Navy veteran who stormed Capitol gets 3 years on gun charges

Apr 13, 2023, 9:56 AM

FILE - This booking photo provided by the Alexandria, Va., Sheriff's Office shows Hatchet Speed. Sp...

FILE - This booking photo provided by the Alexandria, Va., Sheriff's Office shows Hatchet Speed. Speed, a former Navy reservist who stormed the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021, and expressed admiration for Adolf Hitler, was sentenced Thursday, April 13, 2023, to three years in prison on firearms charges. (Alexandria Sheriff's Office via AP, File)
Credit: ASSOCIATED PRESS

(Alexandria Sheriff's Office via AP, File)

ALEXANDRIA, Va. (AP) — A former Navy reservist who stormed the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021, and expressed admiration for Adolf Hitler was sentenced Thursday to three years in prison on firearms charges.

The sentence U.S. District Judge Michael Nachmanoff imposed for Hatchet Speed in federal court in Alexandria was six months less than the term sought by federal prosecutors and much longer than the one-year term sought by Speed’s lawyers.

Speed, 41, of McLean, is a military veteran who held top-secret clearances while working for a defense contractor.

The gun charges against him in Virginia are separate from charges brought in Washington, D.C., for obstructing an official proceeding, the Jan. 6 joint session of Congress for certifying the Electoral College vote. He will sentenced on those charges next month; sentencing guidelines in that case call for a term of nearly five to six years.

Speed’s lawyers asked the judge not to be prejudiced against him because of his inflammatory views. In conversations with an FBI undercover employee in 2022, Speed expressed admiration not only for Hitler but also for Olympic Park bomber Eric Rudolph and Unabomber Ted Kaczynski.

In recorded conversations, Speed also made antisemitic comments and proposed targeting Jewish people with acts of violence. He also collected neo-Nazi memorabilia.

But Nachmanoff said Speed’s admiration for despicable historical figures and his views on advocating violence to achieve his objectives demonstrate the danger he poses to the public.

“The defendant’s statements of admiration for Adolf Hitler, Eric Rudolph and Ted Kaczynski … and his belief that such activities could be justified are all highly relevant,” Nachmanoff said.

Prosecutors said Speed, a member of the far-right Proud Boys group, believed the 2020 presidential election was stolen from Donald Trump. After Joe Biden took office, Speed began making preparations for what he believed was imminent civil war and started stockpiling weapons, including the three silencers that were the subject of his Virginia trial.

In Thursday’s closing statements, prosecutor Thomas Traxler said Speed studied the manifestos of Rudolph and Kaczynski to try to “come up with a better game plan than they had.”

Speed had claimed he was innocent because the devices he purchased were actually “solvent traps” used to collect excess fluid when you clean a gun.

The devices are indeed marketed as solvent traps, but their design is similar to that of a silencer. The only significant difference is that the “solvent traps” require drilling a hole in the end to turn them into functioning silencers.

Speed bought the devices, which are made of titanium and sell for hundreds of dollars, after he tried to buy silencers and faced significant delays. Speed said he did not believe he was required to register the devices as silencers with the government unless he drilled holes in them — something he never did.

Prosecutors, though, said the law governing silencers covers devices intended for use as a silencer, regardless of whether they are functional or sold under another name.

Speed’s first trial in Virginia ended with a hung jury and a mistrial, as jurors apparently struggled with the legal definition of a silencer and whether Speed was required to register them. He was convicted at a retrial, after one of the initial jurors reached out to prosecutors and explained what caused the jury’s confusion.

Traxler said the legal loophole that Speed thought he uncovered was “too cute by half” and urged a stiff sentence to discourage others from doing likewise.

Speed, who intends to appeal his conviction, did not speak at Thursday’s hearing.

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Navy veteran who stormed Capitol gets 3 years on gun charges