WASHINGTON (AP) — Four California men linked to the “Three Percenters” militia movement have been convicted charges including conspiracy and obstruction for their roles in the Jan. 6, 2021 riot at the U.S. Capitol.
Erik Scott Warner, 48, of Menifee,; Felipe Antonio Martinez, 50, of Lake Elsinore,; Derek Kinnison, 42, of Lake Elsinore,; and Ronald Mele, 54, of Temecula, were found guilty on Tuesday after a trial in Washington’s federal court, according to prosecutors.
They were convicted of conspiracy and obstruction of an official proceeding — the joint session of Congress in which lawmakers met to certify President Joe Biden as the winner of the 2020 election.
Attorneys for Martinez and Warner declined to comment, and emails seeking comment were sent to an attorney for Mele.
Kinnison’s lawyer, Nicolai Cocis, said he is disappointed with the verdict and they are considering all available legal options.
“Mr. Kinnison is a patriotic citizen who wanted to show his support for President Trump, who he believed was the rightful winner of the 2020 election. He regrets his involvement in the events of January 6,” Cocis said in an email.
Prosecutors say the men were part of a Three Percenters militia in southern California. The Three Percenters militia movement refers to the myth that only 3% of Americans fought in the Revolutionary War against the British.
They were charged in 2021 alongside Alan Hostetter, a former California police chief, right-wing activist and vocal critic of COVID-19 restrictions, who was convicted in July in a separate trial. Another one of their codefendants, Russell Taylor, pleaded guilty in April to a conspiracy charge.
The four men joined a telegram chat with Hostetter and Taylor called “The California Patriots – DC Brigade” to coordinate plans for coming to Washington. Taylor posted that he created the group for “fighters” who were expected to bring “weaponry” and body armor with them to Washington on Jan. 6, according to prosecutors.
Warner, Martinez, Kinnison and Mele drove cross country together days before the riot. On Jan. 6, Warner entered the Capitol through a broken window. Meanwhile, Martinez, wearing a tactical vest, and Kinnison, who was wearing a gas mask, joined rioters on the Capitol’s Upper West Terrace, according to the indictment. Mele, who was also wearing a tactical vest, proclaimed “Storm the Capitol!” in a “selfie” style video on the stairs of the building, prosecutors say.
Warner and Kinnison, who were accused of deleting the “DC Brigade” chat from their phones after the riot, were also convicted of tampering with documents or proceedings.
Nearly 1,200 people have been charged with Capitol riot-related federal crimes. Over 800 of them have pleaded guilty or been convicted by a jury or judge after a trial. Approximately 700 of them have been sentenced, with roughly two-thirds receiving terms of imprisonment ranging from three days to 22 years.