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An Ex-Cop Told A Jury That Video Of His Alleged Assault On A Police Officer On Jan. 6 Actually Showed Acts Of Self-Defense


A former Marine and retired New York police officer accused of assaulting a DC police officer on the US Capitol on Jan. 6 took the stand Thursday to argue why what on video appears to be like like him swinging a flagpole at officers, charging and knocking an officer to the bottom, after which grabbing on the officer’s helmet and fuel masks had been all in self-defense.

Over 4 hours of testimony, Thomas Webster maintained that Metropolitan Police Division Officer Noah Rathbun incited a bodily confrontation when he made a hand gesture inviting Webster to struggle, a declare that Rathbun denied. Webster instructed the jury that the remainder of his exchanges with Rathbun had been in response to a “punch” from the officer that felt like a “freight practice,” one other account that Rathbun denied. Movies performed in court docket confirmed Rathbun leaning towards Webster and his open hand making contact with Webster’s face; Rathbun on Wednesday described the contact as incidental to his effort to swat at Webster to create distance throughout a unstable state of affairs.

Webster is the fourth particular person charged within the Jan. 6 assault to face a jury — two different instances have been determined by judges — and the primary to make a self-defense declare. Prosecutors offered a number of movies depicting the alleged assault by Webster from completely different angles, and Webster doesn’t deny that he had an encounter with Rathbun. His protection hinges on having the jury consider what he says was his way of thinking on the time in regards to the occasions captured in that footage, or a minimum of create sufficient doubt to acquit.

How Webster’s case performs out may affect how different defendants awaiting trial on assault fees take into consideration their very own presentation to a jury, given the huge quantity of video proof from police physique cameras, surveillance footage, and movies posted on-line by numerous folks within the crowd.

Webster insisted that he made an effort to not strike the officer, damage him, or seem threatening. Requested why he repeatedly yelled at Rathbun, “take your shit off,” he acknowledged that phrase was usually an invite to struggle however mentioned he’d meant it as a “rhetorical remark,” since he didn’t anticipate the officer to really take away his gear.

Movies present Webster shoving the metallic bike rack that served as a makeshift police line, to which he responded that he was simply attempting to indicate his “frustration.” Video proof additionally exhibits Webster swinging a metallic flag pole with the US Marine Corps flag that he’d introduced from residence towards the officers. Webster’s rationalization for that was that he was appearing in self-defense after the “punch,” and that he struck the bike rack in a deliberate effort to keep away from hitting officers.

In response to movies that present Webster squaring up his arms and charging at Rathbun, Webster in contrast himself to a soccer participant attempting to sort out one other participant, including that his objective wasn’t to harm Rathbun however to cease the officer from hitting him once more. The jury noticed video and nonetheless pictures of Webster on prime of Rathbun, the place he’s grabbing the officer’s helmet and fuel masks. Webster mentioned he was attempting to ensure Rathbun noticed the place his palms had been — noting it’s scary for a police officer to not know the place an individual’s palms are — in addition to to ship a message that the officer couldn’t damage him. Rathbun instructed the jury that Webster was attempting to tug off his helmet and masks, choking him within the course of.

US District Decide Amit Mehta restricted Webster’s means to invoke his coaching and experiences as a former police officer to counsel to the jury that he was an knowledgeable on use-of-force insurance policies. Regardless of these restrictions put in place initially of the trial, Webster provided a number of feedback from the stand that instructed he believed Rathbun had dealt with the gang management state of affairs poorly.

Assistant US Legal professional Katherine Nielsen turned Webster’s regulation enforcement profession again on him. She expressed skepticism {that a} veteran police officer wouldn’t perceive that police on the Capitol had been attempting to get the mob to disperse when he got here onto the grounds and encountered crowd management measures like tear fuel and less-than-lethal explosives generally known as flashbangs.

