Goshen man convicted of attacking cop on Jan. 6 asks judge to override jury on four counts

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A Goshen man awaiting sentencing for assaulting a cop outside the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6 is asking a judge to throw out four charges of which a jury convicted him, arguing the metal flagpole he brandished can't be considered a dangerous weapon.

A federal jury found Thomas Webster guilty on all six charges against him May 2, deliberating for less than three hours after a trial that lasted three days and included testimony from both Webster and the cop he tackled after charging past police barriers. Webster, a 56-year-old retired New York City police officer and former Marine, is set to be sentenced by District Court Judge Amit Mehta in Washington, D.C. on Sept. 2.

Thomas Webster, a former New York City police officer, is among those arrested and charged for participating in the Capitol riot.
Thomas Webster, a former New York City police officer, is among those arrested and charged for participating in the Capitol riot.

In a motion filed last month, Webster's attorney asked Mehta to overrule much of the jury's verdict by acquitting him on the four counts that involved the use of a "deadly or dangerous weapon," a factor that raised the seriousness of each charge. The weapon was an aluminum pole that initially held a Marines flag and that Webster then wielded after smashing it in half on one of the bicycle racks police had lined up as a crowd barrier.

Guilty:Jury convicts Thomas Webster on all counts for assaulting cop during Jan. 6 Capitol riot

Early case:Retired NYPD cop from Goshen is fourth riot suspect in U.S. to face jury trial

Defense claim:Prosecutors seek to bar self-defense argument in Capitol riot case

Webster's attorney, James Monroe of Goshen, argues that prosecutors failed to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that Webster's truncated flagpole was deadly or dangerous and that he intended to use it as a weapon against Officer Noah Rathbun of the D.C. Metropolitan Police. On the contrary, Monroe said, Webster deliberately held the pole away from Rathbun as he berated and challenged him from behind the barrier, so that the officer wouldn't see the pole as a threat.

Thomas Webster of Goshen is shown grabbing the gas mask of a police officer outside the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6 in an image prosecutors provided in court papers.
Thomas Webster of Goshen is shown grabbing the gas mask of a police officer outside the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6 in an image prosecutors provided in court papers.

Webster swung the pole toward the officer only after Rathbun punched him in the face, and he did so then solely to keep Rathbun from hitting him again, Monroe wrote in the court motion. He argued that Webster briefly used the pole as "a deterrent in self-defense" after Rathbun's "initial excessive use of force."

Assistant U.S. attorneys Hava Mirell and Brian Kelley urged Mehta to reject the acquittal motion, noting in their response that the jury had rejected Webster's self-defense claim by convicting him on all counts. They argue that Rathbun, "standing mere inches away" as Webster slammed his pole with enough force to break it in half, was "clearly at risk of bodily injury or death." They deny the officer punched Webster, saying he merely held up an open hand "to create distance between himself and the defendant."

Their response included excerpts from what both Webster and Rathbun said during their trial about the role the flagpole played in their altercation.

"He had used it as a weapon, and, you know, held it back and struck towards me several times and officers standing next to me in a chopping motion," Rathbun said. "He had hit the fence, you could hear it hit the fence. That was the loud metal sound that you heard. And then our perimeter had to take a step back."

Webster testified he held the pole upright and from the bottom so it wouldn't "look like I’m presenting a danger" to Rathbun. He said he later tackled Rathbun for self-protection after the officer grabbed the broken pole away from him.

“Officer Rathbun has my flagpole now, and at that point, there’s a sharp edge, because it broke, and he’s standing in the on-guard position, and I’m like, okay, you know, I have to protect myself," Webster recounted in court. "So as we make contact, he kind of like goes to the ground."

Prosecutors argue that very acknowledgment - that Webster felt endangered by the severed metal pole Rathbun took from him - validated his conviction on charges of using a dangerous weapon.

"As the government explained in its closing argument at trial, if the metal flagpole was a potential weapon in Officer Rathbun’s hands, then it was also a weapon in the defendant’s," they wrote.

Webster was convicted of two felonies and four misdemeanors or lower-level offenses. Acquitting him of the weapon-related charges would shrink his conviction to one felony count of civil disorder and a low-level offense of engaging in violence on the Capitol grounds. As of Wednesday, Mehta hadn't decided on the acquittal motion.

Webster is one of 13 men from the Hudson Valley and more than 800 total defendants from around the U.S. who have been charged with participating in the pro-Trump riot at the Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021. Webster was the first Hudson Valley defendant to stand trial. Three others have pleaded guilty to misdemeanors for illegally entering the Capitol.

Chris McKenna covers government and politics for the Times Herald-Record and USA Today Network. Reach him at cmckenna@th-record.com

This article originally appeared on Times Herald-Record: Goshen man convicted of Jan. 6 cop assault seeks partial jury reversal