EXCLUSIVE — The family of January 6 defendant Timothy Hale-Cusanelli is “sad, but relieved” after he was jailed for four years, three less than what the government was seeking.
Army reservist Cusanelli, 32, was sentenced Thursday to four years in prison, including time served. Although he didn't engage in any physical violence with police officers at the Capitol, he became a notable case due to alleged radical views and prior provocative statements. His closest family, Cynthia Hughes, has previously refused to speak to anyone from the media, but made an exception to speak to the Washington Examiner.
“Sad, but relieved,” she answered, when asked how she felt about the ruling. “Relieved that he didn't get seven years, like the government was dying for. Relieved that the judge was very reasonable, and stuck to the rule of law. Sad because Tim has basically been a prisoner his whole entire life.”
Hughes was joined in the audience by several people who work with the Patriot Freedom Project, her nonprofit group that provides financial, legal, and moral support for January 6 defendants and their families. Among them was the mother of Ashli Babbitt, who was killed during the Capitol riot.
Hughes, Cusanelli's aunt, described herself as “the one constant throughout Tim's life,” starting literally at his birth. Cusanelli has lived with Hughes several times throughout his life, and relied on her for support. A lawyer in the courtroom audience with Hughes described her as “the closest thing he has to a mother.” She was the only family member in attendance.
Hughes believes Cusanelli's family situation, along with his mental health issues, explains most instances of his behavior. Police found a photo on Cusanelli's phone of him sporting a mustache and haircut mirroring that of Adolf Hitler. Prosecutors also documented several instances, attested to by former colleagues, where Cusanelli made demeaning statements or jokes toward women, Jews, and minorities. He himself admitted in his statement on Thursday that he has said “ugly and childish things” that he believes many would find “repugnant.”
A statement the judge took particular issue with, and read back to him directly in his ruling Thursday, was on January 6 when he said to a female police officer, “F*** you, the revolution will be televised, c***.” The judge added that he believes his “animus” toward minorities was a “clear motivator” in his actions on January 6, particularly toward Jews.
When asked whether she believes Cusanelli is an extremist, Hughes gave a definitive “no.”
“Tim's rhetoric is, just that, rhetoric … It's wrong, it's hurtful, it's really, extremely insensitive, and I'm the first one to admit it. But it doesn't align with who he is. An extremist is someone who acts out, you see action with their words. You don't see that with Tim … There was never action with Tim and his, you know, stupid comments.”
She denied allegations that Cusanelli is a racist or white supremacist. Hughes pointed to the fact he is half Puerto Rican and part Jewish.
“Tim is bombastic. He loves to get a reaction, he loves the reaction of people going ‘Oh my God, I can't believe he said that,'” she said. She added that he loves shock humor, “a lot of shock humor,” but it often goes too far, at least partially due to him being on the autism spectrum.
However, she admits that all of his inflammatory statements can't be deduced to simple shock humor.
“Tim has a lot of reasons to be an angry person, you know, when you go through adversity and tragedy, and I emphasize tragedy,” she said. “And when people go through that, a person could become an alcoholic, or a drug addict, or maybe they become a very depressed person … Tim turned to bombastic rhetoric, if you will.”
“He needs some mentorship in his life, you know, he needs some TLC. He's been abandoned, he's been let down, at every turn, by all the adults in his life. And I've been the constant.”
Cusanelli is required to serve another three years out of prison under supervised release, in addition to a $2,000 fine. However, while Judge McFadden pulled no punches in condemning the defendant's actions and previous statements, he ended his sentence with words of encouragement, saying he is clearly highly intelligent and will still be a young man, at 34, when he gets out of prison. He added that he does not believe the defendant isn't redeemable.
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