Retired N.Y.P.D Charged in Capitol Riot
Thomas Webster turned himself in on allegations that, during the Jan. 6 assault on Congress, he attacked a Washington police officer with a flagpole.
On Tuesday, a former New York police officer who was once part of the safety detail at City Hall was accused of hitting a police officer with a metal flagpole during the Jan. 6 pro-Trump riot at the Capitol.
According to a law enforcement official, the former officer, Thomas Webster, served in a New York Police Department unit which provided security for the mayor, Gracie Mansion and City Hall. In 2011, he retired from the military.
On Monday, Mr. Webster, 54, a retired Marine, surrendered to the F.B.I. and was charged with six counts related to the assault on a Metropolitan Police Department officer in Washington, D.C., and his role in the violent effort to stop Congress from certifying the results of the presidential election.
There were recordings of Mr. Webster assaulting the Washington officer, first with a metal flagpole that had previously flown the flag of the Marine Corps, and then with his bare hands, a federal prosecutor said.
According to court records, the former Marine tackled the officer, pinned him to the ground, straddled him and tried to pull off his face shield and gas mask after the officer wrestled the flagpole away from Mr. Webster, an assault that left the officer unable to breathe.
"The conscience is shocked by these videos," the lawyer, Benjamin A. Gianforti, said. He said Mr. Webster had displayed a total lack of humanity and had followed the officer he was targeting "like a junkyard dog." The officer was not immediately identified by the government.
Forcible attack of a U.S. officer with a deadly weapon, which carries a maximum sentence of 20 years in jail, is among the most severe charges Mr. Webster faces.
Practically appearing in White Plains, N.Y., before a federal magistrate judge, Mr. Webster did not deny that he participated in three different videos of the attack captured on Jan. 6.
James Monroe, Mr. Webster's lawyer, said his client had come to the Capitol to join in a legal demonstration because he found the election to be unfair. After the officer punched him, the lawyer said Mr. Webster had behaved in self-defense.
He went there to protest as an American citizen, an action that our former president urged to protest against a problem that Tom felt very strongly about," he said." "The Constitution protects that."
Mr. Gianforti said he found no evidence in the videos that the officer had punched Mr. Webster prior to the attack.
Mr. Webster, who is married with three children, owns a landscaping company called Semper Fi Landscape and Design, named for the Marine Corps motto, in Florida, N.Y., about 65 miles from New York City. Never before has he been arrested.
He turned in almost seven weeks after the Capitol riot and almost a month after the F.B.I. posted pictures of him online and said it was seeking the help of the public in finding him.
The judge, Andrew E. Krause, agreed with the prosecutor in court proceedings on Tuesday that the images he saw of the conduct of Mr. Webster were disturbing.
Judge Krause admitted that Mr. Webster was a model citizen prior to Jan. 6 and said he considered it to be a challenging case. But he said the "proud and impressive record" of Mr. Webster as a public servant made the video of his assault on the officer all the more disturbing.
The judge eventually noted that the "undercurrent of political hostility" that seemed to have led a person with a previously exemplary life to behave in a violent manner had not dissipated, and Mr. Webster may still be considered a public safety threat. Pending another hearing, he ordered him to be detained without bail.
On Tuesday, a Republican Party district leader in Queens, who referred to himself on Facebook as "the Republican messiah," was accused of being among the rioters who broke into the Capitol in another case related to the Jan. 6 riot.
The district chief, Philip Grillo, was caught on surveillance footage entering the Capitol through a broken window, according to court records. He faces charges of breaching a restricted building and interfering with government business actions.
Mr. Grillo, 46, was arrested in Glen Oaks, Queens, at his girlfriend's home on Monday. He was released on an unsecured bail of $100,000, with his travel limited to New York, Long Island and Washington in order to appear in court.
Mr. Grillo, a proud supporter of Mr. Trump, referred to the 24th Assembly District on his Facebook page where he is the local Republican Party chief as "the hometown district of President Trump." On Tuesday, he appeared literally before a federal magistrate judge in Brooklyn.
Unpaid party officials are district representatives who help register party members, select candidates and ensure that their parties are represented on Election Day at polling sites.
He was deeply surprised and saddened by the accusations, Eric Ulrich, a Republican New York City Council member serving a district south of Mr. Grillo's in Queens, said.
"If the charges he faces are proven to be true, then he must be held responsible," Mr. Ulrich said. "It is necessary to hold accountable anyone who was involved in the insurrection."