Prosecutors show ‘rage-filled’ video as trial begins for former New York police officer charged in January 6 riots

Body camera video captured a ‘rage-filled’ retired police officer attacking one of the outnumbered officers trying to hold off a mob of rioters who stormed the US Capitol, a senior official said on Tuesday. federal prosecutor to the jury.

But a defense attorney says another video from a different angle shows former New York police officer Thomas Webster acted in self-defense after a Metropolitan Police Department officer hit him first.

Jurors saw the two videos at the start of Webster’s trial, the first of dozens of cases in which a defendant is accused of assaulting police on Capitol Hill on Jan. 6, 2021.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Hava Mirell also showed jurors a photo of Webster holding a U.S. Marine Corps flag on a metal pole in front of the Washington Monument before the riot broke out.

“He is smiling in this photo, but that smile would soon turn to rage,” she said during opening statements at the trial.

WATCH | WARNING: The video contains violence. Body camera video shows the moment of the alleged attack:

Attack on former NYPD officer during Capitol Hill riot caught on body camera

WARNING: This video contains violence. Police body camera video shows the moment retired New York City Police Officer Thomas Webster allegedly attacked an officer working to restrain rioters on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC on January 6, 2021. 1:18

The prosecutor told jurors they would hear testimony from Noah Rathbun, the officer Webster is accused of assaulting with the flagpole.

Webster pushed a bike rack into Rathbun before swinging the flag pole towards the officer in a downward chopping motion, hitting a metal barricade in front of the officer, according to Mirell. After Rathbun grabbed the broken pole and pulled away, Webster “crouched down”, charged the officer and tackled him to the ground, where Rathbun began to choke on the chin strap of his gas mask. , the prosecutor said.

Defense attorney James Monroe accused Rathbun of using excessive force and provoking Webster by punching him in the face.

“The government didn’t tell you about it,” Monroe told jurors.

Mirell said Rathbun held out an open palm to create space between him and Webster.

“But the defendant became more and more angry,” she added.

Judge calls Webster ‘an instigator’

U.S. District Judge Amit Mehta, who is presiding over Webster’s trial, said at a bail hearing last June that he did not see Webster being punched in the face on video. The judge described Webster as an instigator.

“It was his conduct that kind of broke the dam, at least in that area,” Mehta said, according to a transcript.

Webster, now a freelance landscaper, retired from the NYPD in 2011 after 20 years of service. He served in the Marine Corps in 1985, starting in 1989 before joining the NYPD in 1991. His departmental service included a stint in then-Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s private security department.

Webster brought a gun when he traveled alone to Washington from his home in Florida, NY, a village in Orange County about 110 miles northwest of New York. He was wearing his NYPD-issued bulletproof vest, but says he left the gun in his hotel room when he went to the January 6 rally where US President Donald Trump spoke.

There ‘to make his voice heard’

Webster faces six counts, including assaulting, resisting or obstructing an officer using a dangerous weapon. He is not charged with entering the Capitol on January 6.

“In his mind, it’s a protest. He’s not taking over any Capitol,” Monroe said. “He’s here to make his voice heard.”

Monroe also argued that Webster was exercising his First Amendment right to free speech when he shouted profanities at police that day. The defense attorney suggested that Webster got upset because he saw other people in the crowd who were injured and bleeding.

Webster’s trial is the fourth by jury and the sixth overall. The first three Capitol Riot defendants to get a jury trial were found guilty on all counts in their respective indictments. In a pair of trials, a different federal judge heard evidence without a jury before acquitting one defendant and partially acquitting another.

Protesters supporting former US President Donald Trump attempt to open a door to the US Capitol during a riot in Washington, January 6, 2021. (José Luis Magana/Associated Press)

More than 780 people have been charged with federal crimes related to the riots. The Justice Department says more than 245 of them have been charged with assaulting or obstructing law enforcement. More than 250 riot defendants have pleaded guilty, mostly to non-violent offenses.

Jurors convicted two rioters of interfering with officers. One of the rioters, Thomas Robertson, was an off-duty police officer from Rocky Mount, Virginia. The other, Texas resident Guy Wesley Reffitt, was also convicted of storming the Capitol with a holstered handgun.

The third Capitol rioter to be convicted by a jury was Dustin Byron Thompson, an Ohio man who said he was following Trump’s orders.