They traveled from the New York area draped in animal skins and Trump flags, armed with handheld radios and weapons, both manufactured and homemade. Among them were law enforcement officers and art students, a Queens elected official, a Manhattan social influencer, and a group of far-right extremists allegedly intent on murdering their political opponents.
One year later, a total of 72 residents of New York and New Jersey are facing charges for their role in the January 6th siege of the U.S. Capitol, which left five people dead and scores of police officers injured and traumatized.
In all, the Department of Justice has brought charges against more than 700 people across the country, the bulk of whom are still awaiting trial or sentencing, according to data collected by George Washington University.
The start of 2022 will bring a flurry of scheduled trial and sentencing dates for the local defendants. Some are already serving years-long terms. For others, federal prosecutors are pursuing low-level misdemeanor convictions that carry no prison time – an approach that one federal judge described as “schizophrenic,” given the Justice Department’s description of the riot as an act of domestic terrorism.
Below, an update on where charges stand for some of the region’s most noteworthy January 6th defendants, one year later.
A Queens pol ambivalent about Trump
A district leader in Queens and member of the Catholic group, Knights of Columbus, Philip Grillo faces felony charges of disorderly conduct for allegedly breaching the Capitol through a broken window. In an interview with law enforcement, Grillo said “he was drunk at the time” and didn’t realize he was trespassing, according to a search warrant first published by the Daily Beast.
Despite the arrest, Grillo was re-elected to his position as Republican district leader for Assembly District 24, which covers Northeast Queens, this past June. Reached by phone at his mother’s house on Wednesday, Grillo described himself as a “moderate Republican” who opposed several of Trump’s policies and never believed the election was stolen.
“That wasn’t my reasoning for going to Washington,” he told WNYC/Gothamist Wednesday. “I had no idea what the hell was going on actually. I was giving some friends a ride.”
Grillo was seen in numerous surveillance images wearing a Knights of Columbus jacket and holding a megaphone inside the Capitol, while recording himself on his cell phone. According to prosecutors, he was near the front of a crowd that engaged in a “physical confrontation with uniformed officers” at the entryway to the Capitol. (Grillo claims he was protecting officers.)
He was indicted in November on five counts, including felony obstruction of justice, which carries up to four years in prison. He turned down a plea deal late last year that would have reduced the counts but kept the felony in place, according to his attorney, Michael Padden.
“What’s going to happen is what God wants to happen,” Grillo said this week. “If God wants me in a prison cell, then that’s what God wants."
A Manhattan hairdresser turned Fox News guest
In the days after January 6th, as conspiracy and condemnation floated around the conservative ecosystem, Brandon Straka attempted to set the record straight about his fellow rioters. “I was there. It was not Antifa at the Capitol. It was freedom loving Patriots,” Straka, a one-time Manhattan hairdresser turned right-wing celebrity, wrote to his half-a-million followers. “Everyone else can denounce them. I will not.”
But the 44-year-old, who spoke at the insurrection eve “Stop the Steal” event and, according to the indictment, was slated to speak at the Capitol on January 6th, now appears to be cooperating with the feds.
As part of a plea deal that allowed him to avoid a felony charge, Straka agreed to turn over copies of “any social media accounts, postings, videos or photos” related to the siege. He also agreed to sit for an interview with investigators.
Court filings indicate those discussions have been fruitful. In a motion last month, prosecutors said Straka had provided information that "may impact the government's sentencing recommendation.”
A gay former liberal, Straka earned online fame in 2018 for his #WalkAway campaign urging Democrats to leave their party. He made frequent appearances on Fox News and his tweets were regularly amplified by President Trump.
Like many January 6th defendants, Straka’s role in the insurrection was preserved in his own recordings. In a nearly hour-long video, Straka can be seen urging rioters to breach the Capitol and instructing the crowd to “take the shield” of an advancing officer, according to a criminal complaint and recent guilty plea.
Straka and his attorney did not respond to inquiries. As a result of his plea, he is facing a misdemeanor charge of disorderly conduct, punishable by a maximum of six months in prison. He was released without bail and is living in his home state of Nebraska.
A fur-loving son of a Brooklyn judge
Among the mob of January 6th rioters, one Brooklyn resident drew special attention for his wardrobe of fur pelts, a tactical vest and a police shield that he claimed to have found on the floor of the Capitol building. The man was later identified as Aaron Mostofsky, the son of Brooklyn Supreme Court Judge Schlomo Mostofsky.
Mostofsky was arrested at his brother’s home in Midwood on seven charges, including a pair of felonies for assaulting, resisting or impeding law enforcement officers and civil disorder. He was released after posting a $100,000 bond.
In the year since, Mostofsky’s team of attorneys have argued their client was engaged in constitutionally protected political expression, adding that he “does not know why” he is facing the felony charges.
