Court Battles

Lawyers for alleged Capitol rioters to blame election misinformation, conspiracy theories

Multiple lawyers defending individuals accused of participating in the deadly Jan. 6 Capitol riot are blaming misinformation and conspiracy theories for their clients’ actions, hoping it will inspire sympathy.

Speaking to The Associated Press, three lawyers representing defendants charged in connection with the violent riot said they plan to blame misinformation, much of it spread by former President Trump, for deceiving their clients.

Albert Watkins, who is representing so-called QAnon Shaman Jacob Chansley, 33, compared misinformation regarding the election to brainwashing or a cult.

“He is not crazy,” Watkins said of his client. “The people who fell in love with [cult leader] Jim Jones and went down to Guyana, they had husbands and wives and lives. And then they drank the Kool-Aid.”

However, one expert, Christopher Slobogin, who is the director of Vanderbilt Law School’s Criminal Justice Program, told the AP that he has never seen such a defense win.

“I’m not blaming defense attorneys for bringing this up,” Slobogin told the AP. “You pull out all the stops and make all the arguments you can make.”

“But just because you have a fixed, false belief that the election was stolen doesn’t mean you can storm the Capitol,” he added.

Lawyers representing Bruno Joseph Cua, 19, accused of shoving a police officer outside the U.S. Senate chamber, blamed his inflammatory statements on social media. One of his attorneys, Jonathan Jeffress, said his client was “parroting what he heard and saw on social media. Mr. Cua did not come up with these ideas on his own; he was fed them.”

One of the defendants, Anthony Antonio, 27, told the AP that he had not been interested in politics before boredom brought on by the pandemic led him to right-wing social media and conservative news channels. After his work was shut down, he said he would watch Fox News all day with his roomates.

Antonio is accused of throwing a water bottle at a police officer, destroying furniture and screaming “You want war? We got war. 1776 all over again” at officers, the AP reports.

Antonio’s lawyer, Joseph Hurley, told the AP that he plans to argue that his client was an impressionable person who was exploited by Trump and his allies, likening misinformation to a disease.

He clarified that misinformation “is not a defense. It’s not. But it will be brought up to say: This is why he was here. The reason he was there is because he was a dumbass and believed what he heard on Fox News.”

Tags Brainwashing Conspiracy theories in the United States Donald Trump Fake News Far-right politics in the United States Jake Angeli misinformation QAnon Storming of the United States Capitol trumpism
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