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Former Orange County police chief and Stop the Steal organizer is indicted on Capitol riot conspiracy charges

Anita Chabria, Paige St. John, Del Quentin Wilber, Richard Winton and Hannah Fry, Los Angeles Times on

Published in News & Features

Hostetter surrendered in Santa Ana, according to an FBI spokeswoman. Martinez appeared in a Texas court Thursday morning and Mele, Kinnison and Warner will appear in a Riverside court.

Laura Eimiller, a spokeswoman for the FBI in Los Angeles, said Hostetter will be in a federal court in Orange County on Thursday. Taylor is expected to appear with him, though he has not yet turned himself in, according to the FBI.

“Mr. Taylor has never been any part of any organized militias,” said Dyke Huish, his attorney. “After six months of not hearing anything, we were very surprised at the government’s position and will challenge where appropriate.”

Huish described the American Phoenix Project, the organization Hostetter founded to push his conspiracies, as “three dudes that organized some things and gave speeches. They’re not a militia.”

Videos from the Jan. 6 riot show Taylor acting primarily alone, joining a mob outside the Capitol doors screaming at a line of police, and at times attempting to push through them. Huish has confirmed that Taylor was carrying a large knife, its handle visible from his vest.

The third director of American Phoenix Project, Morton Irvine Smith, was not named in the indictment. Smith had joined Taylor and Hostetter in Washington, but said that when the crowd began to surge toward the Capitol, he did not follow.

 

Hostetter is a ponytailed yoga instructor who found a second life in the new age industry after leaving law enforcement.

Taylor is a tech entrepreneur who called his red Corvette the “Patriot Missile.”

The two men appeared to have formed a bond in recent months over their shared disdain for coronavirus restrictions, and later, a false belief that the presidential election outcome was falsified through illegal voting and conspiracies involving the machines that counted votes. Those theories have been widely debunked.

But the two were leaders in organizing Stop the Steal rallies in California, and planning the trip to Washington, D.C., according to court papers. On Jan. 1, prosecutors allege Taylor started a Telegram chat called “The California Patriots-DC Brigade” that Warner, Kinnison, Martinez and Mele joined, identifying themselves as “part of so cal 3%.”

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