A federal judge said on Wednesday that former President Donald Trump may have encouraged his supporters to break the law when he told them to go to the Capitol on January 6 to protest what they felt was a fraudulent and unfair election result.
U.S. District Judge John Bates was hearing a case against one of the protesters who entered the Capitol on January 6, Alexander Sheppard, and ruled that he could not use the “public authority” defense in the case.
The public authority defense says that those who breached the Capitol on January 6 were acting on orders from Trump and that he led them to believe it was legal to enter the building.
Defendants still responsible
But Bates pointed out that while Trump did tell supporters to go to the Capitol, he did not say it was legal to enter the building.
In fact, Bates said Trump’s words could have suggested the opposite. “[Trump’s words] could signal to protesters that entering the Capitol and stopping the certification would be unlawful,” Bates determined.
Furthermore, people still bore responsibility for their actions in listening to Trump and following his suggestion (not an order) to go to the Capitol, the judge said.
Bates used the criminal referrals against Trump for aiding or inciting an insurrection, conspiracy to make a false statement, conspiracy to defraud the United States, and obstruction of an official proceeding to suggest that Trump may have meant to give the crowd permission to breach the Capitol.
Trump didn’t actually tell anyone to enter the Capitol, but he did use vague language about “stopping” the certification of Electoral College votes that was taking place at the time.
Response and arrests
After police cleared the building of protesters, the votes were still certified, which killed any chance Trump had of overturning the election.
But the way the media and Democrats turned on Trump and those who entered the Capitol led to the arrest of hundreds of people, some of which have now been held in jail for over a year while awaiting trial on what should be a minor trespassing charge in most cases.
Sheppard was arrested in February 2021 and is still having his case heard and decided 22 months later.
He has pleaded not guilty to five charges against him, which include knowingly entering or remaining in any restricted building or grounds without lawful authority; disorderly conduct which impedes the conduct of government business; violent entry and disorderly conduct on Capitol ground; parading, demonstrating, or picketing in the Capitol buildings; and obstruction of Congress.
Protesters acted freely
Seems like if 2,000 people really wanted to stop Congress from conducting its business, they would have been able to do so, police or no police.
Trump didn’t actually tell people to physically go into the Capitol and stop the certification. If he did, he’d be in jail right now instead of the protesters.