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Friday, June 21, 2024

D.C. Court Rejects NYPD Vet’s Claim of Biased Jury over 10-Yr Sentence for J6 Uprising

'[T]he political inclinations of a populace writ large say nothing about an individual’s ability to serve impartially in adjudicating the criminal conduct of an individual...'

(Headline USA) A federal appeals court on Tuesday upheld a retired New York Police Department officer’s conviction and 10-year prison sentence for assaulting a police officer during the Jan. 6, 2021, uprising at the U.S. Capitol.

A three-judge panel from the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit rejected Thomas Webster’s argument that he was convicted by a biased jury.

Webster, a 20-year NYPD veteran, said that the entire jury pool in Washington, D.C., was “presumptively prejudiced” against him. But the panel found no evidence that the jury pool had any preconceived notions about Webster, “or even knew who he was.”

Jurors rejected Webster’s claim that he was defending himself when he tackled Metropolitan Police Department officer Noah Rathbun and grabbed his gas mask.

They convicted Webster of all six counts in his indictment, including a charge that he assaulted Rathbun with a dangerous weapon, a flagpole.

Webster drove to Washington from his home near Goshen, New York, to attend then-President Donald Trump’s “Save America” rally near the White House on Jan. 6. Webster was wearing a bulletproof vest and carrying a Marine Corps flag on a metal pole when he joined the hundreds of mostly peaceful sightseers entering the Capitol.

Trump nominated two of the three judges who decided Webster’s appeal.

The event quickly turned tragic, however, after Capitol Police Lt. Michael Byrd shot and killed military veteran Ashli Babbitt, who was trying to enter a closed-off area through a broken door.

The DOJ has gone on to prosecute an estimated 1,200 participants for their involvement in the protest, which sought to disrupt the certification of the Electoral College vote for Democrat Joe Biden in what many consider to have been a stolen 2020 election.

The appellate court panel said Webster hadn’t shown that the jury pool in Washington was “structurally incapable” of producing fair juries for Jan. 6 defendants.

“Webster asserts that the District overwhelmingly voted for President Biden and historically votes for Democratic candidates,” the ruling says. “That may be. But the political inclinations of a populace writ large say nothing about an individual’s ability to serve impartially in adjudicating the criminal conduct of an individual.”

Webster’s 10-year prison sentence is one of the longest among hundreds of Jan. 6 cases. He was the first j6 defendant to be tried on an assault charge and the first to present a self-defense argument.

Over 850 people have been sentenced for Capitol riot convictions. Only 10 of them have received a longer prison sentence than Webster, according to an Associated Press review of court records.

The panel rejected his argument that the length of his sentence was “substantively unreasonable” compared to other Capitol riot defendants.

Adapted from reporting by the Associated Press

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