WASHINGTON (CN) — A federal jury deliberated for less than three hours Monday before returning with a unanimous verdict that finds a longtime former officer of the New York City Police Department guilty of all charges related to the Jan. 6, 2021, storming of the Capitol.
Thomas Webster, 56, of Goshen, New York, looked down at the table after the verdict was read. An ex-Marine and 20-year veteran of the NYPD, Webster had himself been retired from the force for 10 years when he joined the attempt to stop Congress from certifying President Donald Trump's defeat in the 2020 election. During the riot, he swung a metal pole at Metropolitan Police Department Officer Noah Rathbun, tackled the officer to the ground and tried to rip off his face mask.
Webster is the first Capitol riot defendant to go to trial for the felony charge of assaulting, resisting, or impeding officers using a deadly or dangerous weapon, and the first to bring a self-defense argument. His attorney, James Monroe, told reporters outside the courthouse on Monday that “we worked hard to challenge the government’s theory of the case.”
“We had a video that depicted exactly what transpired here, including the officer punching Tom at a time when it wasn’t necessary,” Monroe said, continuing the argument that it was Rathbun who instigated the violence on Webster's part, violence that the video also captured.
Monroe could not offer a reason for why the jury rejected their self-defense argument.
“I don’t have a good explanation,” he said. “That’s something for the jury to answer.”
Monroe did, however, point to what he called the “overwhelming” thoughts from the 14 local jurors about what transpired on Jan. 6, saying that likely impacted their ability to “keep an open mind.”
“We knew from the beginning that the folks here in D.C. were quite traumatized by what transpired on Jan. 6 and I think we saw some of this expressed today,” the attorney said.
Webster and his family are disappointed about the verdict, Monroe added. When asked about the possibility of an appeal, he said, “we’re thinking about it … that’s in the cards.”
Jurors found Webster guilty of five felonies: assaulting, resisting, or impeding officers with a dangerous weapon; obstructing officers during a civil disorder; entering and remaining in a restricted building or grounds, while carrying a dangerous weapon; engaging in disorderly or disruptive conduct in a restricted building or grounds, while carrying a dangerous weapon, and engaging in physical violence in a restricted building or grounds, while carrying a dangerous weapon; and one misdemeanor, engaging in an act of physical violence in the Capitol building or grounds.
During closing arguments on Friday, Assistant U.S. Attorney Brian Kelly called Webster an “obvious threat” on Jan. 6 from the moment he approached the police line because he was pushing people and carrying a metal flagpole.
Webster approached Rathbun, Kelly recounted, after yelling that the police are “commie motherfuckers,” then told the officer to “take your shit off” and twice shoved a bicycle rack barrier into Rathbun. When Rathbun pushed Webster back to keep him from breaching the police line — contact that defense says was actually a punch — Kelly said “the defendant responded by violently swinging a metal flagpole like a club.”
Rathbun was able to wrestle the pole away, he said, but he and the other officers were forced to retreat — and that’s when Webster charged at Rathbun with his hands raised, pinned him to the ground and tried to rip off his face mask, making it hard for Rathbun to breathe.
“You saw Thomas Webster assault Officer Rathbun with your own eyes,” Brown said, referring to video footage that captured parts of the incident and was introduced as evidence.