Accused rioters blame Trump for ‘inspiring’ US Capitol violence

As DC prepares for Trump’s second impeachment, court filings show accused rioters hold Trump partly responsible.

Former President Donald Trump gestures as he and First Lady Melania Trump depart the White House to board Marine One ahead of the inauguration of President Joe Biden, in Washington, DC, on January 20, 2021 [File: Leah Millis/Reuters]

As the US Senate prepares for the historic second impeachment trial of former President Donald Trump on Tuesday, some of the accused rioters who occupied the US Capitol on January 6 are using his words as their defence, according to court filings.

Emanuel Jackson, who court filings describe as a “recently homeless” Black man aged 20, was allegedly caught on camera using a metal baseball bat to strike police protective shields as rioters breached defences in an attempt to stop a joint session of Congress from certifying President Joe Biden’s electoral victory.

Jackson’s lawyer, Brandi Harden, wrote in a filing calling for pretrial release that Trump “roused the crowd by telling them ‘we will stop the steal’ and ‘you’ll never take back our country with weakness, you have to show strength, and you have to be strong … if you don’t fight like hell you are not going to have a country any more’”.KEEP READING

As such, “the nature and circumstances of this offense must be viewed through the lens of an event inspired by the President of the United States”, Harden wrote.

A judge on January 22 denied the request, but Jackson is not the only accused rioter to use this defence.

A Reuters tally found that least six of the 170 people charged in connection with the Capitol siege have tried to shift at least some of the blame onto Trump as they defend themselves in court or in the court of public opinion.

Other defendants to take this route include Jacob Chansley, also known as Jake Angeli, the “QAnon Shaman” who donned a horned headdress and face paint during the attack, and Dominic Pezzola, a member of the Proud Boys right-wing group who is accused of shattering a window in the Capitol with a stolen police shield so rioters could enter.

Lawyers have not yet sought dismissal of charges or acquittal during a trial based on the idea that Trump incited their clients, instead making the claim as part of efforts to spare them from pretrial detention.

Both Pezzola and Chansley remain behind bars ahead of their trial dates

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