Military veteran convicted of obstruction in Capitol riot
WASHINGTON (AP) — A military veteran accused of telling an undercover FBI agent about a plan to “wipe out” the nation’s Jewish population was convicted on Tuesday of storming the U.S. Capitol to stop Congress from certifying President Joe Biden’s 2020 electoral victory.
A federal judge heard trial testimony without a jury before convicting Virginia resident Hatchet Speed, a former U.S. Naval reservist who was assigned to an agency that operates spy satellites. U.S. District Judge Trevor McFadden is scheduled to sentence Speed on May 8 for his role in a mob’s attack on the Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021.
McFadden convicted Speed of all five charges in his indictment, including a felony count of obstructing an official proceeding, the Jan. 6 joint session of Congress for certifying the Electoral College vote. The judge also convicted Speed of four misdemeanors.
The FBI recorded Speed’s conversations with the undercover agent more than a year after the riot. Speed told the agent that he marched to the Capitol with members of the far-right Proud Boys extremist group, authorities said.
Speed also spewed antisemitic rhetoric linked to his dislike for government, according to prosecutors. They argued that Speed’s hateful ideology helps explain why he joined the Capitol attack.
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Speed was “deeply worried about a Biden presidency” and believed false claims that the 2020 presidential election had been stolen from Donald Trump, the Republican incumbent, prosecutors wrote in a court filing. They said Speed expressed his admiration for Adolf Hitler and told the undercover agent that he believes Jewish people control Biden, a Democrat.
“Speed saw the Jews as ‘everywhere,’ fighting to destroy Christians, and he was not willing to sit by,” prosecutors wrote.
McFadden said the limited trial testimony about Speed’s antisemitism wasn’t a factor in his verdict. But the judge cited statements that Speed made about Jan. 6 in support of his conviction on the obstruction charge.
“His own words show the defendant’s actions were knowing and willful,” the judge said.
Speed, 41, was arrested in June 2022 on riot-related misdemeanor charges. A grand jury later indicted him on the felony obstruction charge.
On Jan. 6, Speed drove to Washington, D.C, from his home in Vienna, Virginia. After attending the “Stop the Steal” rally, where Trump addressed a crowd of supporters, Speed joined the mob that attacked the Capitol.
Around 3 p.m., Speed entered the building through a door to the Senate wing of the Capitol after other rioters breached it. He remained inside the Capitol for roughly 40 minutes.
After leaving, he texted another rioter that he had “backed out” after hearing that the “vote had been postponed.”
“In other words,” prosecutors wrote, “because Speed thought he succeeded in obstructing the certification, he left the U.S. Capitol Building.”
An undercover FBI agent, posing as “a like-minded individual,” met with Speed at least three times in March 2022 and April 2022. The FBI recorded their discussions of his motives and actions on Jan. 6.
“Speed wanted to stop that certification. He left the U.S. Capitol only because he believed he succeeded in that effort,” prosecutors wrote.
During the recorded conversations, Speed also “outlined a plan to enlist Christians to wipe out the country’s entire Jewish population.”
“To defeat the Jewish threat and topple the government, Speed told the (agent) that a violent response was necessary — and that the Jews stood in the way,” prosecutors wrote.
Speed began “panic buying” thousands of dollars worth of firearms and silencers in February 2021, prosecutors wrote. They said Speed later told the agent that he had a plan “to kidnap and disappear his enemies after mock trials, and he thought the silencers could come in useful for the effort.”
The undercover agent testified under a pseudonym at a separate trial for Speed in Virginia on gun charges. After a retrial in January, a federal jury in the Eastern District of Virginia convicted Speed of three counts of unlawful possession of an unregistered firearm silencer. He is sentenced to be sentenced for those convictions on April 13.
Speed’s attorneys accused prosecutors of treating him like “a political puppet.” They also accused the Justice Department of engaging in “last-minute gamesmanship,” bringing the felony obstruction charge in Speed’s Washington case only after his first trial in Virginia ended in December with a deadlocked jury and a mistrial.
“Because the government failed to convince a jury of his guilt beyond a reasonable doubt under the crimes alleged, the government simply chose to allege more crimes,” they wrote in a court filing.
Prosecutors said they decided to bring the obstruction charge as they began preparing for trial “in earnest.”
“This is not a vindictive prosecution. It is a well-founded one,” they wrote.
Speed was a petty officer first class in the U.S. Naval Reserves and was assigned to the Naval Warfare Space Field Activity at the National Reconnaissance Office, the FBI said. The National Reconnaissance Office operates U.S. spy satellites used by the Pentagon and intelligence agencies. The agency said Speed was not part of the reserve unit at the time of the Jan. 6 riot.