A federal jury on Monday convicted a New York Police Department veteran of assaulting an officer during the U.S. Capitol riot, rejecting his claim that he was defending himself when he tackled the officer and grabbed his gas mask.
Thomas Webster, a 20-year NYPD veteran, was convicted on all six counts of the indictment he faced after two hours of jury deliberations.
Webster, 56, testified last week that he was trying to protect himself from a “rogue” police officer who punched him in the face. He also accused the Metropolitan Police Department officer, Noah Rathbun, of instigating the confrontation.
Rathbun testified that he didn’t punch or pick a fight with Webster as a violent mob attacked the Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021, disrupting Congress from certifying Joe Biden’s 2020 presidential election victory over then-president Donald Trump.
Webster took the stand in his defence last week. He said it felt like he was hit with a hammer or a freight train when Rathbun reached out with an open left hand and struck the right side of Webster’s face.
“It was painful, and I was seeing stars,” Webster said. “It was a hard hit, and all I wanted to do was defend myself.”
Rathbun, one of dozens of officers injured at the Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021, testified that he didn’t punch or pick a fight with Webster.
A grand jury indicted Webster on six counts, including a charge that he assaulted Rathbun with a dangerous weapon, a metal flag pole. Webster wasn’t accused of entering the Capitol on Jan. 6.
He’s scheduled to be sentenced on Sept. 2.
4th Capitol riot-related conviction
Webster’s jury trial is the fourth for a Capitol riot defendant. The first three Capitol riot defendants to get a jury trial were convicted of all charges in their respective indictments, while other defendants have pleaded guilty.
Webster was wearing a bulletproof vest and carrying a U.S. Marine Corps flag on a metal pole when he approached the Capitol on that day.
Video from Rathbun’s body camera shows that the officer touched Webster’s chest and shoved his face after the New York man slammed a bike rack at him. Rathbun said he was trying to move Webster back from a security perimeter that he and other officers were struggling to maintain behind a row of metal bike racks.
After Rathbun made contact with his face, Webster swung a metal flag pole at the officer in a downward chopping motion, striking a bike rack in front of the officer. After Rathbun grabbed the broken pole, Webster charged at the officer and tackled him to the ground.
Webster said he believed Rathbun was about to come after him and recalled thinking, “He’s gone rogue.”
“He’s acting in a manner unlike other police officers, and I’m concerned for my safety,” he said.
Rathbun testified that he started choking when Webster grabbed his gas mask, pressing the chin strap against the officer’s throat.
“That’s not a position that anyone wants to be in,” Rathbun said.
‘A unique moment in history’: defendant
Webster said he grabbed Rathbun by the gas mask because he wanted the officer to see his hands.
Webster said he went to the Capitol after hearing Trump’s speech to “petition” Congress to “relook” at the results of the 2020 presidential election but not to disrupt the joint session for certifying the Electoral College vote.
“It was a unique moment in history,” he said.
Webster, who lives near Goshen, N.Y., retired from the NYPD in 2011 after 20 years of service. His department service included a stint on then-mayor Michael Bloomberg’s private security detail. He served in the U.S. Marine Corps from 1985 to 1989 before joining the NYPD in 1991.
Webster’s trial was the first among dozens of cases in which Capitol riot defendants are charged with assaulting police.
More than 780 people have been charged with riot-related federal crimes. The Justice Department says over 245 of them have been charged with assaulting or impeding law enforcement.
Jan. 6 committee wants to hear from Republican trio
While those criminal investigations proceed, the Democratic-led House is probing the U.S. Capitol insurrection, looking at who may have supported Trump’s desperate attempt to stay in power.
Three more House Republicans received requests Monday to voluntarily appear before that congressional committee — Andy Biggs, Mo Brooks and Ronny Jackson, three members of the ultra-right House Freedom Caucus that have in recent years aligned themselves with Trump.
The nine-member panel is asking for the members of Congress to testify about their involvement in meetings at the White House, direct conversations with Trump as he sought to challenge the results of the 2020 presidential election as well as the planning and co-ordination of rallies on and before Jan. 6, 2021.
“It appears that a significant number of House members and a few senators had more than just a passing role in what went on,” Rep. Bennie Thompson, the Democratic chairman of the Jan. 6 committee, told The Associated Press last week.
The committee plans to hold a round of public hearings in June.