The events of January 6th were extraordinary, and perhaps our desensitization to the storming of the US Capitol has come on account of the rapid-fire nature of our news media these days.
We see that violent incident as “old news” already, despite the sever nature of what occurred.
As court cases springing from the attempted insurrection continue to play out around the nation, many of the rioters are claiming that they had been “instructed” or otherwise encouraged to participate in the illegal act by then-President Donald Trump.
One judge in Kansas doesn’t care much for that defense.
At a bail hearing Tuesday for a Proud Boy member from Kansas accused of storming the Capitol, Chief U.S. District Court Judge Beryl Howell said she was dubious about the legal merit of the effort to shift blame toward the former president and his inflammatory rhetoric about the election.
“This purported defense, if recognized, would undermine the rule of law,” Howell said during the videoconference court session for William Chrestman, 47. “Then, just like a king or a dictator, the president could dictate what would be legal and what isn’t in this country, and that is not how we operate here.”
The defense’s argument mimicked several other cases already in progress.
Lawyers for Chrestman pointed to several Supreme Court cases that they said indicated that guidance from government officials can sometimes be a defense against criminal charges. They said Trump’s encouragement amounted to that kind of all-clear for those who forced their way into the Capitol during the counting of Electoral College votes on Jan. 6.
“Only someone who thought they had an official endorsement would even attempt such a thing. And a Proud Boy who had been paying attention would very much believe he did,” Chrestman’s lawyers, Kirk Redmond and Chekasha Ramsey, wrote in a court filing last week.
Trump’s acquittal in the Senate, over his “incitement of an insurrection”, could throw water on this defense theory as well, as it adds a bit of weight to the idea that Donald Trump’s words didn’t cause the insurrection.