NYPD veteran becomes first person convicted for assault of a police officer during Capitol riot

Thomas Webster claimed he was targeted by a "rogue" cop during the violent encounter

By Jon Skolnik

Published May 2, 2022 7:05PM (EDT)

Protesters gather on the second day of pro-Trump events fueled by President Donald Trump's continued claims of election fraud in an attempt to overturn the results before Congress finalizes them in a joint session of the 117th Congress on Wednesday, Jan. 6, 2021 in Washington, DC. (Kent Nishimura / Los Angeles Times via Getty Images)
Protesters gather on the second day of pro-Trump events fueled by President Donald Trump's continued claims of election fraud in an attempt to overturn the results before Congress finalizes them in a joint session of the 117th Congress on Wednesday, Jan. 6, 2021 in Washington, DC. (Kent Nishimura / Los Angeles Times via Getty Images)

An NYPD veteran was convicted on Monday for participating in the Capitol riot and assaulting a D.C. police officer, putting to rest claims that he defended himself in the fatal insurrection. 

Thomas Webster, 56, who served in the NYPD for two decades, was convicted on six separate charges stemming from his violent encounter with the D.C. police. He faces up to twenty years in prison. 

"This case is about rage," one of the prosecutors, Brian Kelly, claimed during closing arguments on Friday. "His actions speak for themselves."

During the trial, Webster argued that he was protecting himself from a "rogue" cop, D.C. officer Noah Rathbun. 

"Are we ever going to accept police misconduct?" Webster's defense attorney, James Monroe, asked the jury at one point. "We're dealing with a bad cop."

RELATED: Capitol rioter begs to stay out of jail, says she has already lost her job and marriage

But Rathbun claimed that he never provoked Webster to engage in a violent confrontation. 


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According to the Associated Press, Webster trekked all the way out to D.C. from his home in Goshen, New York, donning a bulletproof vest and a U.S. Marine Corps flagpole, which he used to assault Rathbun.

During his violent encounter, Rathbun reportedly grabbed the flagpole and tackled Webster to the ground, where Webster grabbed the officer by his gas mask. While on the ground, Rathbun said, he began choking because Webster was pressing the chinstrap on his mask against his throat. 

The case marks the first in which a Capital rioter has invoked the right to self-defense. It's also the first time a participant in the insurrection has been tried on an assault charge, as Axios noted. 

Doris Spruell, a juror, told reporters that after he "looked at all the evidence," he felt that "there was no grounds for self-defense. The video, I think, clearly showed that."

"The case that the government laid out was very comprehensive," said another juror, who added that they were "quite comfortable with the verdict."

RELATED: After Robert E. Lee comparison, first Capitol rioter convicted of a felony gets 8 months in prison

One juror said that the jury was "surprised that [Webster] would even make that defense argument."

"There was no dissention among us at all. We unanimously agreed that there was no self-defense argument here at all," they added. 

Webster retired from the NYPD in 2011 after serving for two decades. He was also in the U.S. Marine Corps from 1985 to 1989


Jon Skolnik

Jon Skolnik is a staff writer at Salon. His work has appeared in Current Affairs, The Baffler, and The New York Daily News.

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