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High-profile Capitol rioter gets all clear to represent himself

Alan Hostetter wants to represent himself against multiple felonies in connection to the Jan. 6 insurrection, citing financial reasons and what he calls “the corruption of the investigation” by the FBI. 

WASHINGTON (CN) — With the warning that self-representation will lead to spectacular and imminent failure, a federal judge granted permission Thursday to a California police chief turned yogi turned Three Percenter to do just that as he goes on trial for storming the U.S. Capitol.

“I will tell you up front: I’ve never seen a pro se defendant actually succeed,” U.S. District Judge Royce C. Lamberth said, relaying to Alan Hostetter that in 2020 he had two defendants represent themselves, and both were convicted and sentenced to decades in prison. They were both in their 40s. 

“I would never represent myself if I was charged with a crime,” Lamberth continued, telling Hostetter that he always tells defendants the adage, “If you represent yourself, you have a fool for a client.”

Hostetter faces a felony criminal indictment alleging that he conspired with Three Percenters, a far-right militia group, to obstruct Congress from certifying the electoral count by creating a violent mob at the U.S. Capitol. He is one of six California men associated with the Three Percenters to be charged with conspiracy related to Jan. 6. 

The indictment also claims that Hostetter used his nonprofit, the American Phoenix Project, which he founded to oppose government-mandated Covid-19 restrictions, as a platform to advocate for violence against groups that supported Joe Biden as the winner of the 2020 presidential election.

“Some people at the highest level need to be made an example of with an execution or two or three,” Hostetter said in a video posted on his nonprofit’s now-defunct YouTube channel. “I’m going to D.C. I’m going to be there on Saturday for this march. I hope there are a million Patriots there.”

The former police chief in La Habra, California, has an impressive resume: He served as an infantryman, earned a master's of business administration, graduated from the FBI National Academy, has 24 years of experience in the police force, is a licensed private investigator, and even launched a second career as a yoga instructor. One thing he’s not, though, is a lawyer. 

“In my opinion, a trained lawyer would defend you far better than you could defend yourself,” Lamberth said, warning Hostetter that on the conspiracy charge alone he could face up 20 years in prison. “You’re not familiar with the law, even as a trained police officer.” 

Multiple Jan. 6 defendants are going at it without a lawyer, though federal judges have adamantly warned them that it’s the worst mistake they could make — it’s a logistical nightmare; they don’t have any experience; and there’s too great a risk of self-incrimination. Just this past Tuesday, one Capitol rioter who refused a lawyer accidentally admitted to two new felonies while representing himself in court. 

Hostetter nevertheless told Lamberth that he is intent on continuing pro se as he believes the Jan. 6 investigation is “corrupt” and he doesn’t want the government to try to bankrupt him. 

“One factor has to do with finances,” Hostetter said. “If they can’t convict me, they want to destroy me and ruin my reputation.”

Hostetter asked Lamberth to appoint him a legal adviser, on the condition that they have no association with Skull & Bones, Free Masonry, or “any other organizations that require oaths or vows of secrecy.”

Lamberth said he will give Hostetter 30 days to file an affidavit before he grants him leave to represent himself. 

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