A former New York City police officer who claimed he was acting in self-defense when he swung a metal flagpole at a fellow officer during the attack on the Capitol last January was convicted on Monday of all charges, including assault.
The former officer, Thomas Webster, was the first person charged in connection with the riot to defend himself at trial by claiming that the officers protecting the Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021, had used excessive force against the pro-Trump mob that stormed the building. The guilty verdict in the case — returned within two hours on the first full day of deliberations — could give pause to other defendants planning to use similar arguments at their own trials.
Mr. Webster, a former Marine who once served on the protective detail of Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg of New York, testified that he had gone to Washington to hear President Donald J. Trump speak near the White House and became upset as he walked toward the Capitol and saw people injured by the violence that had erupted.
As he approached the barricades that surrounded the building, he told the jury, a Metropolitan Police Department officer, Noah Rathbun, provoked him with a brief wave then threw a punch at him that struck him like a “freight train.”
But videos played by the prosecution cast doubt on this account, showing Mr. Webster emerging from the crowd and berating officers at the barricades in a state of foul-mouthed rage. Mr. Webster could be seen in the videos repeatedly pushing at the barricades, then swinging a flagpole at Officer Rathbun before he shoved through the police line and tackled the officer.
Mr. Webster’s weeklong trial in Federal District Court in Washington touched on one of the striking elements of Jan. 6: that even though many people in the crowd that day vocally supported the police, scores were ultimately charged with assaulting officers and more than 140 were injured.
During his time on the witness stand last week, Mr. Webster described the dizzying experience of attacking a fellow member of law enforcement.
“It was almost like a role reversal,” he told the jury at one point. “I felt like I was the cop and he was the protester.”
The jury also found Mr. Webster guilty of interfering with law enforcement during a civil disorder, and entering and remaining in a restricted area with a deadly or dangerous weapon. Moments after the verdict was handed down, another former Marine, Kevin Creek, who pleaded guilty in December to assaulting a different officer during the riot, was sentenced in a nearby courtroom to 27 months in prison.
With its victory in the Webster trial, the Justice Department has now won all four of its jury trials connected to the Capitol attack.
Capitol Riot’s Aftermath: Key Developments
In March, a jury in federal court in Washington convicted Guy Wesley Reffitt, a member of a Texas militia, of leading a section of the mob in an advance on the police outside the Capitol and disrupting Congress’s certification of the 2020 presidential election.
Last month, a jury found Dustin Thompson, an Ohio exterminator, guilty of obstructing Congress and stealing government property despite his claims that he had been acting on Mr. Trump’s orders.
A few days before that, a former Virginia police officer, Thomas Robertson, was convicted by a jury on six counts, including the obstruction of the official electoral count by Congress.
One defendant, Matthew Martin, a former defense contractor from New Mexico, was acquitted at a bench trial in early April after the judge agreed with his claims that the police had let him into the Capitol.