A federal jury has found a Florida pastor, his son, and another church member guilty of participating in the Jan. 6, 2021, U.S. Capitol riot.
The jury found Pastor James “Jim” Varnell Cusick Jr., 72, of Global Outreach Ministries Church in Melbourne; his son Casey Cusick, 35; and David John Lesperance, 69, a repairman who was a member of their church, guilty of multiple charges. These include knowingly entering or remaining in a restricted building or on Capitol grounds without lawful authority, disorderly or disruptive conduct in a restricted building, and violent entry and disorderly conduct on Capitol grounds.
According to Florida Today, all three men plan to appeal.
Police arrested and charged Cusick Jr., his son Casey Cusick and Lesperance in June 2021.
Cusick Jr., Cusick and Lesperance appeared in pictures posing with other people while they were in the capital city on Jan. 6, 2021. Federal agents tracked participants in the Capitol Hill riot using cell phone images, surveillance camera footage and other high-tech tools.
According to charging documents, an anonymous tip mailed to the FBI on Jan. 22, 2021 said Cusick Jr. and Cusick participated in the riot. A second anonymous tipper informed federal agents on March 26 that Lesperance had accompanied them.
Earlier, on Jan. 19, the FBI interviewed Lesperance at his home near Cape Canaveral, Florida. According to the FBI, Lesperance admitted to entering the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6 and told agents his pastor was with him.
“Lesperance told law enforcement that he had his cell phone on his person while he was at the U.S. Capitol and that he took photographs and video during that time using his cell phone but later deleted them out of fear of negative repercussions,” the complaint says.
Agents were able to identify Cusick Jr. through research and other tips, including the anonymous letter sent days later naming him and his son as participants in the riot, according to the complaint.
Investigators confirmed through phone records obtained with a warrant that Cusick Jr. and Cusick also used their phones in “a geographic area that includes the interior of the United States Capitol building” on Jan. 6, 2021.
According to the statement of facts in each case, authorities identified Cusick Jr., Cusick and Lesperance through body camera and closed-circuit television footage taken inside the Capitol building on the afternoon of the insurgency.
Cusick Jr. is a member of the Association of Faith Churches and Ministers, and both he and his son graduated from Rhema Bible Training College in Tulsa, Oklahoma. Jim graduated in 1979, Casey in 2014.
The listed address for Global Outreach Ministries is in a residential neighborhood in Melbourne, Florida. Business filing documents for the ministry are inactive. Pastor Cusick Jr. was listed as the ministry president and his son Casey as vice president.
According to Google, the ministry is “permanently closed.”
Cusick Jr., his son Casey Cusick and Lesperance are three of over 1,000 people arrested in connection with the Capitol breach on Jan. 6.
The riot happened on the day that then-Vice President Mike Pence and members of Congress were supposed to count the electoral votes in the 2020 presidential election.
Representatives and senators fled the area out of fear of further violence as rioters, many of whom were from Florida, tore down equipment, attacked Capitol police, urinated in the hallways and stole items from the building.
The Roys Report reported shortly afterward as evangelical leaders from diverse Christian organizations condemned the behavior and “religious” tone of many of the attendees. One year later, Roys chronicled responses of other leading evangelical leaders to the riots at the U.S. Capitol.
The sentencing date for the three men is scheduled for Oct. 12.
According to court records, the three are still out on bond for misdemeanor convictions.