An Oath Keeper that was part of the infamous stack formation that breached the US Capitol on January 6 was sentenced Friday to three years in prison for joining a sprawling plot to keep Donald Trump in power after the 2020 presidential election.
David Moerschel, who went by the moniker “Hatsy,” contributed AR-style firearms to the militia’s cache of weapons staged outside Washington, DC, prosecutors said at his trial.
On January 6, Moerschel was part of the stack formation that prosecutors said acted as a “battering ram,” pushing through the mob and into the Capitol and was alleged to have been part of a group looking for House Speaker Nancy Pelosi inside the Capitol during the riot. In total, Moerschel was inside the Capitol building for 11 minutes, according to his lawyer.
“It is true that Mr. Moerschel’s conduct was of grave concern,” Judge Amit Mehta said during the sentencing hearing Friday. “The weaponry is scary enough as it is. And we don’t need to be told of the damage that kind of weapon can cause.”
“The seriousness is magnified by the motivation,” Mehta said, and “something that is politically motivated presents a degree of danger” higher than other potential gun crimes.
“All that said, Mr. Moerschel was among the less responsible or culpable people that day in respect to the Oath Keepers,” Mehta said, adding that Moerschel left the Oath Keepers “the very next day.” Moerschel is also a “Terrific father, husband” and had an “Exemplary” history of helping people before January 6, Mehta said, describing his conviction as “quite a fall.”
Moerschel was convicted by a Washington, DC, jury of several charges in January, including seditious conspiracy and conspiracy to prevent a member of Congress from discharging their official duties.
Prosecutor Troy Edwards chided Moerschel, a neurophysiologist, saying that Moerschel “should have known better” and that “to call him a victim would be a disservice to those” who were tricked by election lies but didn’t act on January 6.
Moerschel agreed, tearfully telling Mehta that “I appreciate the compliment that I am a smart guy, but this was really dumb. I don’t mean anything bad about Kelly Meggs,” the leader of the Florida Oath Keepers, “but he’s a used car salesman, and it was really dumb to follow that guy.”
“When I was on those stairs, your honor, I felt like God said to me ‘get out of here,’ and I didn’t,” Moerschel said. “I disobeyed God and I broke laws.” As he waited for Mehta to deliver his sentence, Moerschel sat with his hands clasped, eyes closed and head down.
Florida Oath Keeper Joseph Hackett was sentenced to more than three years in prison Friday.
“In some sense, your purpose in joining the Oath Keepers came from a righteous place,” Mehta told Hackett, saying that “politicians, media” and “being afraid” of violence in his community made him want to “do something to protect your family.”
“One can see how someone like you, once you get on one of these chats and that becomes the source of news, the source of encouragement, the source of community, that it is very difficult to turn away from,” Mehta said. “And it is something that can suck you in like a vortex. And it is very difficult to get out. Unfortunately, that is not an uncommon story.”
Hackett was a recruiter for the Florida Oath Keepers who prosecutors said was talented at hiding his identity, citing Hackett’s aliases and nicknames, his use of encrypted email accounts to pass messages, and his repeated warnings to others about leaks.
On January 6, Hackett pushed into the Capitol and moved towards then-House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s office. He also contributed weapons to the militia’s quick reaction force staged just outside the city.
“My failure to recognize the situation I put myself in has hurt a lot of people in my life,” Hackett told the judge before he was sentenced. Hackett spoke quietly as he stood before the judge, a paper with his prepared remarks shaking as he held it up to read.
“I did this to my family,” Hackett said. “I am the reason we are not enjoying a happy and normal life. Watching my daughter break down again and again and again knowing she is going to lose her father over this – I have spent a lot of time hating myself.”
Earlier Friday, Mehta threw out one of Hackett’s convictions for tampering with documents in the aftermath of the US Capitol riot. Mehta ruled that the government had not proven beyond a reasonable doubt that Hackett had deleted messages from his phone in an effort to thwart the ongoing government investigation into the Oath Keepers and the January 6 attack.
The acquittal for the single charge is the only one Mehta granted for the nine defendants convicted at trial. He rejected several similar motions last week.
This story has been updated with additional developments.