Ex-police chief who spread Jan. 6 conspiracy theories is sentenced to 11 years in Capitol riot case

WASHINGTON — A former California police chief who called for the execution of Donald Trump’s political enemies, joined the U.S. Capitol attack and then spread conspiracy theories about Jan. 6 was sentenced to more than 11 years in federal prison Thursday.

Alan Hostetter was found guilty in July on charges of conspiracy to obstruct an official proceeding, obstruction of an official proceeding, entering or remaining on restricted grounds with a deadly or dangerous weapon and disorderly or disruptive conduct on restricted grounds with a deadly or dangerous weapon. He represented himself at a bench trial before U.S. District Judge Royce Lamberth, a Ronald Reagan appointee, who sentenced him to 135 months Thursday.

Hostetter, who was the chief of the La Habra, California, Police Department in 2010, was arrested in June 2021.

Like GOP presidential candidate Vivek Ramaswamy and many far-right members of Congress, Hostetter has spread conspiracy theories about the attack on Jan. 6, 2021. Ramaswamy said, without evidence, during the Republican debate Wednesday night that Jan. 6 “now does look like it was an inside job,” while Hostetter said during his trial that he believed “that the entire thing was staged.”

Hostetter, who was found to have carried a hatchet during the attack, brought up Ramaswamy’s debate comments at his sentencing hearing Thursday.

“These conspiracy theories are no longer fringe,” he said, noting Ramaswamy’s comments specifically.

“The election was stolen. You have presidential candidates saying that openly during the debate,” Hostetter said. “At some point, the truth is going to be coming out.”

Hostetter also noted House Speaker Mike Johnson’s decision to release Jan. 6 video, which has sparked additional unsupported conspiracy theories.

Weapons Alan Hostetter prepared for the Jan. 6 riot.
Weapons Alan Hostetter prepared for the Jan. 6 riot.U.S. District Court for D.C.

Hostetter also founded a group called the American Phoenix Project, which protested Covid restrictions and denied the 2020 election results. He recorded a video after Donald Trump lost the election in which he said that “traitors need to be executed” and promoted Jan. 6 as the final day when patriots could make their stand.

“Choke that city off, fill it with patriots, and then those people behind the walls of the Senate and the House are gonna be listening to us chanting outside those walls,” Hostetter said in a speech ahead of the attack that was cited by prosecutors. “And they’re gonna realize, we have one choice. We either fix this mess and keep America America, or we become traitors, and those five million people outside the walls are gonna drag us out by our hair and tie us to a f—ing lamppost. That’s their option.”

“Some people, at the highest levels, need to be made an example of: an execution or two or three,” Hostetter said in a video he recorded in November 2020. “Tyrants and traitors need to be executed as an example so nobody pulls this s— again.”

Federal prosecutors had sought more than 12.5 years in federal prison, saying Hostetter conspired, collected weapons and traveled to Washington with the plan of using the threat of violence to stop the peaceful transfer of power.

At a hearing Thursday, Assistant U.S. Attorney Anthony Mariano said that Hostetter had made himself a “poster child for Jan. 6 conspiracy theories” and that he spent time “promoting the dangerous lie that Jan. 6 was a false flag operation.”

Alan Hostetter.
Alan Hostetter at the Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021.American Phoenix Project via Instagram / United States District Court of D.C.

But as Mariano pointed out, Hostetter had “not a piece of evidence” to support the conspiracy theory.

“If the defendant wants to know what would have stopped Jan. 6, he could start by looking in the mirror,” Mariano said, describing Hostetter’s actions as terroristic, not patriotic.

Hostetter said at the hearing that he believed Jan. 6 was a setup by the CIA, the FBI and the Department of Homeland Security. He said that he believed crisis actors and federal informants were involved, that the attack was a “false flag event” and that the death of Trump supporter Ashli Babbitt was faked.

“Once the Ashli Babbitt psy-op falls, this whole thing becomes undone,” Hostetter said, adding he believed there were “hundreds, if not possibly thousands,” of government informants in the crowd that day.

Hostetter also said he believes that Oath Keepers founder Stewart Rhodes — who is serving 18 years in federal prison — is a government asset.

Hostetter will be required to report to prison next year. After the hearing, Babbitt’s mother, Micki Witthoeft, confronted him in the hallway. Witthoeft, who got a meeting with former House Speaker Kevin McCarthy this year and frequently attends Jan. 6 court hearings, told Hostetter that her daughter was, in fact, dead.

“I assure you she is dead,” she said. “What the f— is it you’re trying to say?” 

“Was she cremated?” Hostetter asked. 

“You need help,” she replied. “Arrogant s—.”

Hostetter’s trial featured testimony from co-defendant Russell Taylor, who pleaded guilty as part of a plea deal with the government. Their four co-defendants — Erik Scott Warner, Felipe Antonio Martinez, Derek Kinnison and Ronald Mele — were all found guilty of felony obstruction of an official proceeding and other charges after a trial last month.

More than 1,200 people have been charged in connection with the Capitol attack, and more than 450 have been sentenced to periods of incarceration.