WASHINGTON ( Associated Press) — An Ohio man who testified that he was “following Presidential orders” from Donald Trump when he stormed the US Capitol, testifying to Joe Biden’s 2020 election victory to Congress on Thursday. was convicted of preventing
A federal jury also found Dustin Byron Thompson, 38, guilty of stealing a coat rack from an office inside the Capitol during a January 6, 2021 riot.
Rejecting Thompson’s novel defense, the jurors deliberated less than three hours before their verdict. He blamed Trump and members of the president’s inner circle for the rebellion and his own actions.
He was ordered to keep his sentence pending for July 20. He was free after his arrest.
Thompson’s jury trial was the third in hundreds of Capitol riot cases prosecuted by the US Department of Justice. In the first two cases, jurors convicted both defendants on all charges.
Thompson, an exterminator who lost his job during the COVID-19 pandemic, was the first Capitol riot defendant to mount a trial defense blaming Trump and members of his inner circle for the rebellion.
The jurors heard the lawyers’ closing arguments earlier in the day.
Assistant US 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 attacking the Capitol and In his case, the Senate robbed the MP. Office. The prosecutor told jurors that Thompson’s lawyers “want you to think you have to choose between President Trump and his client.”
“You don’t get to choose because this isn’t a trial of President Trump. For Dustin Thompson it’s a test because of what he did at the Capitol on January 6 at noon,” Dreher said.
Defense attorney Samuel Shamansky said Thompson did not shy away from taking responsibility for his conduct that day.
“This shameful chapter in our history is on TV,” Shamansky told the jurors.
But he said Thompson, unemployed and consumed by a steady 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 weak are seduced by the strong, and that’s what happened here,” said Shamansky.
Thompson’s jury trial is the third in hundreds of Capitol riot cases prosecuted by the US Department of Justice. In the first two cases, jurors convicted the defendants of all charges.
US District Judge Reggie Walton barred Thompson’s attorney from calling Trump and former New York City Mayor Rudolph Giuliani as trial witnesses. But the judge ruled that the jury could hear recordings of speeches delivered by Trump and Giuliani on January 6 before the riots broke out. A recording of Trump’s statement was played.
Shamansky claimed that Giuliani encouraged rioters to engage in “trial by combat” and that Trump enraged the crowd by saying that “if you don’t fight like hell, you won’t have a country anymore.”
Dreher told jurors that neither Trump nor Giuliani had the authority to “legalize” what Thompson had done at the Capitol.
Thompson, who testified on Wednesday, admitted that he was involved in a mob attack and stole a coat rack and a bottle of bourbon from the Senate lawmaker’s office. He said he regretted his “abusive” behaviour.
“I can’t believe the things I did,” he said. “The mindset of the mob and the mindset of the group is very real and very dangerous.”
Thompson said he believed Trump’s false claim that the election was stolen and that the lame duck was trying to stand for president.
“If the president is almost ordering you to do something, I felt obligated to do so,” he testified.
Thompson is charged with six counts: obstructing a joint session of Congress to authenticate the vote of the Electoral College, theft of government property, entering or living in a restricted building or grounds, disorderly conduct in a restricted building or grounds. or disruptive conduct, disorderly or disruptive conduct in the Capitol Building, and the parade, demonstration or picketing in the Capitol Building.
The handicap count itself is a charge of felony. The rest are wicked.
Thompson moved from Ohio to Washington with a friend, Robert Lyon, who was 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 to be sentenced on June 3.
Thompson and Leon ride an Uber in Washington on the morning of January 6. After Trump’s speech, he went to the Capitol.
Thompson was wearing a bulletproof vest when he entered the building and walked into the lawmaker’s office, the FBI said, adding that agents later searched Lyon’s cellphone and found a video that showed a ransacked office and Thompson shouting: “Woo! ‘Hey Merica! This is our house!”
“(Trump) didn’t force you to go. He didn’t force you to walk every step of the way to the Capitol building, did he?” Dreher asked Thompson on Wednesday.
“You chose to do that?” Dreher asked.
“I was following the president’s orders, but yeah,” Thompson said.
More than 770 people have been indicted for federal crimes resulting from the riot. More than 250 of them have confessed to crimes, most of them for misdemeanors. Thompson is the fifth person to be tried on charges related to the riots.
On Monday, a jury convicted Thomas Robertson, a former Virginia police officer, of assaulting the Capitol along with another off-duty officer. Last month, a jury convicted a Texas man, Guy Refitt, of attacking the building with a holster.
A judge hearing testimony without a jury decided the cases against two other Capitol riot defendants in separate bench trials. US District Judge Trevor McFadden acquitted one of them of all charges and partially acquitted the other.
Associated Press reporter Jacques Billioud from Phoenix contributed.