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Motley crew of far-right Californians accused of joining Capitol siege

Michael Finnegan and Richard Winton, Los Angeles Times on

Published in News & Features

LOS ANGELES — The four Southern Californians charged so far with joining the violent assault on the U.S. Capitol are an oddball crew.

There’s John Strand, a fashion model who displayed his six-pack on the cover of a raunchy novel, “Howl for It.” When photos emerged online showing his alleged participation in the siege, Facebook deleted his accounts, leading Strand to gripe on Twitter that he’d been “digitally assassinated.”

There’s Simone Gold, the Beverly Hills concierge doctor who crusaded against mask-wearing for months, only to be caught on video wearing one inside the Capitol as insurrectionists taunted police.

There’s Gina Bisignano, whose Beverly Hills salon for eyelash extensions and facials has suffered bad publicity since she was seen perched on the ledge of a Capitol window as a man next to her rammed a fire extinguisher into the glass.

And there’s Hunter Ehmke, a 20-year-old graduate of Glendora High School who was captured on video smashing his fist through another Capitol window. An acquaintance remembered him as a “sweet little boy” and wondered what went wrong.

Much remains unknown about what led the four to travel across the country and join the mob that stormed the Capitol on Jan. 6. No evidence has emerged that they were among the right-wing militia members accused of leading the riot in a conspiracy to block Congress from certifying President Joe Biden’s victory over Donald Trump in the November election.

 

But they are all charged with “violent entry” into the Capitol and related federal crimes. All but Strand, who had not yet posted his $20,000 bond by late Wednesday, have been released for home detention pending further court proceedings in Washington or Los Angeles. Two other Californians in the Sacramento area have also been arrested for suspected participation in the riot.

Animated by Trump’s grievance politics, Strand, Gold and Bisignano have been high-profile activists on the noisy right-wing fringe of Republican politics in Los Angeles. Since last summer, each has taken part in Saturday afternoon pro-Trump rallies in a park in Beverly Hills, along with other protests against coronavirus lockdowns.

Strand, 37, an aspiring actor, was one of the rallies’ main organizers.

Scott Snapp, another leader of the weekly protests that sometimes turned violent, said he was not surprised that Strand wound up joining the Capitol siege.

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