A former New York City police officer who claimed he acted in self-defense when he waved a metal flagpole at a colleague during the attack on the Capitol last January was convicted Monday of all charges, including assault.
The former officer, Thomas Webster, was the first person charged in connection with the riots to defend himself at trial by alleging that the officers protecting the Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021, used excessive force against the pro-Trump mob storming the city. building. The conviction in the case — returned within two hours on the first full day of deliberation — could give pause to other defendants who plan to use similar arguments at their own trials.
Mr. Webster, a former Marine who once served in the protective division of New York City Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg, testified that he had gone to Washington to hear President Donald J. Trump speak near the White House and from upset when he went to the Capitol and saw people injured by the violence that had erupted.
As he approached the barricades surrounding the building, he told the jury that a Metropolitan Police Department officer, Noah Rathbun, provoked him with a short wave and then punched him that hit him like a “freight train.”
But videos played by the prosecution cast doubt on this report, showing Mr. Webster emerging from the crowd and berating officers at the barricades in a state of foul-mouthed rage. One could see Mr. Webster in the videos repeatedly pushing the barricades and then waving a flagpole at Officer Rathbun before pushing through the police line and tackling the officer.
Webster’s week-long trial in Washington’s Federal District Court touched on one of the salient features of Jan. 6: that while many in the crowd that day vocally supported police, dozens of people 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 assaulting 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 interfering with law enforcement during a civil disturbance, and entering and staying in a restricted area with a deadly or dangerous weapon. Shortly after the verdict was handed down, another former Marine, Kevin Creek, who pleaded guilty in December to assaulting another officer during the riot, was sentenced to 27 months in prison in a nearby courtroom.
With its victory in the Webster trial, the Justice Department has now won all four jury trials related to the Capitol bombing.
The Aftermath of Capitol Riot: Key Developments
In March, a federal court jury in Washington convicted Guy Wesley Reffitt, a member of a Texas militia, of leading part of the crowd in a march toward police outside the Capitol and disrupting Congressional certification of the 2020 presidential election.
Last month, a jury found Ohio exterminator Dustin Thompson guilty of obstructing Congress and stealing government property, despite his claims that he was acting on Mr. Trump’s orders.
A few days earlier, a former Virginia police officer, Thomas Robertson, was convicted by a jury of six counts, including Congressional obstruction of the official election count.
One defendant, Matthew Martin, a former defense contractor from New Mexico, was acquitted in early April in a court trial after the judge agreed with his claims that police had allowed him into the Capitol.