A Riverside County attorney representing one of the men charged in connection with the Jan. 6, 2021, demonstration at the U.S. Capitol said Friday that the videotape of the breach that was publicly released this week could prove beneficial to him and other lawyers taking their cases to trial.
“My impression of the video released to date is that it’s a little like seeing a movie with two different soundtracks,” attorney Nic Cocis of Murrieta told City News Service. “Depending on which one you’re listening to, you get a very different impression of what’s going on.”
Cocis said that he has been monitoring the footage since it began airing on Fox News Channel, following Speaker of the House of Representatives Kevin McCarthy’s decision to lift the hold that was previously placed on the tape by the former January 6 Committee, controlled by House Democrats.
The litigator is representing 41-year-old Derek Kinnison of Lake Elsinore, who was among six men indicted together by a grand jury in 2021. Kinnison is charged with obstruction of an official proceeding, entering federally restricted grounds without authorization and tampering with evidence — that is, trying to delete pictures on his mobile phone.
According to the indictment, Kinnison and his co-defendants were part of the “Three Percenters,” a group of activists who joined the larger “Stop the Steal” movement that formed immediately after Nov. 3, 2020, election.
After hearing then-President Donald Trump speak on the Ellipse, they joined tens of thousands of others in a demonstration that began outside the Capitol Building, but later led to people pouring into the historic edifice, where the Electoral College vote certification was underway to recognize President-Elect Joe Biden as winner of the 2020 presidential election.
The leader of the six-man crew, 58-year-old Alan Hostetter of San Diego, said in a YouTube video preceding the rally that the election was corrupt, and certifying the results was comparable to stripping citizens of “their Constitutional rights,” according to the indictment.
All of the men entered the Capitol Building.
“There was a wide range of motivations and actions among the people who attended the event,” Cocis told CNS, without disclosing specifics regarding how he intends to present a defense of his client during trial, which is tentatively set for July in Washington, D.C.
The newly released tapes showed that one of the first people to gain access to the Halls of Congress that January afternoon, Jacob Chansley, a U.S. Navy veteran known for wearing a horned hat and calling himself a shaman, did not forcibly enter the building. The video showed him being escorted by two U.S. Capitol Police officers for a brief period, and coming into contact with others, one of whom tried to open a door to the Senate chamber for him.
Chansley was carrying an American flag and appeared peaceful. He ultimately situated himself on the floor of the Senate, where he said a prayer.
He pleaded guilty in July 2021 to obstruction of an official proceeding and was sentenced to 41 months in federal prison. His attorney, Albert Watkins, said publicly this week that he never obtained the footage that has been aired, despite filing multiple “requisite pleadings” for the government to release it.
Other video depicted demonstrators filing through the Capitol Building in queues, appearing orderly and nonviolent.
“Some of the newly released footage may be exculpatory,” Cocis said.
Images released to the public immediately after the breach showed multiple acts of vandalism by masked parties outside the building, and in at least one upper floor corridor. There were also clashes with law enforcement.
Capitol Police Chief Thomas Manger earlier this week released a statement criticizing Tucker Carlson’s production team at Fox News, saying they “conveniently cherry-picked from the calmer moments of our 41,000 hours of video” from Capitol Hill on Jan. 6, 2021.
“The commentary fails to provide context about the chaos and violence that happened before or during these less tense moments,” he said.
Just over 1,000 people have been charged for acts that occurred at the Capitol Building during the breach. Seven were from Riverside County. Of those, three have pleaded guilty and been sentenced under agreements with the U.S. Attorney’s Office.
In January, 45-year-old Andrew Alan Hernandez of Jurupa Valley was sentenced to 18 months in federal prison after admitting a charge of aiding and abetting in the obstruction of an official proceeding.
Last October, Rafael Valadez Jr., 43, of Indio admitted a misdemeanor count of picketing in the Capitol Building and was sentenced to 30 days behind bars.
In March 2022, Kevin Strong, 46, of Wildomar admitted the same offense and was sentenced to 24 months’ probation.
Along with Kinnison, those awaiting disposition of their cases are Felipe Antonio Martinez, 49, of Lake Elsinore, Ron Mele, 53, of Temecula, and Erik Scott Warner, 47, of Menifee.