Jurors didn’t think much of former New York City police officer Thomas Webster’s self-defense theory: They found him guilty on Monday of assaulting police at the Capitol on Jan. 6.
This marks another victorious verdict for the Justice Department as jurors wholesale and unanimously rejected Webster’s premise that he was merely defending himself when he descended on the Capitol and proceeded to thrash at an on-duty cop with a metal flagpole before shoving that officer to the ground and choking him with the chin strap of the gas mask he was wearing.
Webster faces up to 20 years in prison for assaulting Metropolitan Police officer Noah Rathbun.
Related: Ex-cop charged with assaulting police on Jan. 6 wants jurors to believe it was self-defense
US v. Webster Verdict Form by Daily Kos on Scribd
During the trial, Webster’s defense attorney James Monroe worked to paint Webster as a patriotic American worn down by the mistreatment of fellow protesters at the Capitol on Jan. 6.
When he took the stand, Webster recounted his frustration, saying his hackles were raised when he saw “weeping children” and injured elderly people toward the back of the crowd. That prompted him to push his way through to a thin line of police defending the complex.
But prosecutors unwound that defense, playing back video footage from the day that explicitly showed a red-faced Webster screaming at police officers who were surrounded by thousands of former President Donald Trump’s supporters, many of them armed.
“You fucking piece of shit,” Webster screamed at Rathbun on Jan. 6. “You fucking commie motherfuckers man. Gonna attack Americans? Fuck that. Fucking commie fuck. Come on, take your shit off. Take your shit off. You communist motherfuckers. Fuck you.”
Webster shoved a metal bike rack separating himself from Rathbun. Webster admitted he was frustrated but when the officer ordered him to stop, he wouldn’t and Rathbun is seen very briefly lifting his open hand and making contact as he tries to push Webster away.
That moment was fleeting, according to the video footage, but Webster described it as being hit by a “freight train.” Rathbun, he said, caused him to “see stars.”
He described it as one of the “hardest hits of his life” and vowed that he wasn’t exaggerating.
Another claim from Webster, that he only grabbed Rathbun’s gas mask during the fracas because he was trying to show him his hands and calm the already beleaguered Rathbun down, was also summarily dismissed Monday.
“I almost felt like I was the cop and he was the protester,” Webster said at trial, according to NBC News.
Attempts to call Rathbun’s character into question dominated the defense’s strategy.
One juror said Webster had no grounds for defense and that she didn’t find the former police officer credible.
Another juror told CNN the guilty verdict was reached very quickly because it was “very obvious” what Webster did on Jan. 6.
In other footage presented by prosecutors before the trial’s conclusion, the former U.S. Marine is seen and heard calling for fresh help to occupy the Capitol.
“Send more patriots,” he said.
Webster told jurors he was joking.
“I just said something silly just to get on camera. I didn’t mean it literally,” he said.
Webster did not answer any questions after the verdict was rendered.
His attorney, however, said they would give the verdict some thought and “decide where to go” next with the case. Monroe also told reporters gathered outside of the courtroom Monday he felt Webster would have done better in a venue outside of the nation’s capital.
Prosecutors asked that Webster be thrown in jail before his sentencing on Sept. 2 but presiding U.S. District Judge Amit Mehta declined to keep him behind bars. Instead, he will continue to wear an ankle monitor and remain under home confinement.
Mehta did not deem Webster a flight risk but said his decision was a “close call.”
Webster was found guilty on each of the counts he faced including assault of a police officer with a weapon, entering restricted grounds with a weapon, disorderly conduct with a weapon, physical violence with a weapon, engaging in an act of violence at the U.S. Capitol, and civil disorder.