Ladera Ranch man pleads guilty in Jan. 6 riot

Friday, April 28, 2023
Ladera Ranch man pleads guilty in Jan. 6 riot
A 42-year-old Ladera Ranch man pleaded guilty in federal court in Washington, D.C., for his part in the attacks on the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021.

SANTA ANA, Calif. (CNS) -- A 42-year-old Ladera Ranch man pleaded guilty Wednesday in federal court in Washington, D.C., for his part in the attacks on the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021.

Russell Taylor has agreed to cooperate with prosecutors in the case, which also includes retired La Habra Police Chief Alan Hostetter, a prominent activist and critic of COVID-19 restrictions.

Hostetter, a 58-year-old yoga instructor who lives in San Clemente, was indicted along with Taylor, and four Riverside County men -- Erik Scott Warner, 47, of Menifee, Felipe Antonio "Tony" Martinez, 49, of Lake Elsinore, Derek Kinnison, 41, of Lake Elsinore, and Ronald Mele, 53, of Temecula.

Taylor's attorney, Dyke Huish, told City News Service that his client "has agreed to cooperate by answering all (of prosecutors') questions and telling the truth."

Taylor faces 51 to 87 months in prison. No sentencing date has been set, but a status hearing is scheduled for Aug. 31.

"He's just trying to do the right thing by being honest and trying to bring healing to this case," Huish said.

Taylor has no criminal record and has not engaged in any type of politics on social media since he was charged, Huish said.

"He hasn't done any kind of politics, Facebook or commentaries," he said. "He just went back to his life. He was never involved politically with anything before. He just got involved with the group protesting the wearing of masks."

Taylor, who is retired from advertising and marketing and is an event coordinator now, "got caught up in the rhetoric of the moment" during the pandemic, Huish said.

"When the elections took place it all kind of transitioned," Huish said. "The same people were saying the election is a sham and Mr. Taylor got wrapped up in the rhetoric of the moment and he joined in."

In fall 2020, Taylor joined the California-based American Phoenix Project organized by Hostetter, according to court records. The organization sought to oppose pandemic restrictions. Taylor agreed with Hostetter and others to go to Washington, D.C., for the Jan. 6, 2021, events, according to prosecutors.

"Their intent was to intimidate Congress, including through their overwhelming intimidating presence at the U.S. Capitol building, in order to corruptly influence members of Congress to reject the certification of the 2020 electoral college vote, and to return the results to the states," prosecutors said in a statement of the case. "In order to accomplish this, the defendant and Hostetter agreed to work together and to coordinate their actions with other members of various Telegram groups."

Their chat group was dubbed "The California Patriots-Answer the Call Jan 6," prosecutors said.

Taylor had posted in the chat group Dec. 29, 2020, that, "I personally want to be on the front steps and be one of the first ones to breach the doors!"

On Dec. 30, Taylor "delivered to Hostetter a backpack containing, among other items, a knife, a stun baton, two hatchets, and carbon fiber knuckle gloves, which the defendant left in Hostetter's truck, so Hostetter could transport the bag to Washington, D.C.," prosecutors said. Taylor, who intended to fly to the Capitol, gave them to Hostetter because he felt he could not get them through airport security, prosecutors said.

Taylor also told Kinnison to "Check a bag. Bring more than a pocket knife," prosecutors said.

On Jan. 1, 2021, Taylor started another chat group on the instant messaging service Telegram called "The California Patriots-DC Brigade," prosecutors said.

On Jan. 5, 2021, Taylor allegedly spoke at a Virginia Women for Trump rally, according to prosecutors.

"I am Russell Taylor and I am a free American," he allegedly told the group. "And I stand here in the streets with you in defiance of a communist coup that is set to take over America. But we are awake and we are never going back to sleep. We are free Americans and in these streets, we will fight and we will bleed before we allow our freedom to be taken from us. We declare that we will never bend a knee to the Marxists within Antifa, to the tyrannical Democrat governors who are puppets, and to the deep state commie actors who threaten to destroy America."

Early Jan. 6, 2021, Taylor showed Hostetter he was carrying a hatchet Hostetter had given him as a gift, prosecutors said.

The group attended then-President Donald Trump's speech at a rally.

Taylor "wore the black plate-carrier vest and carried a knife in a vest pocket," prosecutors said. "He also carried a backpack containing a hatchet and stun baton." They stood outside the secured area of the speech because they had "personal protective gear" not allowed by Secret Service, prosecutors said.

After Trump's speech, they walked down Pennsylvania Avenue to the Capitol, sidestepping police barricades before entering the Capitol grounds and into the building, prosecutors said. Taylor joined with others to push past police to try to get into the building, prosecutors said.

Taylor got pepper sprayed at one point, prompting him to flush his face and eyes with water before he continued back up the steps to the Capitol building, prosecutors said.

Taylor and Hostetter remained in the Upper West Terrace for about two hours, prosecutors said. When police attempted to push them out, Taylor bellowed, "1776! Choose a side," they said.

Later that evening he allegedly posted in the chat group, "I was pushing through traitors all day today. We stormed the Capitol! Freedom was fully demonstrated today!"

Copyright 2023, City News Service, Inc.