Their motion to dismiss the bulk of the charges invoked the landmark Supreme Court case that protected students’ right to wear black armbands in protest of the Vietnam War. “A fur pelt sends a message,” the motion read. It was later denied.
An attorney for Mostofsky declined to speak on the record. The trial, initially scheduled for late January, was recently pushed back to March, after Mostofsky said he was experiencing symptoms of COVID that were interfering with trial preparation.
An ex-NYPD officer accused of assaulting Capitol police
An ex-Marine and veteran of the NYPD who once served on Mayor Bloomberg’s security detail, Thomas Webster is facing decades in prison for alleged assault that, according to the Department of Justice, should “shock the conscience.”
In one video, a man that prosecutors identified as Webster is seen cursing at Capitol officers, before repeatedly swinging a metal flagpole at them. He then charges at one of the officers, attempting to rip off his helmet while choking the officer with his own chin strap, according to testimony from the officer included in the criminal complaint.
Unlike the majority of alleged rioters, Webster was not granted bail. He spent four months in jail, earning mocking headlines after his attorney complained that he was being held alongside defendants accused of “inner-city crimes.”
In June, Judge Amit Mehta, a federal judge for the Washington D.C. district court, described footage of Webster’s alleged attack as “some of the worst behavior, some of the most horrific conduct someone has engaged in.” Nevertheless, she agreed to his release, permitting him to await trial under house arrest from his home in Orange County, New York.
Webster faces seven federal charges, including felony assault of an officer with a dangerous weapon, which carries a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison. Court filings submitted last month show that Webster intends to plead not guilty, arguing he was a victim of “excessive force” by police prior to the alleged criminal act.
Last month, a Florida man who pleaded guilty to assaulting a Capitol police officer with a wooden plank and fire extinguisher received a 63-month prison sentence, the most severe sentencing of any January 6th defendant so far.
Webster is scheduled to begin a jury trial on April 4th, 2022. His attorney, James Monroe, did not respond to a request for comment.
A trio of alleged New York Proud Boys, including a transit worker
In late December, Matthew Greene became the first self-proclaimed member of the Proud Boys to plead guilty, ten months after the Justice Department pledged to zero in on the role of the far-right hate group at the insurrection.
Greene, a Syracuse resident, was indicted along with two other alleged Proud Boys and co-conspirators, both of whom have pleaded not guilty: William Pepe, a mechanical engineer in the MTA’s Brewster Yard, and Dominic “Spaz” Pezzola, a Rochester resident and former Marine.
Prosecutors say the three members of the Central New York Proud Boys coordinated their efforts, wearing earpieces to the siege and staying in contact through handheld radios.
Both Greene and Pezzola were allegedly among the first rioters to breach the Capitol, after Pezzola took an officer’s shield who was under attack and used it to smash the window of the Capitol building.
The two men also discussed a plan to kill House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and then Vice President Mike Pence, according to unnamed witness testimony included in the court filings.
When the FBI executed a search warrant at Greene’s home on January 18th, they found an unregistered AR-15 assault rifle, two unregistered handguns, and a camouflage tactical vest filled with rounds, according to court filings.
Greene has agreed to pay $2,000 in fines for damage to the Capitol. He faces up to 51 months in prison when he is sentenced later this year.
Pepe and Pezzola are facing a lengthy list of charges, including conspiracy and obstruction of an official proceeding, which carries up to 20 years in prison. Pezzola remains detained pending his sentencing. Pepe is free on a $10,000 secured bond. He was fired from the MTA in March.
The New Jersey Gym Owner
A former North Jersey gym owner who once fought an MMA fight under the moniker “Wildman,” Scott Fairlamb pleaded guilty to obstruction and assaulting an officer and was sentenced in November to three years and seven months — the third longest prison term for any alleged insurrectionist so far.
A federal prosecutor said Fairlamb came to the Capitol to “interfere with democracy.” He was caught on video cursing at, shoving, and punching a cop in the head. Fairlamb was arrested about two weeks later and a judge ordered him released pending trial. But prosecutors successfully appealed and he has been detained ever since.
Before his sentencing, Fairlamb told the court that he regretted his actions and had been “duped” by social media, according to court papers. But an online fundraiser set up by his wife to help pay their mortgage — the “Patriot Relief Fund” — includes anti-governmental messages. His wife wrote “our system is corrupt” and “demonic forces are controlling this narrative.” They’ve raised about $40,000.
Immediately following his sentencing, Fairlamb filed an appeal, saying his sentence was unfair and arguing he was ineffectively represented by his attorney, Harley Breite. In an interview with WNYC/Gothamist, Breite said: “What he said for purposes of his initial sentencing and what he said now appears to be in conflict. So is he remorseful? I don’t know. That depends on what day you read a Scott Fairlamb statement … It’s unfortunate that people purport to be sincere about their remorse and the second that the camera is off they have a change of opinion.”
