A onetime member of Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg’s safety element is accused of assaulting a Washington police officer through the Capitol riot.
Among the many many violent scuffles that erupted through the riot on the Capitol, this one stood out.
On one facet of the barricade was a calmly armored Washington, D.C., police officer, standing along with his colleagues to defend the constructing in opposition to a mob of Trump supporters. Confronting him from the opposite facet, brandishing a flagpole, was not simply any assailant, however a retired member of the New York Police Division.
Of their transient encounter on the entrance strains of the riot, the previous officer, Thomas Webster, beat his on-duty compatriot with the flagpole a number of instances, prosecutors say, then pushed by the barricades and tackled him to the bottom. In answering these expenses, Mr. Webster has raised a daring protection: He has claimed that the officer provoked his aggression and that he was merely making an attempt to guard himself.
On Tuesday, Mr. Webster’s trial started in Federal District Courtroom in Washington — the sixth case linked to the Capitol assault to go on trial. Whereas a number of defendants charged within the riot have stated they plan to argue self-defense, Mr. Webster is the primary to check the technique on a jury.
By specializing in a former officer accused of attacking another person in regulation enforcement, the Webster case will inevitably revolve round one of many ironies revealed on Jan. 6, 2021, when a whole lot of rioters stormed into the Capitol and delayed lawmakers as they had been certifying the outcomes of the 2020 presidential election.
Many within the crowd that day proclaimed themselves supporters of the police within the “Again the Blue” vein. However scores of individuals have been charged with assaulting regulation enforcement officers — with their fists and with quite a lot of weapons, together with hockey sticks, baseball bats, metallic batons and bear spray. Prosecutors say that almost 150 officers had been injured.
Mr. Webster, a 54-year-old former Marine, was no atypical officer: He as soon as served on the non-public safety element for Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg of New York. After he turned himself in to the authorities final yr, a few of his former colleagues were surprised to listen to that he had erupted into violence on the Capitol. One described him as “simply one of many guys.”
From the outset, although, Mr. Webster’s previous life as an officer has performed a central position within the investigation and prosecution of his case. At a listening to in June to find out his bail, Choose Amit P. Mehta couldn’t appear to consider that Mr. Webster had discovered himself in such a predicament.
“A number of people come earlier than me,” the choose stated. “I’m mystified by their conduct. However your conduct specifically, it’s onerous to get my head round. You had been a police officer. You need to know higher.”
In an interview with the F.B.I. in February 2021, Mr. Webster advised brokers that he had gone to Washington on Jan. 6 to point out assist for President Donald J. Trump and to protest what he believed was a stolen election. He claimed that when he walked with the gang from Mr. Trump’s speech close to the White Home to the Capitol, the “loopy” riot on the constructing was already underway.
Talking with the F.B.I., Mr. Webster acknowledged being “vocal” and “upset” that day. However he additionally claimed that one officer specifically — recognized by his initials, N.R. — inspired him to “leap over the barrier” in what Mr. Webster described as a “barroom kind of second.”
By Mr. Webster’s account, Officer N.R. struck first.
“I received hit with a freight prepare in my face,” Mr. Webster advised the F.B.I., calling the blow a “huge sucker punch.”
Prosecutors are anticipated to supply a unique model of occasions. Within the weeks main as much as the trial, they supplied proof that Mr. Webster went to Washington “armed and prepared for battle,” with physique armor, a map of the world and army rations related to people who troopers eat within the discipline. In addition they stated that Mr. Webster introduced his handgun with him from New York, although they acknowledge that he left it in his resort room.
On the trial this week, the jury is more likely to hear testimony from the officer who was attacked in addition to from a number of Capitol Law enforcement officials who had been on the scene that day. Mr. Webster’s lawyer, James Monroe, has indicated in court docket papers that he intends to name a number of character witnesses to testify on his shopper’s behalf.
Nicely earlier than the trial started, the federal government requested Choose Mehta to stop Mr. Webster from arguing self-defense, saying that the details didn’t assist his arguments. In a ruling this month, the choose stated he would enable the protection to be offered however would resolve after listening to proof whether or not to instruct the jury to contemplate it.
Mr. Webster is just not the primary former police officer to go on trial in reference to the riot. On April 11, Thomas Robertson, a onetime officer from Virginia, was discovered responsible of all six expenses he confronted, together with the obstruction of the official electoral rely by Congress.