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Jan. 6 Suspect Blames Trump for Spurring Him to Capitol Riot

By , in Politics , at April 14, 2022

Dustin Thompson, an unemployed exterminator from Ohio, was the primary defendant tried within the Capitol assault to supply a Trump-made-me-do-it protection earlier than a jury.

WASHINGTON — Dustin Thompson’s journey down what he known as “the rabbit gap” of election misinformation started eight months earlier than a single vote was solid in 2020. It ended inside the USA Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021, the place he was a part of the mob of Trump supporters that stormed inside throughout Congress’s counting of electoral votes within the worst assault on the constructing because the Warfare of 1812.

An exterminator from Columbus, Ohio, Mr. Thompson, 38, was laid off in March 2020, in the beginning of the pandemic. Alone at residence together with his new spouse, he started spending lengthy days on the web, steeping himself in conspiracy theories in regards to the upcoming vote.

Because the election approached, he mentioned, he absolutely believed that if Donald J. Trump ended up dropping, it could solely be as a result of the voting had been rigged, because the president had been warning publicly for months. Even after Joseph R. Biden Jr. was declared the winner, Mr. Thompson couldn’t settle for that it was true.

All of this, he instructed a jury at his felony trial on Wednesday, led him to Washington on Jan. 6 for a Cease the Steal rally, the place he and a good friend listened to Mr. Trump give an incendiary speech close to the White Home.

In an hour on the witness stand, Mr. Thompson blamed Mr. Trump for what finally occurred, saying that he had been answering the president’s name to go to the Capitol and “struggle like hell” when he joined the throng swarming into the constructing and made off with a bottle of bourbon and a coat rack.

“If the president’s providing you with nearly an order to do one thing,” he mentioned, “I felt obligated to do this.”

Mr. Thompson’s story just isn’t uncommon. At a number of factors in the course of the Justice Division’s huge investigation of the Capitol assault, many individuals charged with crimes have sought to blame Mr. Trump in various ways for their actions, largely at pretrial bail hearings or at sentencings after pleading responsible.

However Mr. Thompson is the primary defendant to try the argument at trial in entrance of a jury. In making his case, he provided a window into the poisonous and relentless flood of conspiracy theories and lies, stoked by Mr. Trump, that helped give rise to the riot.

The transfer comes with appreciable threat, and its success or failure might decide not solely Mr. Thompson’s destiny, however that of different defendants accused of participating within the violence of Jan. 6.

Earlier than the trial started, Mr. Thompson admitted to prosecutors that he had gone into the Capitol and stolen authorities property, agreeing prematurely to almost each factor of the six costs he faces. His protection will relaxation nearly solely on the query of his frame of mind in the course of the riot.

Mr. Thompson has claimed that he didn’t knowingly or corruptly break the regulation, however fairly, as his lawyer mentioned on Tuesday, was “so influenced — so used and abused” by Mr. Trump that he couldn’t be held accountable for his habits.

The Trump-made-me-do-it protection has not fared nicely with judges. Whereas it might work higher on a jury, Mr. Thompson appeared to discover Wednesday throughout cross-examination, undercutting key components of his argument.

William Dreher, a prosecutor, acquired him to confess a number of instances that Mr. Trump had not been at his facet, providing him step-by-step directions, when he walked into the Senate parliamentarian’s workplace and walked out with the whiskey and the coat rack. Mr. Thompson acknowledged that he was a married grownup with a university diploma who might make his personal selections.

Mr. Thompson additionally conceded beneath questioning by Mr. Dreher that he had identified it was illegal to enter the Capitol on Jan. 6 whereas lawmakers have been finalizing the outcomes of the election. That appeared to contradict a central pillar of his personal protection.

Whereas Mr. Thompson’s claims that he was beneath Mr. Trump’s spell don’t carry any authorized weight as proof, they echo comparable allegations the federal government has made in different instances linked to Jan. 6. In these instances, prosecutors have gone to nice lengths to explain how rioters on the Capitol have been motivated by Mr. Trump’s statements, together with his speech on the Ellipse and a tweet he posted on Dec. 19, 2020 calling on his followers to attend a “wild” protest in Washington on Jan. 6.

Nicely earlier than the trial started, Mr. Thompson’s lawyer, Samuel H. Shamansky, made a daring request of the choose within the case, Reggie B. Walton, asking for permission to subpoena Mr. Trump as a witness. Decide Walton in the end rejected the transfer, saying that hauling the previous president into the courtroom would solely have been a distraction.

As a substitute, at his trial this week, Mr. Shamansky has painted Mr. Thompson as an impressionable man who crammed his days of pandemic-driven isolation with a gentle food plan of election fraud conspiracy theories. Mr. Thompson agreed {that a} “excellent storm” of circumstances, as Mr. Shamansky put it, had prompted him to fall prey to Mr. Trump’s lies in regards to the race and in the end led him to the Capitol.

“It was simply an terrible yr — being unemployed, newly married, quarantine, Covid,” he instructed the jury. “I don’t know the place my head was.”

Earlier than Mr. Thompson provided his account, his spouse, Sarah Thompson, took the stand.

Mrs. Thompson, who works within the company workplaces of Victoria’s Secret, instructed the jury that she was a Democrat who had voted for Mr. Biden and by no means believed the “conspiracy theory-type” materials she more and more noticed her husband on YouTube, Twitter and numerous different web sites.

Nonetheless, she mentioned it had been “a tough yr” for the couple, who have been married in January 2020 after 12 years of relationship. She instructed the jury that Mr. Thompson’s anger in regards to the election appeared to have grown worse as a result of he was caught at residence and not using a job.

“Dustin spent a whole lot of time on the web,” she mentioned.

When he went off to Washington on Jan. 5, she mentioned, driving with a good friend, Mrs. Thompson didn’t assume that her husband would get into hassle. She was pleased, as she put it, to be at residence with the “home quiet.”

However on the night of the riot, Mr. Thompson texted her a video of himself, milling about with others within the looted parliamentarian’s workplace. The room was suffering from paperwork and overturned furnishings.

Her response to him was easy and direct.

“I cannot publish bail,” she texted again.

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