Speed Reads

shifting the blame

Lawyer for Jan. 6 defendant argues Trump abused his position to 'authorize this assault'

The attorney for Dustin Byron Thompson — a Jan. 6 defendant on trial for multiple charges, including theft of government property — told jurors Tuesday that former President Donald Trump was "spewing lies" before the Capitol attack and used his position "to authorize this assault."

The lawyer, Samuel Shamansky, used his opening statements to pin the blame solely on Trump, saying his client, who lost his job because of the COVID-19 pandemic, spent hours a day listening to baseless conspiracy theories about the election being stolen. "He goes down this rabbit hole," Shamansky said. "He listens to this echo chamber. And he acts accordingly."

Shamansky revealed in a February court filing that he planned to argue at trial that Thompson was acting at the direction of Trump and "his various conspirators," and he wanted to issue subpoenas calling Trump and former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani as witnesses. Shamansky cited two statements made during the "Stop the Steal" rally held before the Capitol riot: When Trump told the crowd, "If you don't fight like hell, you're not going to have a country anymore"; and when Giuliani said they should engage in "trial by combat." While a judge denied the subpoena request, they did rule that jurors could listen to audio of the speeches Trump and Giuliani delivered at the rally.

Shamansky told jurors that Trump was part of a "sinister" plot to get Thompson and other supporters to "do his dirty work." The federal prosecutor argued that Thompson, a resident of Ohio, knew he was breaking the law at the Capitol on Jan. 6, and "chose to be part of the mayhem and chaos."

Prosecutors have accused Thompson of stealing two bottles of liquor and a coat rack from the Senate Parliamentarian's Office during the riot. They say he was wearing a bulletproof vest and "Trump 2020" hat when he entered the building, and at one point texted a friend who was with him at the Capitol, "I'm taking our country back." Read more at The Associated Press.