A California police chief-turned-yoga instructor who used his trial on felony charges of involvement in the Jan. 6, 2021, riot to air conspiracy theories about the federal government was sentenced Thursday to more than 11 years in prison.
Prosecutors compared Alan Hostetter, who organized Trump supporters from Southern California through a group called the American Phoenix Project, to the leaders of more prominent far-right groups such as the Proud Boys and Oath Keepers. In speeches leading up to Jan. 6, Hostetter repeatedly advocated for violence against government officials; he drove to D.C., so he could bring weapons, including a hatchet he carried to the Capitol.
The 135-month sentence given by Judge Royce C. Lamberth was at the top of federal sentencing guidelines and only slightly lower than the 151-month sentence prosecutors wanted.
According to WUSA, in court Thursday Hostetter claimed he was set up by the federal government because of the “leadership skills” he showed when opposing pandemic restrictions. He said he did not believe Ashli Babbitt, a Trump supporter who was shot by police while trying to climb through a window into the House chamber, “was actually killed that day.” He called her death “staged” and “a psy op.” Those comments led to a confrontation outside court with Babbitt’s mother, who regularly attends Jan. 6-related court appearances in support of the defendants.
At his bench trial, Hostetter, 59, represented himself and used the opportunity to voice similar conspiratorial claims, saying he was manipulated into taking part in the Capitol riot by government informants and undercover operatives. He argued that his friend Russell Taylor, who came to D.C. with Hostetter and testified against him, was part of that covert plot. He contended that the violence at the Capitol was staged to prevent Republican lawmakers from exposing election fraud.
Trump has begun airing similar baseless claims in his own Jan. 6 case, demanding information from the government on people falsely accused of instigating the riot by right-wing lawmakers and media personalities.
But at trial, prosecutors used video footage and text messages to show that Hostetter called for violence against members of Congress before the riot and celebrated what happened afterward. In a speech on Dec. 19, he told a crowd to go to D.C. and “choke that city off,” so members of Congress would fear “people outside the walls are gonna drag us out by our hair and tie us to a … lamp post.” He and Taylor organized “warriors” in a group on the encrypted messaging service Telegram, telling them to drive rather than fly to D.C. so they could bring weapons. In another speech the night before the riot, Hostetter announced, “People should never forget who did this to us, what they did, and what the ultimate punishment ended up being.”
He was convicted by Lamberth of four felonies involving obstructing Congress and bringing a dangerous weapon to the Capitol.
In a letter to the court, a friend and fellow retired police chief said he had not spoken to Hostetter in three years because “Alan closed off most relationships falsely believing everyone was conspiring against him.” He said Hostetter “needs some mental type help,” not incarceration.
Taylor pleaded guilty to conspiring to obstruct Congress. At Hostetter’s trial, he testified that their goal was to “intimidate Congress to challenge” Biden’s electoral college victory and “take it back to the states,” where Republican-dominated legislatures could declare Trump the winner. He carried a knife on Jan. 6 and his own hatchet. He has yet to be sentenced.