The Queens man sought to defend his anti-Semitic and anti-immigrant comments in a trial that has largely focused on why he posted about killing U.S. lawmakers.
BROOKLYN (CN) — After days of testimony featuring text messages that outline his anti-immigrant and anti-Semitic leanings, a man accused of threatening to murder U.S. government officials defended himself on the stand.
“No, I’m not a Nazi. I hate Nazis,” testified Brendan Hunt, 37. He’s a fan of comics, and showed the court a comic book he owned, which features Captain America punching out Adolf Hitler.
During his testimony, Hunt said Hitler was “completely wrong in everything that he did.”
In text messages shown to the jury days earlier, Hunt suggested that then-President Donald Trump should take notes from the Nazi dictator.
“During Hitlers’s first term in office, circumstances were such that it was necessary for him to override the democratic process and become the absolute leader of his country,” Hunt texted his father, as read by an FBI agent in court. “Trump should prob do the same if necessary.”
Hunt is charged with threatening to kill House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Senate Majority Leader Charles Schumer and U.S. Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, all elected Democrats.
He posted on Facebook saying the Congress members should be publicly executed by firing squads, and published videos in the wake of the Jan. 6 riots at the U.S. Capitol, saying “we need to go back to the U.S. Capitol when all of the senators and a lot of the representatives are back there, and this time we have to show up with our guns. And we need to slaughter these motherfuckers.”
The jury will decide whether or not the posts constitute true threats.
Much of Hunt’s trial has focused on his mindset, drawing from public posts and private messages he sent to family members. Assistant U.S. Attorney David Kessler suggested that when something happens that Hunt doesn’t like, he retaliates with threats.
“Unfriending someone and saying that you have nothing further to say to them is the exact same thing,” Hunt wrote to his cousin in a December 2020 argument. “If you text me again, I’ll stick a knife in your kid.”
Kessler asked Hunt if he thought that was a threat, at the prompting of U.S. District Judge Pamela K. Chen, a Barack Obama appointee.
“I was pretty drunk at the time and I was mouthing off, in my opinion,” Hunt replied.
In other texts to his father, a retired family court judge, Hunt said that “previous generations were right to be suspicious of immigrants.” He also suggested that his family should sell their New York City properties to buy land in a red state.
“Instead, we suffer through life in Jew York Shitty,” Hunt wrote, continuing to use racial slurs for Black, Latino, Jewish and Asian people, and discussing finding a “suitable white, pro-American mate.”
The slurs, Hunt said, were an attempt to “get a rise out of” his father, and see if he would criticize Hunt’s language during a family dispute about the properties.
“It was hard for me to get through to him,” Hunt said, and “I started kind of goading him” with things that his father would find offensive.
During cross-examination, Kessler asked Hunt about a video discovered on the Queens man’s laptop, in which he describes using coded language to hide what he wants to say.
“If I want to talk about who runs the world,” Hunt said while holding up a container, he calls that “juice.”
“Now that’s some juice right there,” Hunt said in the video, taking a sip. “I don’t want to kill the juice just yet. It’s just too good, you’ve gotta savor it.”
Hunt remembers making the video, he said on the stand, and called it a joke in poor taste.
“You were joking about killing the Jews, right?” Kessler asked.
“Yeah, that’s sort of a thing that’s been said online a lot,” Hunt responded.
In text messages to Hunt’s girlfriend at the time, he discussed reading Hitler’s political autobiography “Mein Kampf,” saying he found it interesting.
“[Nazis] will never be given any credit,” Hunt wrote, “and our history books always depict Nazis as awful, inhuman monsters.”
Hunt said that in the aftermath of the 2020 presidential election, which he believed was “fraught with election scams,” Hunt was becoming “increasingly isolated in my apartment,” he said.
“I was frankly a little bit lonely, too,” Hunt added.
That led up to his posts and videos, Hunt explained, where he used incendiary language that added fuel to an “already raging inferno.”
“Going forward,” Hunt said, “I’d like to be the kind of guy who throws water on the fire and doesn’t inflame anything.”