Retired NYPD cop Thomas Webster allegedly used a pipe of some sort to attack Capitol Police during the Jan. 6 pro-GOP insurrection. There is a hearing in his case today before the Southern District of New York. This is a thread.
Magistrate Judge Andrew E. Krause is presiding in this initial hearing. AUSA Ben Gianforte is appearing for the government. Defense attorney James Monroe is appearing on behalf of Webster. This is a remote hearing via Zoom and phone because of the pandemic, the judge notes.
The defense confirms that they last spoke this morning by phone. Webster, who is also on the line, is being asked to waive his right to appear in person. These are all pro forma questions. He waives the right: "Yes, I do."
Webster is sworn in under oath, using the "so help you God" permutation. Webster is 54, he notes. He has some college education. Says he is clear in his mind when asked. Government, court and defense agree he is competent. He surrendered to the FBI yesterday, Feb. 23rd, 2021.
D.C.-based FBI Agent Patricia Norton will swear to the facts of the criminal complaint. Judge notes that this complaint alleges six separate allegations. The judge then lists those allegations. Webster says he has not seen a copy of that criminal complaint. Neither has Monroe.
The defense isn't concerned, however, because they are familiar with the charges and are prepared to proceed. They waive a public reading of the complaint. Monroe attempts to enter a plea of not guilty. Judge says that's not yet necessary.
The defense also waives an identity hearing. The defense then attempts to waive a preliminary hearing (which they could have in NY where Webster surrendered.) Judge instead sets a date as a formality but notes the case will actually occur in Washington, D.C.
Now on to the real issue for today, bail: The government is seeking detention. The defense is applying for bail.
The judge says he has reviewed a total of three videos of the incident including bodycam footage of the officer attacked, a YouTube video, and a defense-supplied video that is also publicly available somewhere.
Gianforte up first.

"Webster, like so many other people that day, was caught on video engaging in an assault against a police officer with a dangerous weapon." Says the aforementioned pipe was actually an "aluminum pole" that was previously holding a U.S. Marine Corps flag.
"We see the defendant clear as day...attacking a police officer...first with that aluminum pole...then with his bare hands," AUSA says, adding that Webster tore the officer's protective gear off. Describes a "look of pure rage" on Webster's face and says his "teeth are gritted."
AUSA: We also hear the former Marine and NYPD cop Webster calling the CPD officer a "commie piece of shit...This is a cop calling another cop that." He then calls for "more patriots" and when he's close to the Capitol says he's "ready for more action."
AUSA recalls another Capitol rioter denied bail who attacked an officer with a police shield but who showed a moment of compassion. The juxtaposition: "Webster showed an utter lack of compassion. He goes after that cop like a junkyard dog. Teeth bared. Fists clenched."
AUSA notes that Webster was wearing a bulletproof vest. Says he was prepared "not only for violence, but armed violence." Though he has surrendered his own guns, says Webster is a man who has both "access to" and a "fondness for guns." Says that this is "disturbing."
AUSA anticipates defense. Says although the election is over, Webster was influenced by an extreme and violent ideology that is not "wiped from the mind overnight." Adds that this former Marine, who named his business after Semper Fi, was trying to "subvert" the Constitution.
AUSA says Webster also promised to surrender multiple items when turning himself in but did not turn in his phone or the jacket he wore to the riot—saying he allegedly lost the jacket in question. Suspicions cast: "Kindergartners lose their winter coats not full grown adults."
Monroe/defense starts out with character: a former Marine. No prior arrests. Says he went to D.C. for "a protest...He's not part of any group. The government's not going to find anything on the internet about Mr. Webster." Says the protest "was urged on by our former president."
This is a common theme among Jan. 6 defendants now. Arguing that Trump's influence was so strong they felt justified in their actions. Hasn't worked too well thus far—at least not during the pre-trial phase. Anyway...
Defense credits the government's argument about the Constitution. But says he thought he was defending the Constitution because of Trump's call to action. Defense objects to the AUSA "making fun of" his client for losing his red jacket. Says the jacket is not material here.
Defense says Webster is not a political activist. He's a regular citizen. "He did 20 years with the NYPD." This is a bad legal argument and it's factually incorrect. Joining and staying part of the NYPD, a notoriously brutal organization, is a decidedly political act and choice.
Defense continues to argue he's not a danger to the community. "He's in a terrific marriage, judge." Says he's got a good support network. Says the Constitution shouldn't permit pre-trial detention over just one isolated incident (this would be news for most criminal defendants.)
The judge is annoyed.

