Ben, a religious Jew living in Ocean County, watched coverage of rioters storming the Capitol on Jan. 6, as the Senate prepared to confirm the Electoral College vote naming Joe Biden as president, and immediately thought: was Timothy Hale-Cusanelli there?
Hale-Cusanelli of Colts Neck, in Monmouth County, has been a contractor at Naval Weapons Station Earle, also in Colts Neck, with secret security clearance and a human resource specialist in the 174th Infantry Brigade, Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst in the Reserves.
Hale-Cusanelli is also charged with six counts resulting from his actions in the riot that left five people dead including Capitol police officer Brian Sicknick, a native of South River in Middlesex County, and 140 police officers injured. Hale-Cusanelli was arrested at his home Jan. 15.
Authorities now acknowledge after investigations following Hale-Cusanelli’s arrest that he is “an avowed white supremacist and Nazi sympathizer” who espoused anti-Semitic and racist beliefs online and through his YouTube channel “The Base Hermes Show,” where he attempted to lure more “patriots” to his cause.
Authorities found in Hale-Cusanelli’s apartment copies of Adolf Hitler’s “Mein Kampf” and neo-Nazi writer William Luther Pierce’s “The Turner Diaries,” outlining the violent overthrow of the U.S. government, bombing of an FBI building, a nuclear event and foreshadowing a race war that inspired Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh, whose bombing of the federal Murrah building killed 168 people in 1995.
The startling findings so alarmed authorities that Chief Judge Beryl A. Howell of United States District Court for the District of Columbia issued a stay on the release of Hale-Cusanelli, whose bail had been set at $150,000 by a New Jersey Magistrate judge.
Assistant U.S. Attorney James B. Nelson, in asking for the stay, stated that if released, authorities feared Hale-Cusanelli would re-engage with right-wing extremist groups in a “fantasy of participating in a civil war,” adding, “releasing defendant to rejoin their fold and plan the next attack poses a potentially catastrophic risk of danger to the community.”
However, Ben had been a target of Hale-Cusanelli’s anti-Semitic venom and threats and long feared what he may do.
“I was immediately wondering if this guy was involved,” Ben told The Jewish Link. “This wasn’t some stupid guy sitting behind his computer. He has a YouTube channel to spew his Nazi propaganda without any sense of shame… He was violent, had a history of violence and arrest. If little old me suspected him immediately, how could the military not suspect he was a little off?”
Ben’s hometown and real name are being withheld by The Jewish Link because he said he has been targeted by Hale-Cusanelli and others from the Rise Up Ocean County Facebook group. Ben filed two police complaints last year against Hale-Cusanelli that were dismissed in municipal court.
Ben said he had intermittently posted countering the anti-Semitism of the group, but somehow group members assumed he was another more frequent poster who went by the name “Pat Yid.”
“I became their target,” he said. “I don’t know who Pat Yid is, but this Timothy had a thing going on with Pat Yid.”
In one particularly frightening thread, Hale-Cusanelli wrote to Ben, “I’m coming down to your house on Shabbos to discuss our differences,” and he referenced his wife and the street he lives on.
Rise Up Ocean County was taken down last February by Facebook after numerous complaints, including from Gov. Phil Murphy and Attorney General Gurbir Grewal, about its anti-Semitic content.
Rabbi David Rosenthal, co-director of the Manalapan Jewish Connection, has been active in calling out anti-Semitism on that Facebook group and in the targeting of Orthodox Jews in Lakewood. He said complaints made about Hale-Cusanelli and others involved in Rise Up Ocean County didn’t seem to be taken seriously by county law authorities.
In response to a Jewish Link request, the Ocean County Prosecutor’s Office quoted Prosecutor Bradley Billhimer stated that Hale-Cusanelli “was on our radar.”
The Facebook group is active again, this time as a forum for religious Jews “to mock” anti-Semitic claims and exchange information, according to Rosenthal.
However, in the wake of the findings, military investigators are now grappling with the question of why Hale-Cusanelli wasn’t flagged.
“The U.S. Army Reserve takes all allegations of soldier or Army civilian involvement in extremist groups seriously and will address this issue in accordance with Army regulations and the Uniform Code of Military Justice to ensure due process,” said Lt. Col. Simon B. Flake, Reserves chief of media relations and public information in a statement to The Jewish Link. “Extremist ideologies and activities directly oppose our values and beliefs, and those who subscribe to extremism have no place in our ranks.”
Similarly, Army spokesperson Matthew Leonard wrote that “the Army does not tolerate racism, extremism or hatred in our ranks,” and each report would be investigated individually and appropriate action would be taken.
He noted Army regulations addressing extremist organizations and activities encourage any member of the Army who suspects another soldier may be involved in this prohibited activity or behavior to report it to their counterintelligence agent.
Naval Criminal Investigative Service (NCIS) spokesperson Jeff Houston declined comment, referring all inquiries to the FBI and federal Department of Justice, but an investigative report filed by Daniel J. Meyers, special NCIS investigative agent on duty the day of the riot, noted he received word from a confidential source who was shown a cell phone video by Hale-Cusanelli of him entering the Capitol building “and making harassing and derogatory statements toward Capitol Police officers both inside and outside the Capitol building.”
The source also said Hale-Cusanelli espouses extreme political opinions on his YouTube channel and in other forums.
The NCIS investigator reported that prior to traveling to the rally, Hale-Cusanelli wrote, “Trust the plan, it’s the final countdown, stay tuned next episode” and “Trust the plan, major announcement soon.”
On Jan. 14, using an NCIS-approved recording device, the source recorded a conversation in which Hale-Cusanelli admitted to not only entering the Capitol but also encouraging other mob members to “advance” through both hand and voice signals. He also told the source that had they had more men they could have taken over the entire building. He admitted taking a flag and flagpole that he saw another rioter throw “like a javelin” at a Capitol police officer, which Hale-Cusanelli described as “a murder weapon.” Hale-Cusanelli said he intended to destroy or dispose of the flagpole as quickly as he could.
Meyers filed a criminal complaint against Hale-Cusanelli that was assigned to U.S. Magistrate Judge Robin M. Merriweather.
According to federal court filings, Hale-Cusanelli said in a taped interview with agents from NCIS and the FBI after his arrest that witnessing police using rubber bullets and pepper spray “encouraged” him to charge forward, telling his interviewers his military training had taught him methods of overcoming such chemical exposure.
He claimed he never physically harmed a police officer but acknowledged calling a female officer a four-letter misogynist obscenity. On one of the videos he taped on what appears to be the west side of the Capitol, Hale-Cusanelli stated, “The revolution will be livestreamed.”
As for Ben, he is thankful “Timothy didn’t come to my house and went to the Capitol instead and got himself arrested. If he had come to my house it would have been a light charge, and he is not a guy who should be walking the streets. I’m relieved he is staying locked up.”
However, he is still concerned about the messages coming from other anti-Semites who had been affiliated with Rise Up Ocean County because “if they continue they will encourage more Timothys.”
By Debra Rubin