A former New York City police officer who claimed he was acting in self-defense when he swung a metal pole at a fellow officer during the attack on the Capitol last January has been found guilty Monday of all charges, including assault.
Former officer Thomas Webster was the first person charged in the riot to defend himself at trial, claiming that officers protecting the Capitol on January 6, 2021, used excessive force against the pro-Trump crowd who stormed the building. The guilty verdict in the case – delivered within two hours on the first full day of deliberations – could give pause to other defendants considering using similar arguments in their own trials.
Mr. Webster, a former Marine who once served on Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg’s protective detail of New York, testified that he went to Washington to hear President Donald J. Trump speak near the White House and became angry as he walked to the Capitol and saw people hurt by the violence that had erupted.
As he approached the barricades that surrounded the building, he told the jury, a Metropolitan Police Department officer, Noah Rathbun, taunted him with a brief wave and then threw him. a punch that hit him like a “freight train”.
But videos released by the prosecution cast doubt on that account, showing Mr Webster emerging from the crowd and berating officers at the barricades in a state of gross rage. Mr Webster could be seen in the videos repeatedly pushing the barricades, then swinging a flagpole at Officer Rathbun before breaking through the police cordon and tackling the officer.
Mr. Webster’s weeklong trial in Washington’s federal district court addressed one of the striking things about January 6: that while many in the crowd that day vocally supported the police, Dozens were ultimately charged with assaulting officers and more than 140 were injured.
During his time on the witness stand last week, Mr Webster described the dizzying experience of attacking a fellow law enforcement officer.
“It was almost like a role reversal,” he told the jury at one point. “I felt like I was the cop and he was the protester.”
The jury also found Mr Webster guilty of obstructing law enforcement during a civil disorder and entering and remaining in a restricted area with a deadly or dangerous weapon. Moments after the verdict was delivered, another former Marine, Kevin Creek, who pleaded guilty in December to assaulting another officer during the riot, was sentenced in a nearby courtroom to 27 months in prison.
With its victory in the Webster trial, the Justice Department has now won all four jury trials related to the Capitol attack.
The Aftermath of Capitol Riot: Key Developments
In March, a federal court jury in Washington convicted Texas militia member Guy Wesley Reffitt of leading a section of the crowd in an advance on police outside the Capitol and disrupting certification by Congress for the 2020 presidential election.
Last month, a jury found Dustin Thompson, an Ohio exterminator, guilty of obstructing Congress and stealing government property despite his claims that he acted on Mr Trump’s orders.
A few days earlier, a former Virginia police officer, Thomas Robertson, had been found guilty by a jury of six counts, including obstructing the official electoral count by Congress.
One defendant, Matthew Martin, a former New Mexico defense contractor, was acquitted in a bench trial in early April after the judge accepted his claims that police let him into the Capitol.