In an unprecedented ruling, four men from the Golden State of California, all affiliated with the “Three Percenters” militia faction, have been brought to justice for their involvement in the notorious Jan. 6, 2021, uprising at the U.S. Capitol.
Erik Scott Warner, a 48-year-old resident of Menifee; Felipe Antonio Martinez, a Lake Elsinore local of 50 years; Derek Kinnison, another Lake Elsinore inhabitant, aged 42, and Ronald Mele, a 54-year-old hailing from Temecula, were all handed down guilty verdicts on Tuesday. According to prosecutors ‘ statements, the trial, which took place in the nation’s capital, saw these men convicted of conspiracy and obstruction of an official proceeding.
In this case, the official proceeding refers to the joint session of Congress where legislators gathered to confirm President Joe Biden’s victory in the 2020 election.
While Martinez and Warner’s legal representatives opted for silence, Ronald Mele’s attorney was contacted for comments. Derek Kinnison’s counsel, Nicolai Cocis, expressed disappointment with the trial’s outcome, hinting at the exploration of all legal alternatives. He vouched for his client’s patriotism and expressed Kinnison’s remorse over his involvement in the Jan. 6 events.
According to prosecuting authorities, these four men were active members of southern California’s Three Percenters militia, a faction named after the supposed 3% of American colonists who fought against the British during the Revolutionary War.
The quartet was indicted in 2021, along with Alan Hostetter, a former police chief from California, a fervent right-wing activist, and a vocal opponent of COVID-19 restrictions. Hostetter was found guilty in a separate trial in July. Russell Taylor, another co-defendant, admitted to a conspiracy charge in April.
Evidence suggests that the four men joined a Telegram group termed “The California Patriots – D.C. Brigade” along with Hostetter and Taylor to strategize their venture to Washington. Taylor had indicated the group was for “fighters” expected to carry weapons and protective equipment to Washington on Jan. 6.
In the lead-up to the riot, Warner, Martinez, Kinnison, and Mele journeyed across the nation together. On the eventful day, Warner entered the Capitol via a shattered window. Martinez, outfitted in a tactical vest, and Kinnison, masked by a gas mask, joined the mob on the Capitol’s Upper West Terrace. Similarly clad in a tactical vest, Mele was caught on camera chanting “Storm the Capitol!” on the steps of the iconic building.
Warner and Kinnison, who reportedly purged the “D.C. Brigade” chat history from their phones post-riot, were found guilty of tampering with documents or proceedings.
The aftermath of the Capitol riot saw almost 1,200 individuals charged with related federal crimes; a staggering 800 of them have either pleaded guilty or been convicted. Approximately 700 have been sentenced, with prison terms ranging from a brief three days to an extensive 22 years.