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 veteran of the NYPD, was found guilty of the six counts he faced after two hours of jury deliberation.
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 Metropolitan Police Department officer Noah Rathbun of fomenting the confrontation.
Rathbun testified that he did not punch or start a fight with Webster as a violent mob attacked the Capitol on January 6, 2021, preventing Congress from certifying Joe Biden’s victory in the 2020 presidential election on the then President Donald Trump.
Webster spoke in his defense last week. He said he felt like he had been 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 blow, 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 did not punch or scuffle with Webster.
A grand jury indicted Webster on six counts, including a charge of assaulting Rathbun with a dangerous weapon, a metal flagpole. Webster was not charged with entering the Capitol on January 6.
He is expected to be sentenced on September 2.
4th conviction related to the Capitol riot
Webster’s jury trial is the fourth for a capitol riot defendant. The first three Capitol Riot defendants to obtain a jury trial were found guilty on all counts in their respective indictments, while other defendants pleaded guilty.
Webster was wearing a bulletproof vest and carried a US Marine Corps flag on a metal pole when he approached the Capitol that day.
Rathbun’s body camera video shows the officer touching Webster’s chest and poking his face after the New York man slammed a bike rack on him. Rathbun said he was trying to back Webster from a security perimeter 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 towards the officer in a downward chopping motion, hitting a bike rack in front of the officer. After Rathbun grabbed the broken post, Webster charged 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 acts in a different way to other police officers, and I’m worried about my safety,” he said.
Rathbun testified that he began to choke when Webster grabbed his gas mask, pressing the chin strap to the officer’s throat.
“It’s not a position anyone wants to be in,” Rathbun said.
“A unique moment in history”: the accused
Webster said he grabbed Rathbun by the gas mask because he wanted the officer to see his hands.
Webster said he traveled to the Capitol after hearing Trump’s speech to Congress’ “petition” to “review” the results of the 2020 presidential election but not to disrupt the joint vote certification session of the Electoral College.
“It was a unique moment in history,” he said.
Webster, who lives near Goshen, NY, retired from the NYPD in 2011 after 20 years of service. His departmental service included a stint in then-Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s private security department. He served in the US Marine Corps from 1985 to 1989 before joining the NYPD in 1991.
Webster’s trial was the first of dozens of cases in which Capitol riot defendants are accused of assaulting police.
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.
The January 6 committee wants to hear the Republican trio
While these criminal investigations continue, the Democratic-led House is probing the U.S. Capitol insurrection, figuring out who may have backed Trump’s desperate bid to stay in power.
Three other House Republicans received requests Monday to appear voluntarily before that congressional committee — Andy Biggs, Mo Brooks and Ronny Jackson, three members of the far-right House Freedom Caucus who have aligned themselves with Trump in recent years.
The nine-member panel is asking 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 coordination of gatherings no later than January 6, 2021.
“It appears that a significant number of House members and a few senators played more than just a passing role in what happened,” Rep. Bennie Thompson, the Democratic chairman of the Jan. 6 committee, told AFP. the Associated Press last week.
The committee plans to hold a series of public hearings in June.