By Holmes Lybrand, CNN
In the sixth Capitol riot trial, a January 6 defendant’s hope for an acquittal seemingly rests on the jury believing he tackled a DC police officer in self-defense.
Thomas Webster, a 56-year-old Marine Corps veteran and retired police officer from the New York Police Department who faces six charges for his actions that day, told the jury Thursday that he was trying to defend himself against a “rogue” cop who assaulted him first and that he only grabbed the officer’s gas mask after tackling the officer so he “could see my hands.”
The defendant said he was originally conflicted about attending the “Stop the Steal” rally and found the speeches unimpressive, adding that he went up to the front of the US Capitol after seeing people walking away with injuries, telling the jury he was “programmed” to help in those instances.
According to Webster, he only tackled the officer, Noah Rathbun, after Rathbun taunted him to come across the fence line for a fight and punched him in the head. The hit, Webster said, was “like getting hit with a hammer,” adding that he started seeing stars and was scared.
Webster’s telling of the event ran in almost complete contradiction to officer Rathbun’s testimony Wednesday. According to Rathbun, it was Webster who taunted him to fight, yelling for the officer to “take my shit off,” Rathbun testified. The officer also says he never punched Webster and only “made contact incidentally with his face” after Webster continued to push against the metal fence separating the rioters and police.
After the contact, Webster says he swung his flagpole at the metal fence to ward off Rathbun. “I was seeing stars,” Webster testified.
According to Webster, Rathbun then separated the fencing. “He’s coming after me,” Webster testified thinking at the time, “I’m afraid. He’s gone rogue.”
He then ran at Rathbun and the officer “kind of fell down,” Webster said, adding that he “grabbed the filter” of Rathbun’s gas mask “and just pushed up.”
“I just wanted him to see my hands,” Webster testified. “It was scary … he was fighting back.”
It was here that Rathbun testified he “was not able to breathe” because Webster was pulling his chin strap up into his neck.
“He knocked me down … grabbed my helmet and started pulling me,” Rathbun said Wednesday.
Webster will continue his testimony Friday morning with Judge Amit Mehta presiding.
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