Florida pastors arrested in connection with Capitol riot

Men accused of violent entry, disorderly conduct

A father and his son, both pastors at a Melbourne church as well as a congregant who provided evidence against them were all arrested Thursday in connection with the January 6 riot at the U.S. Capitol, according to federal court filings.
A father and his son, both pastors at a Melbourne church as well as a congregant who provided evidence against them were all arrested Thursday in connection with the January 6 riot at the U.S. Capitol, according to federal court filings.

A father and his son, both pastors at a Melbourne church as well as a congregant who provided evidence against them were all arrested Thursday in connection with the January 6 riot at the U.S. Capitol, according to federal court filings.

They bring the total number of arrestees in Brevard County in connection to the riot to six, News 6 partner Florida Today reports.

James “Jim” Varnell Cusick Jr, 72, and his son Casey Cusick, 35, who lead the Global Outreach Ministries church in Melbourne, face charges of knowingly entering or remaining in any restricted building or grounds without lawful authority, disorderly or disruptive conduct in a restricted building and violent entry and disorderly conduct on capitol grounds. David Lesperance, 69, a member of their church who was with them, was also arrested and faces similar charges.

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All three made their initial appearance Thursday afternoon at the U.S. District Court in Orlando. They were released on $25,000 bond each, according to a court spokesperson. Their release conditions include: submitting to DNA collection, no possession of firearms, surrender of any passports and travel restricted to the Middle District of Florida and the District of Columbia for court appearances.

An unnamed tipster alerted the FBI on Jan. 22 that the Cusicks participated in the riot, according to charging documents. A second anonymous tipster wrote to the FBI on March 26 that Lesperance had also gone with them, according to charging documents.

The FBI followed up with Lesperance at his home in Indian Harbour Beach, where he “admitted that his pastor was also present at President Trump’s speech and then at the U.S. Capitol afterwards.”

Lesperance did not name Cusick, but told agents that they had cellphones and took pictures. Lesperance admitted he had deleted the photos and videos he had taken “out of fear of negative repercussions.”

News 6 political analyst Jim Clark said Wednesday's riots will go down in history.
News 6 political analyst Jim Clark said Wednesday's riots will go down in history.

Cellphone data obtained by agents, with a warrant, linked Lesperance to being inside the Capitol building on Jan. 6. Photographs recovered from his iCloud account showed the Cusicks inside the capitol in clothing that agents then matched to images from surveillance footage captured inside the building.

Casey Cusick, who resides in Palm Bay, and Jim Cusick, who resides in Indian Harbour Beach, did not return emails or calls to their publicly listed numbers and ministry contact information. Lesperance could not immediately be reached for comment.

The listed address for the ministry is in an upscale residential neighborhood in Melbourne. The location appears to be a home nestled at the end of a gated driveway in wooded surroundings and does not have the outward appearance of being a church.

According to the biographies posted on their ministry’s website, Pastor Jim Cusick founded the church. His son Casey Cusick is listed as vice president in business filing documents.

Both attended Rhema Bible Training College in Tulsa, OK, according to their bios. Jim Cusick graduated in 1979, Casey Cusick in 2014.

“Pastor Jim holds ministerial credentials with the Association of Faith Churches and Ministers,” and describes himself as “a world traveler” who is “heavily involved in Israel and Russia, working with the International Christian Embassy Jerusalem. He has spent the last twenty years traveling all over Europe helping Jews make Aliyah back to Israel.”

“Pastor Jim has four children and five grandchildren.”

Casey Cusick spent three years in Israel and learned Hebrew, according to his Church bio, and met his wife while attending Bible college. He oversees operations at the ministry, according to the site.

The ministry has just over 200 followers on its Facebook page.

Brevard court records show Casey Cusick has several traffic infractions on his record and one prior arrest at his home in Palm Bay in 2018 for disorderly conduct in which adjudication was withheld. According to the arrest report, he struck his wife on the nose with his right elbow, causing her to bleed.

Capitol Police had intel regarding riot at least two weeks before the attack

“The victim had bruising and swelling on her nose from the strike,” the report reads. They were married for six years at the time and had an 18-month-old child.

Attorney General Merrick Garland in a statement Thursday announced that federal authorities had made 500 arrests as a result of their investigations into the riot.

“We have now crossed the threshold of 500 arrests, including the 100th arrest of a defendant on charges of assaulting a federal law enforcement officer. This morning, we arrested our first defendant on charges that include assaulting a member of the news media,” he said.

Garland praised federal agents but also ordinary citizens for assisting them with tips.

“Our efforts to bring criminal charges are not possible without the continued assistance of the American public. To date, we have received their more than 200,000 digital tips.

“I assure the American people that the Department of Justice will continue to follow the facts in this case and charge what the evidence supports to hold all January 6th perpetrators accountable,” he said.

According to George Washington University’s Program on Extremism, which tracks those arrested in the Capitol siege, the average age of those arrested is 39, with suspects hailing from 43 states and the District of Columbia.

Florida leads the nation in arrests with 46 individuals followed closely by Texas at 45 and Pennsylvania at 44. Florida also leads the nation with the most Proud Boys and Oath Keepers charged, including Kenneth Harrelson of Titusville, who faces federal conspiracy charges.

Brevard is tied with Marion County for having the most Capitol Riot cases, with six each.