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Jan. 6 insurrectionist from O.C. worked to create hatchet-wielding band of ‘fighters,’ faces 20 years

People crowd an entrance to a building.
Insurrectionists stream into the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021.
(Kent Nishimura / Los Angeles Times)
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Ladera Ranch resident Russell Taylor, who once messaged that he wanted to “be one of the first ones to breach the doors” of the U.S. Capitol, agreed to a plea deal in federal court in Washington, D.C., on Wednesday for his role in the Jan. 6 insurrection.

Taylor, one of six members of a Southern California group known as the DC Brigade, pleaded guilty to a charge of conspiracy to obstruct an official proceeding. He could face up to 20 years in prison and a fine of $250,000.

The agreement means that multiple additional charges against Taylor, including unlawful possession of a dangerous weapon on capitol grounds and in buildings, were dropped. In return, the government may call upon Taylor to testify against his fellow co-conspirators.

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Taylor’s confederates, according to court records, include former La Habra Police Chief Alan Hostetter, and Riverside County Three Percenters militia members Derek Kinnison of Lake Elsinore, Felipe “Tony” Martinez of Lake Elsinore, Erik Scott Warner of Menifee and Ronald Mele of Temecula.

The men were indicted on June 9, 2021, and Taylor was arrested in Orange the next day. He initially pleaded not guilty on all charges at his arraignment on June 28, 2021.

According to court documents, Taylor and members of the DC Brigade stormed the Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021, with Taylor, referring to the act as the beginning of an “insurrection!”

Taylor said at a protest in front of the Supreme Court on Jan. 5 that “we will fight and we will bleed before we allow our freedoms to be taken from us,” according to court documents.

A former police chief and yoga instructor is indicted along with five other Southern California men for their alleged roles in the Capitol riot.

June 11, 2021

He and his fellow insurrectionists did not accept the legitimacy of the 2020 election and, according to court documents, planned not to leave Washington until “this election is made right, our freedoms are restored and America is preserved.”

Court documents state that Taylor, Hostetter and others met at the Ellipse near the White House for a speech on Jan. 6 by then-President Trump and marched to the Capitol afterward.

Taylor wore a black-plate carrier vest body armor and had a knife in his vest pocket and a stun baton in his backpack, court filings said.

Because of the knife, according to courts documents, Taylor was denied entry into the Ellipse by the Secret Service for Trump’s speech.

Court filings say Taylor directed a group of insurrections at the Upper West Terrace of the Capitol into the building and warned police not to get involved, saying, “Last chance, boys. Move back!” Taylor, though, did not enter the building.

In the days leading up to the insurrection, Taylor helped organize “a group of fighters” in a private, encrypted group chat through the instant messaging app Telegram, according to the court files. More than 35 members participated in the California Patriots-DC Brigade planning thread.

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“I am assuming that you have some type of weaponry that you are bringing with you and [body armor] as well,” he is quoted in court documents, suggesting the group bring hatchets, bats and large metal flashlights.

In court documents, other members of the group messaged that they were bringing firearms to Washington.

The report by the House select committee probing the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the Capitol provides a road map for potential criminal charges against Trump.

Dec. 22, 2022

Taylor’s journey to the insurrection began the previous spring. Hostetter founded the American Phoenix Project, a San Clemente-based nonprofit, in 2020 and railed against COVID-19 restrictions.

The duo also amplified Trump’s stolen election claims.

Both spoke at a “Stop the Steal” rally in Huntington Beach on Dec. 12, 2020, in which Hostetter said the “enemies and traitors of America … must be held accountable,” according to court records. He advocated for long prison terms and executions.

Taylor and Hostetter began, according to court documents, communicating through Telegram with other members of the DC Brigade.

On Dec. 20, Taylor posted a link to a Trump tweet from earlier in the day. In the message, the president said it was “statistically impossible to have lost the 2020 Election” and that there would be “a big protest in D.C. on January 6.”

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Taylor asked members, “Who is going?”

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