On Monday, a former New York police officer became the first person convicted of assaulting a police officer during the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol.
Thomas Webster was the first Jan. 6 defendant to claim he had been acting in self-defense. Webster worked for the New York Police Department for roughly two decades, and he’s among several former law enforcement officials charged in connection with last year’s attack.
Call it what you want — muscle memory or sheer gall — but Webster’s defense argument had a familiar feel to it. Like a crooked officer, Webster claimed he’d been provoked by Washington, D.C., police Officer Noah Rathbun, whose body camera video showed Webster repeatedly swinging a flagpole at him.
Perhaps someone should have reminded Webster he’s not a police officer anymore and such excuses for extrajudicial beatings don’t carry the same weight they might have in years past, especially when used to justify beating police officers.
According to The Associated Press, it didn’t take jurors long to reach a decision:
Jurors deliberated for less than three hours before they convicted Webster of all six counts in his indictment, including a charge that he assaulted Metropolitan Police Department officer Noah Rathbun with a dangerous weapon, a metal flagpole. The assault charge alone is punishable by up to 20 years in prison, although sentencing guidelines likely will recommend a significantly shorter prison term.
Nearly 800 defendants have been charged in connection with the Jan. 6 attack, and more than 250 have pleaded guilty, according to NBC News. Several of them received minor sentencing recommendations from prosecutors, to the dismay of some judges. Webster’s case may ultimately fall in that same vein, but its unique severity (at least as determined by a jury) could also cause him to receive more than a mere slap on the wrist.