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Former NYPD officer receives longest sentence of any Jan. 6 defendant to date

Capitol rioter sentenced to 10 years
Former NYPD officer sentenced to 10 years in prison for his part in Capitol riot 04:40

Washington — The former New York Police Department officer convicted of assaulting law enforcement during the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol was sentenced to 10 years in prison, a federal judge ruled Thursday, the longest prison sentence so far imposed in the sprawling investigation. 

Thomas Webster, who is also a Marine Corps veteran, was convicted by a jury in May on multiple charges stemming from his membership in the mob, including assaulting officers and violent and disorderly conduct on Capitol grounds.

Mehta handed down a sentence of 120 months in prison and 36 months of supervised release, in deference to Webster's 25 years of service as a police officer and Marine and and his later signaling of remorse for his actions.

Webster was released on 24-hour home detention following the guilty verdicts, but prosecutors asked Judge Amit Mehta to impose the stiffest sentence yet — up to 210 months behind bars — in the hundreds of Jan. 6 prosecutions that have made it to sentencing. 

In court documents filed ahead of Thursday's sentencing, the Justice Department argued Webster "spearheaded" a breach against the police line on the Capitol's west front and was responsible for "disgracing a democracy that he once fought honorably to protect and serve."

"Notwithstanding his background and training, Webster did not try to de-escalate the situation or leave the premises," the government wrote, "Instead, he led the charge. Webster spent eight minutes elbowing his way through the densely packed crowd so that he could position himself at the front of the mob." 

But in pre-sentencing documents of his own, Webster disavowed claims of fraud in the 2020 election and included a letter of support from a friend who blames former President Trump for "despicable lies."

Noting the defendant turned himself in to investigators shortly after the attack, Webster's defense attorney James Monroe conceded that his client's crimes were "unmistakably violent and reprehensible," but asked the court to consider his history as a father, officer, and Marine. 

In court on Thursday, Mehta urged the public to consider Webster's case in the context of ongoing threats to democracy. 

"We simply cannot have a country where people on the losing side of an election think you can use violence to change the result," he said.

"You contributed to one of the darkest days in the history of the country," Mehta told Webster. 

Webster's sentencing, which was lower than the maximum, acknowledged the defendant's prior service. "I don't think you are a bad person. I think you got caught up in the moment," Mehta said. "And getting caught up in the moment has consequences."

Webster's trial spanned four days and hinged on conflicting accounts of the altercation between Webster and District of Columbia police officer Noah Rathbun outside the Capitol building on Jan. 6.

Prosecutors said that on the morning of the attack, Webster made his way to the front of the crowd of Trump supporters assembled at the law enforcement perimeter meant to protect the lawmakers inside the Capitol. 

After crossing onto restricted grounds, the government alleged Webster yelled at one of officers, "You f***ing piece of shit. You f***ing Commie motherf***ers, man." He then allegedly used the flagpole against the officer, swinging over the police line. 

The government accused Webster of tackling Rathbun to the ground, pushing against his gas mask, and ultimately pinning the officer to the group, attacks that were captured on police bodycam and open-source videos. 

"He threw me to the ground," Rathbun told the jury. "I didn't provoke this encounter. 

But Webster's description of the event was far different — he claimed he was the victim of a "rogue" police officer who had "punched" him in the face, a claim Rathbun flatly denied. 

Mehta later called this account "utterly fanciful" ahead of sentencing Thursday. Webster, visibly emotional, apologized to Rathbun, who was in the room at the time.

Ultimately, the jury only took hours to conclude otherwise, finding Webster guilty on all counts. 

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