WASHINGTON — A federal judge ruled Wednesday that then-President Donald Trump’s remarks on Jan. 6, 2021, when he told a crowd to “fight like hell” ahead of the attack on the Capitol, may have signaled to his supporters that he wanted to that they “did something more”. than just protest.
In an injunction in the Jan. 6 case against defendant Alexander Sheppard, U.S. District Judge John Bates ruled that Sheppard was unable to raise the “public authority” defense at trial after his lawyer plot Trump had authorized his client’s actions on Capitol Hill that day.
Bates, who was appointed to the court by President George W. Bush, rejected that argument, ruling that “President Trump did not state or imply that entering the restricted area of the Capitol grounds and the Capitol building or preventing the certification of the electoral vote was lawful” and that, therefore, a defense of public authority was not viable.
“These words only encourage those in the demonstration to march on the Capitol, nothing more, and do not address legality at all. But although his express words only mention walking down Pennsylvania Avenue toward the Capitol, one might conclude that the context implies that he was urging the protesters to do something else, perhaps enter the Capitol building and stop the certification,” Bates wrote.
In a footnote, Bates noted that his decision was not at odds with the committee’s final report on Jan. 6, which concluded that Trump acted “corruptly” because he knew stopping certification was illegal.
His ruling was the first to cite the House panel report since it was made public last week.
Bates further said that phrases cited by the committee, such as “fight like hell,” could “signal to protesters that entering the Capitol and stopping certification would be illegal.”
“Therefore, the conclusions reached here, that even if the protesters believed they were following orders, they were not misled about the legality of their actions and therefore fall outside the scope of any defense of authority. public, is consistent with the findings of the Select Committee,” Bates. wrote.
He went on to say that there was “just no indication” that Trump would inform the crowd that entering the Capitol would be legal.
“His speech simply suggests that it would be an act of ‘daring’ to ‘stop the theft,'” Bates wrote.
Several other defendants have attempted to raise the defense of public authority, included Danny Rodriguez, the MAGA hat-wearing rioter from Jan. 6 who shoved a taser into the neck of Michael Fanone, then a Washington, DC police officer.
The strategy of blaming Trump has not been effective in the trial. Dustin Thompson, who was convicted on all counts, told jurors that he was seeking Trump’s “approval” and that he thought he was “following presidential orders.” Thompson was sentenced to three years in federal prison for stealing a coat rack and a bottle of liquor while he stormed the Capitol.
In a filing in the Sheppard case this month, the Justice Department plot it was “factually unreasonable to conclude that President Trump or any other Executive Branch official could authorize citizens to engage in violent or aggressive conduct against law enforcement officers and interfere with ongoing Electoral College proceedings,” and He said Trump’s speech did not inform Sheppard that his conduct was legal.