WASHINGTON – Jurors deliberated on Monday in the federal trial of a New York Police Department veteran charged with assaulting an officer who tried to protect the Capitol from an attacking insurrectionist mob last year.
Thomas Webster, a 20-year NYPD veteran, is the first Capitol riot defendant to be tried on an assault charge and the first to present a jury with a self-defense argument.
Jurors heard attorneys’ closing arguments on Friday and went home for the weekend about 30 minutes after getting the case. They returned to court on Monday morning.
Webster’s jury trial, which started April 26, is the fourth for a Capitol riot case. The first three defendants to get a jury trial were convicted of all charges in their respective indictments. A judge decided two other cases without a jury, acquitting one defendant and partially acquitting the other after bench trials.
Webster, 56, is charged with assaulting Metropolitan Police Department Officer Noah Rathbun with a dangerous weapon, a metal flagpole, during the Jan. 6, 2021, riot.
Videos show Webster swing his metal flagpole at police, charge at Rathbun and then grab the officer’s gas mask with both hands.
Webster testified on Thursday that he was trying to protect himself from Rathbun after the officer punched him in the face. Webster also accused Rathbun of making a hand gesture that Webster perceived as an invitation to fight.
Rathbun testified that he didn’t punch or pick a fight with Webster. Rathbun’s body camera captured Webster shouting profanities and insults before they made any physical contact. Rathbun said he was trying to move Webster back from a security perimeter that he and other officers were struggling to maintain.
Prosecutors urged jurors to reject Webster’s self-defense argument and convict him of all six charges in his indictment.
Webster, who lives near Goshen, New York, retired from the NYPD in 2011. He served in the U.S. Marine Corps from 1985 to 1989 before joining the NYPD in 1991.
The violent Jan. 6 mob, loyal to then-President Donald Trump, stormed the Capitol in an attempt to overturn the 2020 presidential election, undercut the nation’s democracy and keep Democrat Joe Biden from replacing the Republican in the White House.
More than 780 people have been charged with riot-related federal crimes. The Justice Department says more than 245 of them have been charged with assaulting or impeding law enforcement.
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