a well-known White supremacist and Nazi sympathizer at the Navy base where he worked as a contractor, and was even rebuked for sporting a distinctive “Hitler mustache,” prosecutors said in new court filings.
Federal prosecutors revealed Friday that the Navy conducted its own internal investigation into Timothy Hale-Cusanelli that uncovered numerous incidents where he promoted racist and sexist views. The Naval Criminal Investigation Service interviewed 44 of his colleagues and 34 of them said he held “extremist or radical views pertaining to the Jewish people, minorities and women.”
Hale-Cusanelli, 30, was charged with seven criminal counts, including obstructing congressional proceedings, civil disorder and disorderly conduct in the Capitol. He hasn’t yet entered a plea.
His defense attorney declined to comment Sunday about the new details of the Navy’s probe, but has noted in court filings that Hale-Cusanelli maintains that he isn’t a White supremacist.
Colleagues told Navy investigators that Hale-Cusanelli made near-daily comments against Jews, advocated for killing newborn babies with disabilities and had “issues with women,” according to court filings. Prosecutors said they found racist memes on his phone, including one with the n-word, one that compared Black people to animals, and one insulting George Floyd.
A federal magistrate judge in New Jersey ordered his release shortly after he was arrested in January, but the Justice Department convinced a more senior judge in Washington, DC, to block his release pending further review. A detention hearing is scheduled for Thursday.
A trail of hateful comments
Hale-Cusanelli worked as a security contractor at Naval Weapons Station Earle near Colts Neck, New Jersey. He held a “secret” security clearance as part of his job, prosecutors said.
The Navy launched its own internal inquiry after Hale-Cusanelli was arrested in January, and nearly three dozen of his colleagues shared stories of his alleged racist and bigoted comments. Prosecutors highlighted the Navy’s findings in a filing advocating for his continued detention.
One of Hale-Cusanelli’s supervisors told investigators that he would walk up to new colleagues and ask, “You’re not Jewish, are you?” A petty officer claimed they heard him say, “Jews, women, and Blacks were on the bottom of the totem pole.” Another contractor at the base said Hale-Cusanelli told them that Jewish people “are ruining everything and did not belong here,” according to the filing.
In a shocking revelation, prosecutors said Hale-Cusanelli came to the base last year sporting a distinctive mustache that resembled the Nazi leader Adolf Hitler. One of his supervisors told the Navy investigators that they confronted Hale-Cusanelli about his apparent “Hitler mustache.”
Another naval officer recalled that Hale-Cusanelli said, “Hitler should have finished the job.”
Prosecutors also found evidence that they said proved Hale-Cusanelli’s extremist views after searching his phone. They found a video where he allegedly pushed the conspiracy theory that “the Jews did 9/11,” and another clip where he allegedly said, “I hate immigrants…intensely.”
On the day of the Capitol insurrection, prosecutors say Hale-Cusanelli recorded a video of himself shouting an obscene vulgarity at a female police officer who was protecting the building.
Defense attorney pushes back
His attorney, Jonathan Zucker, has said in court filings that Hale-Cusanelli is not a violent man and that he can be safely released into the custody of his close associates in New Jersey.
“Mr. Hale-Cusanelli is charged with crimes stemming from entering and remaining on Capitol grounds, principally offenses analogous to trespass,” Zucker wrote in a court filing. “He is not charged with crimes of violence nor destruction. He never assaulted nor threatened anyone.”
In an interview with FBI agents, Hale-Cusanelli denied being a Nazi sympathizer or holding White supremacist views, according to defense filings. His attorney acknowledged that his client’s social media posts are “controversial” but claimed they are primarily focused on local politics.
One of Hale-Cusanelli’s supervisors at the Navy base where he worked submitted a letter defending Hale-Cusanelli and attacking the press. He refuted allegations that Hale-Cusanelli is a White supremacist by noting that “he would frequently buy breakfast” for a Black colleague.
“I was appalled at how he was slandered in the press in regards to him being a ‘white supremacist,’” Sgt. John Getz wrote to the judge. “I have never known him to be this way.”
Getz said he was “proud to have someone like (Hale-Cusanelli) serve under me.” (Since his arrest, Hale-Cusanelli has been barred from the Navy base where he worked with Getz.)
But prosecutors told the judge that this glowing comment “directly contradicts” what Getz told Navy investigators. Getz told the Navy that Hale-Cusanelli was a Holocaust denier who made racist remarks in a “joking but not” way, and that he confronted Hale-Cusanelli about his behavior.
When FBI agents interviewed Getz about the discrepancy, he said he wasn’t personally offended by Hale-Cusanelli’s conduct and wanted to “speak positively” about him to the judge.
Hale-Cusanelli has been a reservist since 2009. Court documents said he had been discharged after January 6, but the Defense Department said Monday that is not the case.
“Army Reserve leadership is reviewing the information regarding Sgt. Hale-Cusanelli’s alleged misconduct and will take appropriate administrative action in accordance with Army Regulations,” Lt. Col. Simon Flake said in a statement to CNN.
“The U.S. Army Reserve takes all allegations of Soldier or Army civilian involvement in extremist groups seriously and will address this issue in accordance with Army regulations and the Uniform Code of Military Justice to ensure due process,” Flake added. “Extremist ideologies and activities directly oppose our values and beliefs and those who subscribe to extremism have no place in our ranks.”