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12-year Army soldier is first service member kicked out over Capitol storming charges

Demonstrators gather outside the U.S. Capitol. (Kent Nishimura/Los Angeles Times/TNS)
October 20, 2021

Timothy Hale-Cusanelli, a U.S. Army Reserve soldier, was revealed on Wednesday to be the first known service member discharged from the military after being charged in connection with the January 6 breach of the U.S. Capitol.

Hale-Cusanelli, 31, has been charged with illegally entering the Capitol, picketing, disorderly conduct and obstructing police officers by making harassing and derogatory statements towards them. The Army Reserve soldier’s case remains active in Washington D.C. federal court and has not yet resulted in a conviction.

Hale-Cusanelli’s attorney Jonathan Crisp told the Washington Post on Wednesday that his client was demoted in rank to private — the lowest enlisted rank — and given an other-than-honorable discharge in June, after 12 years of military service.

Crisp called the Army’s discharge action “improper” because his client was incarcerated at the time the military’s punishment was made and any comments made in his client’s defense could violate his 5th Amendment rights in the federal case. Crisp said military commanders typically wait until criminal cases are resolved before they make their discharge decisions.

“This was a knee-jerk reaction to the charges,” Crisp said of the Army’s discharge decision. The attorney said he intends to fight to overturn the discharge and have his client reinstated.

At the time of his arrest, Hale-Cusanelli was also employed as a civilian security contractor at Naval Weapons Station Earle in New Jersey and held a security clearance. Navy investigators interviewed 44 of his colleagues about his behavior at work and prosecutors said all but 10 described Hale-Cusanelli as “having extremist or radical views pertaining to the Jewish people, minorities and women.”

One supervisor who was interviewed by investigators also said Hale-Cusanelli had worn a “Hitler mustache” while at work and was admonished for it. Another sailor told investigators that he once heard Hale-Cusanelli say that if he were a Nazi, “he would kill all the Jews and eat them for breakfast, lunch and dinner, and he wouldn’t need to season them because the salt from their tears would make it flavorful enough.”

Military commanders can administratively discharge service members without a court-martial, including for inappropriate conduct outside of the military. The Washington Post reported military officials have been reluctant to issue punishments against pending cases related to the January 6 capitol breach, because they don’t want to impede the Department of Justice’s prosecutions.

Hale-Cusanelli is one of at least six U.S. service members charged for activities related to the January 6th Capitol breach.

Marine Corps Maj. Christopher Warnagiris is another service member who has faced potential military administrative punishment relating to his actions on January 6th. The outcome of administrative action against Warnagiris is still pending, officials told the Washington Post. Warnagiris is accused of assaulting police and leading rioters into the Capitol building.

Both Hale-Cusanelli and Warnagiris have, thus far, plead not-guilty to the charges against them.

Army National Guard soldiers Abram Markofski and Jacob Fracker, and Army Reserve officer Mark Sahady have also been charged for actions related to the Capitol breach. All three reportedly remain in uniform at this time.

Another January 6th defendant, James Mault, enlisted in the Army months after the FBI interviewed him about his actions on that day. Mault has since been accused of pepper-spraying an officer and has been charged with assault, obstructing officers with a dangerous weapon or while inflicting bodily injury, disorderly conduct in a Capitol building and civil disorder.