Man blaming Trump ‘orders’ for riot actions found guilty | Health, Medicine and Fitness
By MICHAEL KUNZELMAN – Associated Press
WASHINGTON (AP) — An Ohio man who claimed he was only “following presidential orders” from Donald Trump when he stormed the U.S. Capitol was convicted by a jury that put less three hours to reject his new defense for preventing Congress from certifying Joe Biden. presidential victory.
The federal jury also found Dustin Byron Thompson, 38, guilty on Thursday of five other counts in his indictment, including stealing a coat rack from an office inside the Capitol during the riot. of January 6, 2021. The maximum penalty for the count of obstruction, the only crime, would be 20 years in prison.
Jurors didn’t buy Thompson’s defense, in which he blamed Trump and members of President’s entourage for the insurrection and for its own actions.
A juror who spoke to reporters only on condition of anonymity said: “Donald Trump has not been tried in this case.”
The juror, a 40-year-old man, said as he left the courthouse: “Everyone agrees that Donald Trump is guilty as the overall story. Many people were there and then went home. Dustin Thompson didn’t.”
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Thompson himself, testifying a day earlier, admitted that he joined the mob attack and stole the coat rack and a bottle of bourbon. He said he regretted his “shameful” behavior.
“I can’t believe what I did,” he said. “Crowd mentality and groupthink are very real and very dangerous.”
Still, he said he believed Trump’s false claim that the election was stolen and was trying to defend him.
“If the president almost orders you to do something, I felt compelled to do it,” he said.
U.S. District Judge Reggie Walton, who is due to sentence Thompson on July 20, called the defendant’s testimony “totally hypocritical” and his conduct on January 6 “reprehensible.” The judge also placed blame on Trump’s leadership after the verdict was announced.
“I think our democracy is in trouble,” he said, adding that “quacks” like Trump don’t care about democracy, only power.
“And as a result of that, it’s tearing our country apart,” Judge said.
Prosecutors did not request that Thompson be detained immediately, but Walton ordered his detention and he was led away in handcuffs. The judge said he believed Thompson was a flight risk and a danger to the public.
Thompson’s trial was the third to go before a jury among hundreds of Capitol riot cases prosecuted by the Justice Department. In the first two cases, the jurors also convicted the defendants of all charges.
Assistant U.S. Attorney William Dreher said Thompson, a college-educated exterminator who lost his job during the COVID-19 pandemic, knew he was breaking the law when he joined the mob that attacked the Capitol and , in his case, looted the seat of the Senate parliamentarian. Office. The prosecutor told jurors that Thompson’s attorney “wants you to think you have to choose between President Trump and his client.”
“You don’t have to choose because this is not President Trump’s trial. This is Dustin Thompson’s trial because of what he did on Capitol Hill on the afternoon of January 6th,” Dreher told jurors during closing arguments.
Defense attorney Samuel Shamansky said Thompson did not avoid taking responsibility for his conduct that day.
“This shameful chapter in our history is entirely on television,” Shamansky told jurors.
But he said Thompson, unemployed and consumed by a constant diet of conspiracy theories, was vulnerable to Trump’s lies about a stolen election. He described Thompson as a “pawn” and Trump as a “gangster” who abused his power to manipulate supporters.
“The vulnerable are seduced by the strong, and that’s what happened here,” Shamansky said.
The judge had barred Thompson’s lawyer from calling Trump and his ally Rudolph Giuliani as witnesses at trial. But he ruled jurors could hear recordings of speeches Trump and Giuliani gave on Jan. 6, before the riot broke out. A recording of Trump’s remarks was played.
Shamansky alleged that Giuliani, Trump’s adviser and former New York major, incited the rioters by encouraging them to engage in “trial by combat” and that Trump provoked the crowd by saying, “If you don’t don’t fight like hell, you’re not gonna have a country anymore.
But prosecutor Dreher told jurors that neither Trump nor Giuliani had the power to “legalize” what Thompson did on Capitol Hill.
The juror who spoke on condition of anonymity said he was ‘laughing quietly’ when Thompson testified he took the coat rack to prevent other rioters from using it as a weapon against the police.
Thompson was indicted and convicted of six counts: obstructing the joint session of Congress to certify the Electoral College vote, stealing government property, entering or staying in a restricted building or land, disorderly conduct or disruptive in a building or restricted access land, disorderly or disruptive conduct in a Capitol building and marching, demonstrating or picketing in a Capitol building.
He had driven from Ohio to Washington with a friend, Robert Lyon, who was also arrested less than a month after the riot. Lyon pleaded guilty in March to two misdemeanors – theft of government property and disorderly conduct – and is due June 3.
Thompson and Lyon took an Uber ride to Washington on the morning of January 6. After Trump’s rally and speech near the White House, they headed to the Capitol.
Thompson was wearing a bulletproof vest as he entered the building and went to the parliamentarian’s office. The FBI said agents later searched Lyon’s cellphone and found video showing a ransacked office and Thompson shouting, “Wooooo!” ‘Merica Hey! It’s our house!”
“(Trump) didn’t force you to go. He didn’t force you to walk to the capitol building, did he? Dreher asked Thompson on Wednesday.
“You chose to do this?” Dreher asked.
“I was following presidential orders, but yeah,” Thompson said.
More than 770 people have been charged with federal crimes stemming from the riot. More than 250 of them have pleaded guilty, mostly to misdemeanors. Thompson is the fifth person to stand trial on charges related to the riots.
On Monday, a jury convicted a former Virginia police officer, Thomas Robertson, of storming the Capitol with another off-duty officer. Last month, a jury convicted a Texas man, Guy Reffitt, of storming the building with a holstered handgun.
A judge hearing evidence without a jury decided cases against two other Capitol riot defendants in separate trials. U.S. District Judge Trevor McFadden acquitted one of all charges and partially acquitted the other.
Associated Press reporter Jacques Billeaud contributed from Phoenix.
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