"We can dispense with the rhetoric and the hyperbole," Gianforte says to both sides. "I get it."

The court doesn't want any more "floral language." Says Webster could have possibly lost a jacket. Also says being denied bail is also very common.
Judge also doesn't want the government to mention prior cases very much: "Every case is different because every case involves different defendants...no one case is exactly the same as any other case. So I need to consider the unique factors in each individual circumstance."
Judge wants to know what the government is trying to "extrapolate" by mentioning Webster's bulletproof vest. Asks if any of the charges are related to that vest. AUSA concedes: no, we just mentioned it to argue against bail.
AUSA credits some of the defense's arguments regarding his prior service, job and family ties but says that this "cuts both ways." Notes that "some of the most violent ringleaders of the riot" were former military. If he's a "committed family man," then why was he there at all?
AUSA also says that the defense's invocation of the 8th Amendment (no cruel and unusual punishment) was clear hyperbole and is not implicated by being denied bail. Judge agrees there.
Defense says considering his military experience and Webster's status as a good husband is certainly within the bounds of whether to consider bail. (This is correct FWIW.)
AUSA says, in lieu of pre-trial detention, they would ask for a $200,000 bond, a stay-away order, various travel restrictions, prohibition on purchasing firearms, passport surrender, and other similar boilerplate, etc.
Judge: "I find this to be a difficult case, as some of these other cases have been arising out of the events of Jan. 6, 2021." Mentions the video which does "shock the conscience." Says he does "greatly value" the service provided by the military and domestic law enforcement.
Judge: Says that "makes it particularly troubling and perplexing" to weigh such public service against what happened in the video. He attacked the officer verbally, notes that's not a crime, then attacks the officer with a "metal pole."
Judge: "It doesn't resemble a flag pole at the time that Webster is done swinging it." Goes on to note that after the barricade is down, Webster charges and begins to wrestle with the D.C. police. Says this probably didn't happen when he was a cop.
Webster shouts to ask if he can say something. (!) Judge warns him against it. "I would say that's generally not a good idea." Notes he's not there to give legal advice but advises against it—asks if he wants to confer with his attorney instead. He does. Ten-minute recess now.
And we're back.

Defense attorney says his client brings up some good points. During his career as a Marine and NYPD cop, he never fired his weapon "towards another human being." Says "this man is of great restraint...This was his one and only protest."
Defense says the video looks bad but it was a "response" to being punched by the Capitol police officer.
AUSA Gianforte says "the full bodycamera footage" from the officer in question has "nothing in there" that suggests Webster was struck by the officer or any other officer. Calls the allegation "incredibly self-serving and likely a fabrication."
AUSA commends Webster for never firing his weapon at another person. Says there's reason to believe he had a gun on him when he stormed the Capitol and "that could have been the first time he fired at another person." (This is called a stretch. Hard to see how the court credits.)
Judge addresses claim of being punched beforehand. Says he didn't watch the entire bodycam footage but in the brief footage he saw, Webster wasn't even on the screen. "I cannot say for sure what happened or didn't happen before that. Or whether he may have been punched..."
Judge: Doesn't know how to assess the punching claim but doesn't have any evidence it's true. As for the protest, he says it doesn't really matter because Americans have free speech rights but the video "goes well beyond First Amendment speech and moves into criminal activity."
Judge: "The nature and the circumstances of the offense charged here strongly support detention. As does the weight of the evidence." But says that Webster's history and character weigh in favor of release. "He has been a productive and valuable member of society."
Judge: notes that Webster owns a business. Says pre-trial also advises release. Still...

"At the end of the day," the judge says, "Webster would pose a danger to the community."
BAIL DENIED FOR THOMAS WEBSTER:

"The undercurrents of political hostility" and other factors that led a "person who led an exemplary life" are still with us—but he's not a flight risk. "My determination in favor detention is based solely on the issue of danger to the community."
Above tweet is a bit unclear before the dash.

Essentially, the judge believes that Webster could be riled up again. He specifically mentioned that something like the events of Jan. 6 "could happen again."
Story to come for @lawcrimenews. Give the website a follow. Thanks for reading along.

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