‘There is so much collateral damage’
More than 800 people have been arrested and charged with crimes related to the protest at the Capitol in Washington on Jan. 6, 2021. As the numbers continue to climb and the expenses for those arrested continue to mount, the founder of the Patriot Freedom Project is sending out a plea for help to support the prisoners, the defendants, and their families.
Cynthia Hughes founded the Patriot Freedom Project (PFP) in spring 2021 after her nephew, Timothy Louis Hale-Cusanelli, was arrested and held in solitary confinement on nonviolent charges for his participation in the Jan. 6 protest.
“I decided there needed to be a support system,” Hughes told The Epoch Times.
Hughes said she started a support group for the families of defendants being held in jail in Washington, and they began to meet once a week over Zoom. Soon they’d created a private chat group to stay in touch.
“Then word started getting out and other families were joining who had loved ones in other jails across the country,” Hughes said. “Before I knew it, I was contacted by Dinesh D’Souza. He wanted to donate to me. He had heard about the project.”
According to a report by American Greatness, Julie and Dinesh D’Souza donated $100,000 to PFP.
Hughes said she used that check to formalize the Patriot Freedom Project as a registered nonprofit organization. Between August 2021 and January 2022, Hughes said PFP raised over $1 million.
“I realized very quickly that what I was doing for my nephew and my family I could be doing for other people,” Hughes said. “So, through Patriot Freedom Project we have replaced the public defenders and supplemented retainers for people who hired their own attorneys.”
Hughes estimates that PFP has covered about $700,000 in attorney’s fees for 30 cases. In addition, they have helped a lot of the wives and children of the jailed defendants by contributing toward bill payments and keeping them in their homes, although some families have had to relocate. Others had to switch to COBRA insurance because the spouse with the employer-provided insurance is in jail.
“A lot of these women may not have been working or were working part time,” Hughes explained. “Or they were working full time along with their husband. But now everything is upside down for them and everything went out the window in terms of a budget. The combined incomes were paying the bills and supporting the children. We made sure the kids got Halloween costumes and that the family had a Thanksgiving meal and that the kids received Christmas gifts and school supplies. In addition to that we put together an online mental health community.”
“Some are suffering from PTSD [Post Traumatic Stress Disorder],” Hughes explained. “Many of these women and even the kids are seeing their homes raided in the middle of the night or in the early morning hours by a large number of armed FBI agents, and seeing their father handcuffed was pretty traumatizing. I have heard really heartbreaking stories. They’re still doing it. There have been many new arrests. We’re hearing from a lot of families.”
Hughes said there is a great need for more lawyers and mental health professionals to “get on board.” The group is also looking for faith leaders to get involved to help teach Bible study classes. They need donors, and for people to help spread the word for donations.
PFP is also looking for employers throughout the country who are willing to hire the Jan. 6 defendants who are out on bond and able to work, or those who have adjudicated their charges.
Hughes said her biggest prayer is that someone like former President Donald Trump or Elon Musk would step up and demand that the persecution ends.
“Nobody seems to want to say that out loud,” Hughes lamented. “Nobody wants to step up to help. That’s important to these kids who haven’t seen their fathers for over a year now.”