Webster, 56, provided the jury an outline of his background, which included his enlisting within the Marines in 1985 and his becoming a member of the police pressure in New York Metropolis after an honorable discharge from the army. He retired from the New York Police Division after 20 years and began his personal landscaping and snow removing enterprise. A supporter of former president Donald Trump on the time — he mentioned he now seen politics “by means of a unique lens” — he mentioned he’d been “upset” within the aftermath of the 2020 election.

He defined he introduced his pink Marine Corps flag and wore a pink snow plow jacket as a result of he didn’t produce other gear to sign his assist for Trump, à la the pink “Make America Nice Once more” attire that many individuals wore.

Webster denied he’d gone to the Capitol with a objective of disrupting Congress’s certification of the election outcomes, testifying that he wished solely to be a part of petitioning the federal government. He mentioned that as he entered the outskirts of the Capitol grounds, he turned upset as a result of he noticed indicators that civilians had been being damage — youngsters crying, as an illustration, and a pair of their 70s the place the lady had blood on her face (the protection didn’t current proof of this). He didn’t describe seeing police attacking members of the gang firsthand. He insisted he wished to maintain an open thoughts earlier than judging how police had been dealing with the state of affairs and headed to the entrance of the gang to see what was happening.

Throughout cross-examination, Webster confirmed that when he spoke to the FBI in February 2021, he didn’t inform brokers that he’d seen injured folks within the crowd or that he’d gone as much as the entrance of the Capitol to analyze that. As a substitute, Nielsen mentioned he’d instructed the FBI that he went as much as the entrance to protest.

The federal government’s case towards Webster facilities on video from Rathbun’s physique digital camera, which exhibits Webster rising from the gang to the entrance of the police line angrily yelling and gesturing on the officers. Webster mentioned he was upset that folks apparently had been injured again within the crowd when the police line was farther up. Nielsen requested Webster to confess he was aggressive towards the officers from the second he got here into body on Rathbun’s physique digital camera footage. Webster disagreed, saying he was expressing his First Modification speech rights.

All through the confrontation between Rathbun and Webster, the jury noticed movies that present a loud and chaotic scene round them, with quite a few different fights breaking out between police and members of the mob. Webster mentioned he felt pushed ahead by the gang however nonetheless felt compelled to defend himself, which is why he charged at Rathbun, who he described as standing a ways away in a “gladiator” stance.

Webster in contrast his bodily confrontation with Rathbun to a “schoolyard” struggle and mentioned he didn’t have contact with the officer once more as soon as they’d separated a remaining time. The jury on Thursday noticed video of Webster later persevering with to make his approach nearer to the constructing; Nielsen highlighted to the jury that he finally went previous the place he initially understood the police line to be.

The jury noticed one other video from the scene recorded by an unidentified particular person someday after the altercation with Rathbun that features Webster delivering a message to the digital camera, “We’d like extra patriots.” Webster mentioned it was a “foolish” second and that he hadn’t meant something severe by it; he wished to get his “quarter-hour of fame,” he mentioned.

Nielsen requested Webster if there was any mark on him within the “patriots” video that may present the place Rathbun had hit him. Webster recognized a reduce under the left facet of his mouth, prompting Nielsen to notice that Webster had mentioned Rathbun struck him on the precise facet of his head. Webster mentioned he’d been hit twice. Webster’s lawyer, James Monroe, has closely targeted their protection on the hit to the pinnacle, though earlier within the day, Webster indicated Rathbun had been attempting to hit him once more after they had been each on the bottom.

The prosecution is predicted to proceed questioning Webster on Friday; Webster’s lawyer plans to current a number of brief character witnesses to the jury earlier than resting the protection presentation. After the jury left for the day, Mehta expressed frustration with either side — on the authorities for failing to ask extra concise, directed questions, and with Webster for attempting to increase his solutions past the scope of what Nielsen had requested. The decide gave either side the “homework” of tightening up the examination when the trial kicked off once more within the morning.


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