(WASHINGTON) — A federal judge in D.C. on Thursday delivered a scathing rebuke of former President Donald Trump and expressed dismay over the state of American politics just moments after a jury found a defendant charged in the Jan. 6 Capitol riot guilty on all charges.
“You know, I think our democracy is in trouble,” Judge Reggie Walton said at the conclusion of the third jury trial for a defendant charged in the Capitol assault. “Because unfortunately, we have charlatans like our former president, who doesn’t in my view really care about democracy, but only about power. And as a result of that, it’s tearing this country apart.”
Walton, an appointee of former President George W. Bush and one of the most senior judges on the D.C. court, said that he’s received letters from people around the country expressing concern the justice system isn’t confronting Jan. 6 — which he called an “insurgency,” with the seriousness it deserves.
“I have a concern that we have, unfortunately, American citizens who were so gullible that they were willing to accept what was being said without any proof that the allegations about the election had any merit whatsoever,” Walton said. “People are just outraged at how they feel our system is not taking seriously what happened on that day because of their fear of the future of this country.”
His remarks came after a jury delivered a guilty verdict for an Ohio man charged in the Jan. 6 assault on the U.S. Capitol who sought to defend himself by claiming he was following former Trump’s “orders.”
Dustin Thompson, 38, is the third defendant charged in connection with the Capitol attack to take their case before a jury. The six charges against him included one felony count of obstruction of Congress.
Rather than seeking to dispute the allegations against him — that he joined the pro-Trump mob in storming the Capitol and stole a bottle of bourbon and a coat rack from the Senate parliamentarian’s office, Thompson instead sought to place responsibility for his actions on Trump and his speech on the Ellipse where he urged his followers to march on the Capitol.
Dozens of others among the nearly 800 people charged thus far in the Justice Department’s Jan. 6 investigation have sought to make similar arguments, putting the onus on the former president and his allies who tricked them into believing baseless conspiracy theories about a stolen election.
That Thompson’s defense fell flat with a jury could have an influence on other alleged rioters holding out hopes they could adopt a similar strategy in their cases.
“Defense counsel wants you to focus so much on what President Trump said on the morning of Jan. 6, he wants you to forget what his client did on the afternoon of Jan. 6,” assistant US attorney Bill Dreher said in closing arguments Thursday. “Ladies and gentlemen, you don’t have to choose. This is not President Trump’s criminal trial.”
Speaking directly to the jury, Dreher said, “you can be mad about what happened that day, you can think what President Trump did was wrong, you can think that what he said that day led them to go do what they did.”
“That doesn’t matter,” he continued. “As long as you find — if you find, that Mr. Thompson knew that what he was doing was unlawful. He was 36 years old on Jan. 6 … an adult, not a child. President Trump didn’t hold his hand as he walked down to the Capitol to loot and defile the Senate Parliamentarian’s office.”
Dreher said that Thompson’s effort to put the blame on Trump’s words was not only irrelevant, but misleading — because it doesn’t appear based on data obtained from Thompson’s Uber account that he was even present at Trump’s Ellipse speech.
“It’s a story that is not true and that does not hold up,” Dreher said.
Following the reading of the verdict, Judge Walton ordered Thompson to remain in custody pending his sentencing and slammed him for his testimony in the trial, which Walton said he found “totally disingenuous” and “not truthful.”
“I just don’t think you can do what he did and what the other folks did if you’re convicted and expect to be free,” Walton said. “It’s a consequence — as my mother once told me, ‘you make your bed you gotta lie in it.'”
Thompson is set to be sentenced in July.
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