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Ohio man who argued he was "directed" by Trump to join the Jan. 6 Capitol riot convicted on all counts

Washington – After less than three hours of deliberations, a Washington, D.C., jury found Dustin Thompson guilty of multiple charges stemming from his participation in the January 6, 2021, Capitol assault, including obstructing Congress' certification of the Electoral College votes and stealing liquor and a coat rack from the Capitol building. 

He likely faces a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison. 

The Ohio man was first charged in the weeks following the Capitol breach with co-defendant, Robert Lyon. Investigators say they drove together to the Washington area ahead of the attack and later took an Uber to former President Trump's "Save America" rally in the heart of the city.

Dustin Thompson, Jan. 6 defendant, seen on Jan. 6, 2021, at the U.S. Capitol. Government exhibit

Thompson allegedly donned a Trump 2020 winter hat and a bulletproof vest, as he and Lyon marched towards the Capitol, joining the mob as they stormed the building. Thompson was then accused of stealing a coat rack and a bottle of bourbon. Following the riot, court documents alleged U.S. Capitol Police officers stopped the pair. Thompson fled the scene, but Lyon "was cooperative and did not attempt to flee," charging documents said. 

Last month, Lyon pleaded guilty to two misdemeanor counts on a superseding indictment; each count carries a maximum sentence of one year in prison. He has not yet been sentenced. 

But Thompson chose a different legal strategy, fighting the counts that ultimately brought him before a jury. He didn't deny he had taken part in the breach and instead argued that at the time, he believed that Trump's speech near the White House authorized his actions.

During that rally, Trump used incendiary language like "fight like hell" and told the crowd he would join them in marching to the Capitol to contest the 2020 election results.

"It is hard to imagine a more striking example than the President of the United States directly instructing an individual to engage in the precise conduct for which he is later indicted," Thompson's legal team argued in pretrial briefs. His lawyers even asked the court's permission to call the former president and his allies as witnesses in the trial. 

"Mr. Trump and his conspirators engaged in a concerted effort to deceive the public, including Defendant, into believing that American democracy was at stake if Congress was permitted to certify the election results," they argued. 

But Judge Reggie Walton, who oversaw the jury trial, denied Thompson's request that Trump testify, ruling it would be "inconceivable" that Trump or his allies who spoke at the ellipse on Jan. 6 would admit to directing the mob to commit acts of violence.  

"Doing so" the judge wrote last month, "could result in criminal charges being lodged against them."

In lieu of Trump's testimony, however, Thompson's defense attorney, Shamuel Shamansky played for the jury the former president's entire speech from that day, later calling the riot "shameless" and comparing Trump to a "gangster." 

"I'm going to ask you in your heart and in your head to do the right thing," he said Thursday, imploring the jury to believe that his client truly thought he was acting on Trump's orders. 

Thompson also testified in his own defense. 

But prosecutors successfully convinced the jury to separate the words of the former president from Thompson's alleged crimes. 

The defense, prosecutors said, "wants you to think that you have to choose between President Trump and his client, Mr. Thompson…that you can over find that one of them committed a crime that day." 

"Ladies and gentlemen, you don't have to choose because this is not President Trump's criminal trial." 

After the jury convicted Thompson on all six counts, Walton ordered Thompson jailed pending a July sentencing date.

"His conduct in my view was reprehensible," the judge said Thursday, "He's got to do time." 

Thompson was then stripped of his tie, belt, phone, wallet, and suit jacket before being handcuffed from behind and brought out of the courtroom into federal custody.  

He is the third January 6 defendant to be convicted by a jury on all counts. Two other defendants, Couy Griffin and Matthew Martin, were partially and fully acquitted of their misdemeanor charges after opting for a bench trial before a judge instead of facing a jury. 

Thompson will be sentenced on July 20. 

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