California man who testified against Capitol rioter has been sentenced to house arrest – NBC Los Angeles

A California man who organized a “group of fighters” to storm the U.S. Capitol — and later testified against one of his companions during the Jan. 6, 2021, attack — was sentenced Friday to six months of home confinement.

Russell Taylor had a knife to his chest and carried an ax in his backpack as he helped other rioters overrun a police line outside the Capitol.

Taylor, 42, of Ladera Ranch, California, pleaded guilty last year to conspiring to obstruct the Jan. 6 joint session of Congress to certify President Joe Biden’s 2020 election victory. He was a key witness for prosecutors in the trial of Alan Hostetter, a former police chief who was also convicted of conspiracy.

Prosecutors recommended a prison sentence of four years and four months for Taylor, but U.S. District Judge Royce Lamberth spared him from incarceration and sentenced him to three years of probation. He also ordered him to perform 100 hours of community service.

Lamberth, one of the toughest punishers among the Jan. 6 riot defendants, said probation “comes once in a lifetime in my courtroom” and warned Taylor he will be jailed if he violates his probation terms.

“You can now be the textbook example of how these cases should be handled,” the judge said.

Lamberth said he believes Taylor has testified truthfully and has expressed genuine remorse. He described Taylor’s cooperation as “essential” and said he deserved a chance to avoid jail time.

“There is hope at the end of the tunnel,” the judge said.

Taylor fought back tears as he recalled spending time in solitary confinement after his arrest.

“I thought about why I was there and what mistake I made on January 6,” he said. “I thought about being accused of a crime by a country I really love.”

Prosecutors cited Taylor’s cooperation as a reason for leniency but argued his role in the Jan. 6 attack merited a prison sentence.

“Taylor understood that his decision would not only sever his relationships with former employees, but also expose him to potential harassment and threats,” prosecutors wrote in a lawsuit.

Taylor and Hostetter served together on the board of the American Phoenix Project. Hostetter founded the group to protest government restrictions during the COVID-19 pandemic, but the focus later shifted to conspiracy theories about election fraud.

“After then-President (Donald) Trump lost the 2020 election, Taylor and Hostetter discussed how to respond, and Taylor asked, ‘How can we make a show of force? Motorcade? Rally? Riot?,” prosecutors wrote.

Before the riot, Taylor organized a Telegram group he called “The California Patriots – DC Brigade” for those “traveling to DC for the January 6 event and comfortable with violence.” Taylor told the members that they would use the Telegram channel “to organize a group of fighters.”

Taylor flew to Washington while Hostetter drove across the country with weapons that Taylor would carry with him when he stormed the Capitol.

A day before Trump’s “Stop the Steal” rally at the White House on Jan. 6, Taylor and Hostetter delivered speeches filled with violent rhetoric at a rally outside the U.S. Supreme Court.

“I’ll see everyone on the front lines tomorrow. We are taking back our country!” Hostetter told the audience.

After attending the rally, Hostetter and Taylor marched to the Capitol and approached a police line on the Lower West Terrace. Taylor cheered on the rioters who broke through the police line and shouted, “Move forward, Americans!”

Taylor then pushed against a police line on a stage set up for Biden’s inauguration. An officer used pepper spray in Taylor’s face, causing him to momentarily retreat.

Hostetter and Taylor did not enter the Capitol, but remained on the Upper West Terrace for hours before police cleared the area. Taylor later celebrated on Telegram, writing, “I’ve been pushing traitors all day today. WE STORMED the capital! Freedom was on full display today!”

Taylor was charged before Hostetter and four other defendants – Erik Scott Warner, Felipe Antonio Martinez, Derek Kinnison and Ronald Mele – who authorities have linked to the anti-government militia Three Percenters.

Lamberth sentenced Hostetter to more than eleven years in prison after convicting him on all four counts, including conspiracy to obstruct an official proceeding and entering a restricted area with a deadly or dangerous weapon. After a jury convicted the four other defendants separately, Lamberth sentenced them to prison terms ranging from 21 to 33 months.

Taylor said he thought he was “answering the call of a president I believed in.”

“It was wrong to follow and listen to many people like Alan, who had their own agendas,” he told the judge.

Attorney Dyke Huish said Taylor has already completed 300 hours of community service and taken citizenship classes “to remind him of the true value of being an American.”

Taylor’s cooperation with the government created an “unusual conundrum,” his attorney said.

“Those who continue to support the events of January 6 view him in hostile terms because of his admissions and cooperation. He has been treated harshly by some people and has concealed personal threats. At the same time, those on the other side of the issue shunned him for going to Washington DC in the first place,” Huish wrote.

More than 1,350 people have been charged with federal crimes related to the Capitol riot. More than 850 of them have been convicted, with roughly two-thirds receiving a prison sentence ranging from a few days to 22 years.