Washington — A Marine Corps veteran who also served on former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s protective detail was found guilty of assaulting law enforcement outside the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021 and other counts.
In the weeks following the Capitol attack, Thomas Webster turned himself into a New York FBI field office. He was arrested and charged, and a superseding indictment was filed late last year accusing him of multiple counts, including violence and disorderly conduct on Capitol grounds. A Washington, D.C. jury convicted him on all charges, including assaulting a police officer, on Monday after only a few hours of deliberation, WUSA’s Jordan Fischer reported.
The federal trial that spanned nearly four days of argument and testimony hinged on conflicting accounts of an altercation between Webster and Washington, D.C., police officer Noah Rathbun outside the Capitol building on Jan. 6.
Prosecutors said that on the morning of the attack, Webster, wielding a large metal flagpole with a red U.S. Marine Corps flag attached, made his way to the front of the crowd of Trump supporters assembled at the law enforcement perimeter meant to protect the lawmakers inside the Capitol building. After crossing onto restricted grounds, the government alleged Webster yelled at one of officers, “You f***ing piece of shit. You f***ing Commie motherf***ers, man.” He then allegedly used the flagpole against the officer, swinging over the police line.
The government accused Webster of tackling Rathbun to the ground, pushing against his gas mask, and ultimately pinning the officer to the group, attacks that were captured on police bodycam and open-source videos.
“He threw me to the ground,” Rathbun told the jury last week, testifying that he was “struggling to breathe.”
“I didn’t provoke this encounter,” the officer said.
But Webster’s description of the event was far different — he claimed he was the victim of a “rogue” police officer who “punched” him in the face, a claim Rathbun flatly denied.
Webster’s attorneys used much of the same videos prosecutors employed in an attempt to argue their client was acting in self-defense on January 6, alleging “excessive force was used against him” by the officer “prior to any act or allegation” for which Webster is charged.
Officer Rathbun testified that he pushed Webster in the face “unintentionally” and with an open hand after Webster tried to breach the bike racks blocking the Capitol grounds.
Testifying in his own defense last week, Webster told the jury he saw women and children injured on Capitol grounds and said he became frustrated with the treatment of protesters by law enforcement.
“I just saw people being injured,” he said, adding he decided not to enter the Capitol because he knew that to be a protected area.
Then, at the police line on the Capitol’s West Front, Webster alleged that the officer egged him on with hand gestures, a claim Rathbun also refuted.
“He starts pushing me,” the defendant said, “He really wanted to fight me.”
It was then that Webster testified the officer struck his head “like a freight train,” another claim the officer, prosecutors, and bodycam video disputed. He was under attack, Webster argued, and as the two officers, one current and one former, tussled on the ground, Webster said he pressed on Rathbun’s gas mask not to hurt him, but to defend himself.
The jury, however, took mere hours to conclude otherwise, convicting Webster on all counts including assaulting Rathbun.
Judge Amit Mehta who oversaw the case, will allow Webster to remain on 24-hour home detention with ankle monitoring until sentencing on Sept. 2. He faces decades in prison.
Webster is the first Jan. 6 defendant accused of assaulting officers to go to trial. According to the Justice Department, at least 250 defendants have been charged with assaulting, resisting, or impeding officers or employees and eight have pleaded guilty.
Outside of court on Monday, Webster’s defense attorney told reporters he thought his legal team had successfully argued the case and said a potential appeal is “in the cards.”