The “Trump-made-me-do-it” defense already looks like a long shot.
Faced with overwhelming evidence during the deadly siege on Capitol Hill last month – including social media posts displaying their actions – rioters argue in court that they were following instructions from then-President Donald Trump on January 6 . But the legal strategy has already been shot down by at least one judge and experts believe the argument will not get anyone out of the woods for the insurgency where five people have died, including one. police officer.
“This so-called defense, if recognized, would undermine the rule of law because then, just like a king or a dictator, the president could dictate what is illegal and what is not in this country. US District Judge Beryl Howell recently said. pre-trial detention of William Chrestman, a suspected member of the Kansas City area branch of the Proud Boys. “And that’s not how we operate here.”
Chrestman’s lawyers argued in court documents that Trump gave the crowd “explicit permission and encouragement” to do what they did, offering those who obeyed “a viable defense against liability. criminal ”.
“It is an astounding thing to imagine storming the United States Capitol with sticks, flags and bear bombs, pitched against armed and highly trained law enforcement agencies. Only someone who thought they had official approval could even attempt such a thing. And a Proud Boy who had paid attention would really believe it, ”Chrestman’s lawyers wrote.
Trump was acquitted of inciting insurgency in his second impeachment trial, where Democrats made some of the same arguments defense lawyers make in criminal court. Some Republican lawmakers have said the best place for the charges against Trump is also the courthouse.
Meanwhile, prosecutors have laid charges against more more than 250 people to date in the attack, including conspiracy, assault, civil unrest and obstruction of formal process. Authorities have suggested that rare charges of sedition may be brought against some. Hundreds of Trump supporters have been photographed and filmed storming the Capitol and scores posted selfies inside the building on social media, so they can’t exactly claim in court that they weren’t there. Blaming Trump may be the best defense they have.
“What’s the best argument when you’re on videotape prancing around the Capitol with a coat rack in your hand?” said Sam Shamansky, who represents Dustin Thompson, an Ohio man accused of stealing a coat rack during the riot.
Shamansky said his client would never have been to Capitol Hill on Jan.6 if Trump had not “summoned him there.” Trump, he added, engaged in a “devious but effective plot to brainwash” supporters into believing the election was stolen, placing them in a position where they “felt the need. to defend their country at the request of the commander-in-chief ”.
“I think it’s going perfectly,” he said of the defense. “The more The nuanced question is: who is going to buy it? What kind of jury do you need to figure this out? ”
While experts say blaming Trump can’t deter their clients, it can help determine the sentence when they ask the judge for leniency.
“It could probably be seen as a mitigating circumstance that this person really believed they were just following the instructions of the Head of the United States,” said Barbara McQuade, a former American lawyer from Michigan who is now a professor at law school. from the University of Michigan. .
It could also strengthen possible lawsuits against the former president, experts say.
“This defense died on arrival,” said …
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