(CNN)An Army reservist who was a well-known Nazi sympathizer among his colleagues was ordered Tuesday to remain in jail while awaiting trial on charges tied to the Capitol insurrection.
A federal judge said the defendant, Timothy Hale-Cusanelli, posed a threat to the public and that there was a potential for an “escalation of violence” from his long-held neo-Nazi beliefs.
“I am very concerned about the statements after January 6 suggesting that the defendant is looking forward to a civil war,” Federal Judge Trevor McFadden said at a court hearing.
Hale-Cusanelli’s case went viral this month when the Justice Department released photos of him sporting a distinctive “Hitler mustache” at the Navy base where he worked as a contractor.
He has been in jail since his arrest in January. He pleaded not guilty during the hearing to a seven-count indictment, including a felony charge of obstructing congressional proceedings.
“Every judge is afraid of releasing somebody who then goes crazy,” McFadden, a Trump appointee, said during the hearing. “There’s a lot in here that makes me worried about that.”
The case presented a test for the Justice Department. Hale-Cusanelli hasn’t been accused of committing any acts of violence during the January 6 insurrection. His lawyer pointed out Tuesday that he wore a suit — and not tactical gear — to the Capitol. But prosecutors wanted him jailed anyway, because of the risk that his neo-Nazi ideology could lead to violence in the future.
Prosecutors brought up police reports from last year where Jewish people accused him of harassment. They said they were worried he might go after an informant who gave the FBI information that helped their case. And they mentioned that some coworkers at the Navy base where he worked in New Jersey felt afraid to confront him about his racist and sexist comments.
Hale-Cusanelli’s lawyer argued that he had a Black roommate and therefore he can coexist peacefully with minorities, even if he holds “repugnant” views on race. The lawyer also pointed out that he was trusted to carry a gun every day at the Navy base and never used it improperly.
“We don’t typically penalize people for what they say or think,” McFadden said, explaining the challenge of deciding whether to detain someone based on what they might do in the future.
He continued, “The language goes beyond just being racist, but suggests violence toward people who are not like Mr. Hale-Cusanelli. The language is repugnant and very concerning.”