Prosecutors introduced text messages Hunt’s attorneys had fought to keep out of trial, and played videos in which the defendant appears to threaten the lives of members of Congress.
BROOKLYN (CN) — Sounds of rioters shouting and clashing during the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol echoed through a Brooklyn federal courtroom Thursday, as prosecutors played videos published by a Queens man accused of threatening to murder United States officials.
Following the Capitol riots, Brendan Hunt, 37, posted a video online titled “Kill Your Senators,” which calls for rioters to “go back to the U.S. Capitol … and this time we have to show up with our guns.” In a Facebook post the previous month, Hunt called for the “public execution” of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez.
Hunt’s attorneys say he made a mistake with his posting but did not commit a crime.
Proceedings — the first federal trial to deal with the fallout from the insurrection that injured dozens and left five people dead — are underway in a socially distanced courthouse that remains clearly marked by the Covid-19 pandemic. FBI witnesses spoke on Thursday from behind a plexiglass screen, wearing face shields. At one point, U.S. District Judge Pamela K. Chen asked Hunt to briefly lower his face mask so that a special agent could properly identify him.
On Thursday afternoon, videos Hunt posted online in the wake of the riots boomed throughout the courtroom, as well as the overflow rooms across the hall that are being used to maintain physical distance between observers.
“Folks this is very, very serious,” Hunt said in one video, splicing his own commentary alongside footage of supporters of then-President Donald Trump storming the Capitol.
Hunt, who previously called the election stolen and expressed support for Trump, expressed dismay that the president eventually told rioters to go home. He “sunk the final knife into the back of his supporters,” Hunt said.
“We can’t go home after this,” he said. “We can’t accept this.”
Though Hunt did not travel to Washington on Jan. 6, he posted videos leading up to the date spreading the word. In the days after the riot, Hunt published a video saying that U.S. senators should “be really afraid about going into public now.”
“They should have to walk around with bodyguards 10 feet deep,” Hunt said. “We have the First Amendment — remember, that’s still around — and we have the Second as well.”
Under his own name and the pseudonym “X-Ray Ultra,” Hunt posted videos about the shooting of protester Ashli Babbitt and called for rioters to return to the Capitol, armed, during President Joe Biden’s inauguration.
“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,” Hunt said in the “Kill Your Senators” video. “And we need to slaughter these motherfuckers.”
Earlier in the day Thursday, prosecutors presented evidence that Hunt had previously fought to keep out of trial, including private conversations that Hunt’s attorneys said could unfairly paint their client as anti-Semitic.
In a series of text messages from this past May, Hunt told his girlfriend he had read several books recently, the most interesting of which was “Mein Kampf.”
“The Hitler book gets interesting when he starts talking about the leftists and Jews that he felt were ruining Germany and Austria by promoting Marxist literature, and producing books and plays that had too much sex and drugs, et cetera, in them,” Hunt wrote, according to messages read aloud by a special agent of the FBI. “The same could be said of today’s leftists, but obviously Hitler took this in the way wrong direction.”
Following the 2020 presidential election, Hunt compared Trump to Hitler in texts sent to his father, a retired family court judge from Queens.
“Trump should just declare martial law, cancel the transfer of power, and round up the domestic enemies of our republic. The military and the American people would back him. 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’s texts read.
“Trump should prob do the same if necessary,” Hunt continued, “or they will throw his family in jail and destroy the country.”
Other messages read out in court stated that “previous generations were right to be suspicious of immigrants. Look at the mafias that were set up by the Jews, Italians, and even the Irish. New York has been completely taken over by Zionist Jews who have loyalty to Israel, not America.”
Prosecutors are expected to call a Capitol police officer to testify Friday.