Add “The mob made me do it” to the “Trump made me do it” excuse

Some of the people arrested in the January 6th insurrection are pleading that it was the mob that made them invade the Capitol building that day.

Christopher Grider said he came to Washington on Jan. 6 with no intention of rioting. But he got caught up in the mob of angry supporters of then-President Donald Trump as they surged into the U.S. Capitol, breaking through police barriers and smashing through doors.

It wasn’t his fault, he said, that he ended up inside the building with a yellow “Don’t Tread on Me” flag around his neck as lawmakers ran for their lives.

Grider, 39, a winery owner and former school teacher in Texas is among at least a dozen Capitol riot defendants identified by The Associated Press who have claimed their presence in the building was a result of being “caught up” in the hysteria of the crowd or that they were pushed inside by sheer force.

For some, blaming the mob is part of an attempt to restore reputations tarnished by their presence at an event of such infamy. Others may try to broach the issue at trial or at least during sentencing in bids for leniency.

Judges typically don’t let defendants assert at trial that outside influences, be it drugs or peer pressure, made them act as they did. Most judges would reject efforts by rioters’ lawyers to use any iteration of a blame-the-crowd defense, legal experts say.

Grider, accused of helping to break a glass door to the House chamber, never planned to storm the building, his lawyer has said in filings and comments to reporters after Grider, was charged with violent entry and disorderly conduct on Capitol grounds.

“He would never have anticipated finding himself in the situation, but for the president and the rally and the way everything went down,” Brent Mayr told the Houston Chronicle. “We’ve heard ‘mob mentality’ — and he describes it to a T.” Mayr more recently declined to comment further.

“Even though I’m a criminal defense attorney, it sounds like a desperation move,” said Miami lawyer Joel Hirschhorn, insisting that would-be rioters who traveled long distances to Washington had to understand what they might be getting into. “It’s sort of like, ‘The devil made me do it.’ Come on.”

Clearly people like this did not listen to their mothers when they were children when she asked them if their friends jumped off a cliff, whether they would do so too.

I find it astonishing that so many people seemed to take the whole invading of the Capitol so lightly. Recall that most of these people were middle-aged or older, people with established lives and families who depended upon them and thus had a lot to lose. And yet they seemed to be have been childishly giddy at the prospect of actually overturning the election and ‘taking back the government’, whatever that might mean, and not realize that the occupation of the building was at best a momentary event. I suspect that we are going to get even more bizarre excuses as the days go by and people get desperate as it dawns on them that that one day of exhilaration can lead to them being convicted of serious offenses.


  1. garnetstar says

    I also was surprised that so many seemed to see insurrection as a fun outing, a lark, that would somehow magically change everything at the same time.

    Yes, I believe that, in law, “outside influences” like drugs or persuasion or even manic episodes (in bipolar disorder) are not protection from the actions you did. You’re still responsible. Delusional conspiracy theories, no matter how strongly held, aren’t defenses either.

    It’s not practical: everyone has some strongly-held belief, and if you were held innocent by just saying “I really believed that”, no one could be held liable for anything.

    It’s like, well, too bad, looks like you’re going to learn this the hard way.

  2. brucegee1962 says

    Also, while there were many thousands of pro-Trumpists in DC that day, only a few hundred actually entered the Capitol. So again, no defense.

  3. says

    It’s a bit odd in that “I joined with the violent crowd & just followed them along mindlessly rather than having my own specific criminal goals,” is not so much a defense against trespass and official interference charges as it is an admission of guilt to violating 18 U.S. Code § 2101 and testimony to the guilt of others in violation of the same statute.

    But what do I know? And it’s only a felony punishable by up to 5 years anyway, so probably doesn’t matter.

  4. jenorafeuer says

    For so many of these people, the ‘thinking’ seems to pretty much boil down to: “I’ve been able to say and get away with doing stuff like this for years because I’m white/straight/cis/conservative and nobody called me on it before, and it is so unfair that I’m getting called on it now because I crossed one more line!”

    They’ve never had to deal with real consequences before, so the idea that this event would have consequences they couldn’t get out of just never occurred to them. They’ve never had to deal with real oppression before, so somebody finally saying ‘no’ to them is the worst oppression ever.

    Kind of like Trump, who managed to bully, bluster, or buy his way out of most consequences in the past.

  5. Pierce R. Butler says

    Grider might have a case -- if he can show the Real Mob™ made him do it, the one that makes offers which you cannot refuse.

  6. eliza422 says

    @Pierce R Butler

    That’s what I thought the story was when I saw the headline!

  7. mediagoras says

    When it comes to themselves, the insurrectionists are quick to lament that social forces are powerful (irresistible, even), that history weighs heavily on their current circumstances (i.e., “predicament”), and that others bear the real responsibility for the events of January 6, 2021. They are regular folks—simply the unwitting and misunderstood victims of an otherwise spontaneous series of events. When it comes to the death of George Floyd, I suspect that many insurrectionists would shrug and point out that Floyd had a record, had drugs in his system, and tried to pass a fake $20 bill. I mean, what did he expect?

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