Washington DC: An Ohio man charged with storming the U.S. Capitol and stealing a coat rack testified that he joined thousands of protesters in ransacking the building last year on what he thought were orders from the president, Donald Trump.
Dustin Byron Thompson, 38, of Columbus, Ohio, said Wednesday he took to websites after being laid off from his exterminator job in March 2020 and in his pandemic doldrums fell under Trump’s sway as he bought into conspiracy theories and “went down the rabbit hole on the internet.”
On trial in U.S. District Court in Washington, Thompson testified that the claim that the election was stolen seemed credible to him because it was coming from the president. His defense team is the first to argue that Trump and those connected to him were responsible for the actions of the mob that day.
“It seems like everyone was attacking him (Trump). He needed someone to stand up for him, and I was trying to do that,” Thompson said.
Under questioning by the prosecution, Thompson acknowledged that he ignored signs he shouldn’t be at the Capitol — broken glass, alarms, chemical irritants in the air — and said he stole the coat rack to keep others from using it as a weapon. He also said he witnessed fierce fighting between police and rioters outside the building, and later ran away from officers. He said he realized weeks later that what he had done was wrong and now feels shame for his actions.
Much of the prosecution’s case was built around testimony from several Capitol Police officers placing Thompson at the scene, wearing a bulletproof vest that he said he found and carrying a coat rack he took from the Senate Parliamentarian’s Office.
More than 770 people have been charged with federal crimes arising from the Jan. 6, 2021, riot. Over 250 of them have pleaded guilty, mostly to misdemeanors.