“Donald made me do it!”
That’s been the prevailing defense used in the cases being brought against those who stormed the US Capitol on January 6th, after Trump and his associates spoke to a massive crowd in Washington DC earlier that day.
Lawyers in several cases stemming from the incident have attempted to use that defense, and without much luck.
In Kansas, one judge rebuked the idea with some serious gusto.
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 was right in line with several other cases being adjudicated concurrently.
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.
The defense attorneys also cited Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell’s statement following Trump’s impeachment trial that those who besieged the Capitol “believed they were acting on the wishes and instructions of their President.”
New cases are springing up weekly in the case of the Capitol attack, as authorities continue to identify and apprehend additional suspects.