Jury Convicts Dustin Thompson of Jan. 6 Obstruction, Theft
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‘This Is Not President Trump’s Criminal Trial’: Jury Convicts Ohio Man Who Stormed the Capitol on Jan. 6 and Said He Was Following Trump’s Orders

 
Dustin Thompson seen holding a flagpole he allegedly stole from the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6

Dustin Thompson seen holding a flagpole he allegedly stole from the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6. (Images via FBI court filings.)

An Ohio man who tried to blame his decision to join the mob that stormed the U.S. Capitol on former President Donald Trump has been convicted on six counts, including a felony obstruction charge that carries a potential sentence of 20 years in prison.

Dustin Thompson, 38, of Columbus, was convicted Thursday after four days of trial. It took the jury about three hours to return the verdict convicting Thompson of one felony—obstruction of Congress—and five misdemeanors, including theft of government property.

Thompson was also convicted of entering and remaining in a restricted building or grounds, disorderly and disruptive conduct in a restricted building or grounds, disorderly conduct in a Capitol Building, and parading, demonstrating, or picketing in a Capitol Building.

Thompson was captured on surveillance footage inside the Capitol carrying both a bottle of bourbon and a coat rack he stole from the Senate Parliamentarian’s Office as hordes of Trump supporters swarmed the building in an effort to block Congress from certifying Joe Biden‘s win in the 2020 presidential election.

After they left the building, Thompson and co-defendant Robert Anthony Lyon were stopped by Capitol Police while waiting for an Uber; they were still on Capitol grounds, and police directed both men to where they could wait for their ride.

Rather than leave the stolen coat rack behind, Thompson—still in the presence of Capitol police—picked it up, apparently intending to take it with him. The officers told Thompson to put the coat rack down, which he did right before fleeing and leaving Lyon behind to face police alone.

Lyon, 28, pleaded guilty in March to theft of government property and disorderly conduct.

At trial, Thompson defended himself by saying that he believed that he was just following Trump’s orders. Trump had, earlier that day, encouraged those who attended his so-called “Stop the Steal” rally to march to the Capitol, where Congress was certifying the Electoral College vote that would confirm Biden’s win, and “fight like hell” against the results.

“If the president is giving you almost an order to do something, I felt obligated to do that,” Thompson said, adding that he felt as though he “had to do something to gain his respect or, like, approval,” NBC News reported.

Prosecutors pushed back strongly against that position, reportedly calling it a distraction and urging the jury to stay focused.

“He wants you to think you have to choose between President Trump and his client, Mr. Thompson, right? That you can only find that one of them committed a crime that day or that one of them is worse than the other,” Assistant U.S. Attorney William Dreher said to the jury in closing arguments, according to a Politico report. “Ladies and gentlemen, you don’t have to choose.”

“This is not president Trump’s criminal trial,” Dreher also said. “It is not up to you to decide whether anyone other than the defendant should be prosecuted for any of the crimes charged. The fact that another person may also be guilty is no defense of a criminal charge. The question of the possible guilt of others should not enter your thinking.”

After the verdict was announced Thursday, Senior U.S. District Judge Reggie Walton ordered Thompson detained until sentencing.

“You make your bed, you lie in it,” Walton, a George W. Bush appointee, reportedly said.

Walton said that he believed Thompson wasn’t candid during his trial testimony, which raised concerns about releasing him before sentencing, Politico’s Kyle Cheney reported.

The judge also took the opportunity to express grave concerns about the impact of Jan. 6 and the elected officials who whipped credulous followers into a frenzy, priming them for the violent attack that temporarily halted what’s often referred to as the very example of a successful democracy: the peaceful transition of power.

“I think our democracy is in trouble because, unfortunately, we have charlatans like our former president who doesn’t, in my view, really care about democracy but only about power,” Walton said, according to Politico.

Walton also had harsh words for Thompson, describing him as “weak-minded,” “gullible,” and unable to tell the difference between Trump’s false claims of voter fraud and reality.

Thursday’s conviction is the third jury trial resulting in a clean-sweep conviction of a Jan. 6 defendant. Guy Reffitt, a member of a militia group whose name is based on a lie, and Thomas Robertson, a former Virginia police officer, were both convicted on all counts.

Prosecutors have had somewhat less success in two bench trials, which are tried before a judge only. Matthew Martin, who testified that Jan. 6 was a “magical day,” was fully acquitted, and “Cowboys for Trump” founder Couy Griffin was convicted of a single misdemeanor and acquitted of another. Both cases were before U.S. District Judge Trevor McFadden, a Trump appointee.

[Images via FBI court filings.]

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