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.