Fairlamb’s father was a New Jersey State trooper and his brother is a Secret Service agent who protected Michelle Obama. The attorneys currently representing him did not return a request for comment.
On Thursday, exactly a year after the insurrection, Fairlamb withdrew his appeal, according to court records.
The New Jersey Proud Boy
A purported member of the Proud Boys from New Brunswick, Christopher Quaglin was arrested in April for repeatedly assaulting police officers guarding the Capitol. Prosecutors describe him as one of the attackers on the front lines and introduced evidence linking him to the Proud Boys.
Immediately after Donald Trump lost the election, Quaglin posted on social media: “I’m going to war.” He also sent a message on Facebook with a picture of his “basement gun room,” with large firearms on the wall.
On January 6th, Quaglin allegedly reserved several hotel rooms in Washington, which prosecutors say indicates he was involved in organizing the riot. Videos obtained by the FBI show him wearing a red-white-and-blue “Make America Great Again” jacket, along with a helmet and gas mask. He is seen grabbing one officer by the neck and pushing another. He also yells: “You are on the wrong f–king side!” He allegedly stole one officer’s shield and used it to attack officers in order to get inside the Capitol, also spraying them with a chemical substance.
Although a judge ordered him released on home detention pending trial, prosecutors successfully appealed and Quaglin has been jailed ever since. The conservative Washington Examiner this week reported that the jail where he’s now being held in Virginia has deprived him of a special diet he needs due to celiac disease and he has lost 20 pounds.
A message left for his attorney was not returned.
The Hitler-Moustachioed Army Reservist
Timothy Hale-Cusanelli was an Army reservist who also worked as an armed security guard for a Navy contractor at Weapons Station Earle in Monmouth County, N.J. Based on interviews with his colleagues, prosecutors have said that Hale-Cusanelli was a known white supremacist who openly espoused his adoration of Hitler — including sporting a Hitler-styled moustache at work. He told one colleague that “he would kill all the Jews and eat them for breakfast, lunch and dinner, and he wouldn’t need to season them because the salt from their tears would make it flavorful enough,” according to court records.
Compared to other alleged rioters who also remain jailed because of their involvement in January 6th, Hale-Cusanelli’s alleged actions that day were relatively mild. But a federal judge said he ordered him locked up pending trial in part because of his history of anti-Semitic social media threats against Orthodox Jews in Lakewood, N.J., near his home. He also has a criminal history.
On January 6th, according to court papers, Hale-Cusanelli recorded videos of himself screaming at a female Capitol Police officer (“The revolution will be televised, cunt!” and “Trump won!”). He also allegedly climbed scaffolding to enter the Capitol building and used hand signals to direct rioters to “advance” into the building.
The military discharged Hale-Cusanelli in the wake of the charges. The Washington Post reported that he was the first service member kicked out of the military due to actions on January 6th.
His attorney did not return a request for comment.
The Corrections Officer
On Jan. 6, 2021, Marissa Suarez took an emergency holiday day off from work as a probationary corrections officer at Monmouth Correctional Facility in New Jersey and drove her Jeep Wrangler to Washington along with a friend, prosecutors say. She joined the demonstrations on the mall and then the crowd that forced its way into the Capitol building, telling her friend, according to a video: “This is what they fucking wanted, this is what they get.”
Authorities obtained text messages that Suarez wrote that afternoon, including “Sooo we’ve stormed Capitol Hill lol.” The next day, she wrote: “When we found out pence f–ked us, we all stormed the Capitol building and everyone forced entry and started breaking shit.”
Suarez resigned after her arrest. She is not detained. Her attorney said she entered a not guilty plea and her next court hearing is later this month.
The man who showed Ashli Babbitt’s blood to the TV cameras
Thomas Baranyi of Mercer County, N.J., left the Capitol building after forcing his way inside and was interviewed by a reporter from a local TV station. He was wearing a New York Giants sweatshirt and a backwards hat reading “Rebuild America Trump Pence 2016.”
“We had stormed into the chambers inside and there was a young lady who rushed the windows,” he told the reporter, according to a transcript provided by prosecutors. “A number of police and Secret Service were saying get down, get out of the way. She didn’t heed the call and as we kind of raced up to try to grab people and pull them back, they shot her in the neck, and she fell back on me.”
That woman was Ashli Babbit, who was shot and killed by a police officer as she tried to climb through a broken window leading to the Speaker’s Lobby. Babbit has since become a martyr-like symbol for many who falsely maintain that Trump won the election.
Baranyi went on to explain to the reporter that to get into the building, “we tore through the scaffolding, through flash bangs and tear gas, and blitzed our way through all the chambers just trying to get into Congress.” He then held up his hand to the camera, still stained red from Babbit’s blood. “This could be you or your kids,” he said.
Baranyi is not in custody pending his trial. His lawyer did not return an email for comment.
This story has been updated to reflect that Scott Fairlamb dropped his appeal Thursday.