In Milton, their son Bruno, 18, fished at a nearby pond, built treehouses and fed the family’s animals while completing a high school degree from home.
In Washington, he became the youngest person arrested for invading the U.S. Capitol and spent weeks in jail. He was assaulted in jail and contracted COVID-19, leading a judge to reluctantly order his release on March 16 to home confinement. On Monday, the judge handed down new release guidelines for employment.
Once leading comfortable lives in Atlanta’s outer suburbs, the Cuas now talk of crying sessions and soul-searching. They have vowed to cut off the online world where Bruno came to embrace Mr. Trump’s election victimhood tweets and vowed to fight for the president.
At the Jan. 6 rally, the Cuas gave Bruno permission to view the Capitol protest from a closer vantage point while carrying a baton. Protesters marched up Pennsylvania Avenue after the president told rallygoers about 37 claims of election theft. None has been proved, a Washington Times analysis shows.
Bruno Cua made the impulsive decision to invade the Capitol among 800 other breachers, including the Proud Boys, the Oath Keepers and more mainstream people displaying “Make America Great Again” red, as did Bruno.
A month later, he was arrested in Georgia, moved to a jail in Oklahoma, quarantined for COVID-19, indicted on a dozen criminal charges and then brought to the District of Columbia, where he joined more than 300 other protesters facing criminal charges. His trial is set for May 12.
Their son’s circuitous road trip gave the Cuas time to think about their commitment to Mr. Trump, and then to write to U.S. District Judge Randolph D. Moss.
“We both feel embarrassed that we went down the path of believing President Trump and other leaders that fraud had stolen the election from him,” the parents wrote. “We see now that it was all lies.”
Jonathan Jeffress, Bruno’s attorney in the District, filed an emergency release petition depicting his client as a “sheltered and vulnerable teenager” with a willingness to believe streams of social media posts about a stolen election. He described Bruno’s invasion as relatively innocent behavior compared with those who forced their way into the Capitol and assaulted police.
“Bruno Cua is an impressionable eighteen-year-old kid who was in the middle of finishing his online coursework to graduate from high school when he was arrested,” the lawyer said. “In many ways, he is less of an ‘adult’ than many other teenagers. He has never lived away from his parents. He has lived his entire life in the area immediately surrounding Atlanta, Georgia. His favorite things to do are to work on his truck, go fishing, spend time with his family, and design and build elaborate treehouses, much of the time accompanied by his little brother and his little brother’s friends.”
Of Mr. Trump’s effort to stop Congress from certifying Joseph R. Biden’s election, Mr. Jeffress said: “In the months and days leading up to January 6, 2021, former President Trump and his surrogates repeatedly sowed the seeds of distrust in the democratic institutions of this country, claiming that the presidential election had been stolen from him. He engaged in violent rhetoric and fomented a growing outrage among his supporters.”
An FBI arrest affidavit said Bruno Cua was identified by a Georgia police officer who saw his photo in a montage released by the D.C. Metropolitan Police Department.
Bruno proudly posted on Instagram what he had done: “Yes, for every one asking I stormed the capital with hundreds of thousands of patriots. I’ll do a whole video explaining what happened. this is history. What happened was unbelievable. Yes, we physically fought our way in.”
A video captured Bruno, still holding a baton, in a “physical altercation with [U.S. Capitol Police] plainclothes officers. Specifically, Cua can be seen shoving USCP officer G.L. in front of the door to the Senate Chamber,” the affidavit states.
Bruno’s attorney says he brought the baton to Washington for self-protection.
Bruno promoted the rally on his Parler account, @patriotbruno.
When Mr. Trump tweeted about the election being stolen, Bruno wrote: “President Trump is calling us to FIGHT! … His own cabinet, everyone has betrayed him. It’s Trump and #we the people VS the #deepstate and the #CCP [Chinese Communist Party]. … It’s time to take our freedom back the old fashioned way.”
He also posted: “This is the third time [Mr. Trump] tweeted about it. This isn’t a joke. This is where and when we make our stand.”
At a detention hearing in U.S. District Court in Atlanta, Assistant U.S. Attorney Ryan Buchanan portrayed Bruno as a dangerous young man whose behavior escalated “in a very, very dangerous and troubling manner” from speeding and trespassing in Milton to advocating violence online.
The prosecutor read some of Bruno’s direct messages to friends.
In December, Bruno messaged, “I’m trying to find an [Armalite Rifle] to buy under the table. know anybody?”
“I think there’s going to be a war. could be a civil war or world war III,” he said. “I don’ want to sit here in Georgia and watch. I want to fight.”
After Jan. 6, he said, “We didn’t attack the American people. we attacked the swamp rats. … I want to lock the swamp rate tyrant in the Capitol and burn the place to the ground”
Mr. Buchanan said Joseph and Alise Cua were unfit to supervise Bruno and may have been complicit on Jan. 6.
John T. Morgan, Bruno’s attorney in Georgia, said complaints in Milton about the son’s use of an air horn and driving a truck fast enough so his Trump flag flowed didn’t result in criminal charges.
“Judge, you can look at our client,” Mr. Morgan said. “He’s 140 pounds. He can’t shove his way out of a paper bag.”
His messages were “social media bravado,” the lawyer said.
“My heart sank,” Mr. Cua said. “My wife and [my] heart sank. We were shocked that he had gone in. We lost track of him. We were trying to call and text him, both of us were, many times, but there was no signal.”
U.S. Magistrate Judge Alan J. Baverman in Atlanta rejected the parents as Bruno’s custodians. It is “the first time in a number of years in a non-family drug case where the parents were maybe not instigators but aiders and abettors and didn’t take steps to stop their child from going off the rails,” the judge said.
In a subsequent letter to Judge Moss in the District, the parents wrote: “During this same period, we have also spent countless hours crying and reflecting on what we could/should have done differently, and of course, deeply regretting attending the January 6th protest altogether. Parenting mistakes we have made to date, we assure you your honor, will not be repeated. The events of January 6th at the Capitol were horrific. We did not expect anything like that to happen, much less for Bruno to go inside.”
“They keep promising there’s going to be all this information. And I said, ‘That’s it. No more rallies about anything. You know, the election is over. It’s time to move on.’”
Mr. Trump has not “moved on.”
Following the death of conservative radio icon Rush Limbaugh, Mr. Trump made the rounds on right-leaning cable TV.
“The election was stolen,” he said on One America News Network. “We were robbed. It was a rigged election.”
From his new legal residence at Mar-a-Lago, he entertained a select group of Republican donors Saturday night. His private talk veered into his “Stop the Steal” talking points.
The Associated Press said he called Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, Kentucky Republican, a “stone cold loser.” He also said he was “disappointed” in his former vice president, Mike Pence.
Mr. Trump became enraged that Mr. McConnell congratulated Mr. Biden on winning the presidency. Mr. Trump wanted Mr. Pence, who presided over a joint session of Congress on Jan. 6, to send the electors back to battleground states so legislatures could reelect him president. Mr. Pence said he had no such authority.
• Rowan Scarborough can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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