By: Associated Press Posted:
An Ohio man who claimed he was only “following presidential orders” from Donald Trump when he stormed the U.S. Capitol was convicted by a jury that took less than three hours to reject his novel defense for obstructing Congress from certifying Joe Biden’s presidential victory.
The federal jury on Thursday also found Dustin Byron Thompson, 38, guilty of all five of the other charges in his indictment, including stealing a coat rack from an office inside the Capitol during the riot on Jan. 6, 2021. The maximum sentence for the obstruction count, the lone felony, would be 20 years imprisonment.
Jurors didn’t buy Thompson’s defense, in which he blamed Trump and members of the president’s inner circle for the insurrection and for his own actions.
One juror who spoke to reporters only on condition of anonymity said, “Donald Trump wasn’t on trial in this case.”
The juror, a 40-year-old man, said as he left the courthouse, “Everyone agrees that Donald Trump is culpable as an overall narrative. Lots of people were there and then went home. Dustin Thompson did not.”
Thompson himself, testifying a day earlier, admitted he joined the mob’s attack and stole the coat rack and a bottle of bourbon. He said he regretted his “disgraceful” behavior.
“I can’t believe the things that I did,” he said. “Mob mentality and group think is very real and very dangerous.”
Still, he said he believed Trump’s false claim that the election was stolen and was trying to stand up for him.
“If the president is giving you almost an order to do something, I felt obligated to do that,” he said.
U.S. District Judge Reggie Walton, who is scheduled to sentence Thompson on July 20, described the defendant’s testimony as “totally disingenuous” and his conduct on Jan. 6 as “reprehensible.” The judge also cast blame in Trump’s direction after the verdict was announced.
“I think our democracy is in trouble,” he said, adding that “charlatans” like Trump don’t care about democracy, only about power.
“And as a result of that, it’s tearing our country apart,” the judge said.
Prosecutors did not ask for Thompson to be detained immediately, but Walton ordered him held and he was led away handcuffed. The judge said he believed Thompson was a flight risk and posed a danger to the public.
Thompson’s trial was the third to go before a jury among hundreds of Capitol riot cases prosecuted by the Justice Department. In the first two cases, jurors also convicted the defendants of all charges.
Assistant U.S. Attorney William Dreher said that Thompson, a college-educated exterminator who lost his job during the COVID-19 pandemic, knew he was breaking the law when he joined the mob that attacked the Capitol and, in his case, looted the Senate parliamentarian’s office. The prosecutor told jurors that Thompson’s lawyer “wants you to think you have to choose between President Trump and his client.”
“You don’t have to choose because this is not President Trump’s trial. This is the trial for Dustin Thompson because of what he did at the Capitol on the afternoon on Jan. 6,” Dreher told jurors during his closing arguments.