'He invited us': US rioters blame Trump

·2-min read

Emanuel Jackson, a 20-year-old Washington area man, was caught on video using a metal bat to strike the protective shields wielded by police officers as they tried to fend off rioters storming the US Capitol on January 6.

Jackson, awaiting trial in federal court on assault charges, is now adopting a novel legal defence: seeking to pin the blame on Donald Trump, citing the former president's remarks at a 'Stop the Steal' rally shortly before the Capitol siege.

Trump told the crowd to "fight like hell," said "we will not take it any more" and repeated false claims that the election was stolen from him through widespread voting fraud.

The then president exhorted his followers to go to the Capitol.

The ensuing rampage interrupted the congressional certification of Joe Biden's election victory, sent politicians into hiding and left five people dead including a police officer.

Jackson's lawyer, Brandi Harden, wrote in a January 22 court filing "the nature and circumstances of this offence must be viewed through the lens of an event inspired by the President of the United States".

The Capitol siege, Harden added "appears to have been spontaneous and sparked by the statements made during the 'Stop the Steal' rally".

Other defendants to take this route include Jacob Chansley, who donned a horned headdress and face paint during the attack, and Dominic Pezzola, a member of the Proud Boys right-wing extremist group who is accused of shattering a window in the Capitol with a stolen police shield so rioters could enter.

"The boss of the country said 'People of the country, come on down, let people know what you think'," Pezzola's defense lawyer, Michael Scibetta, said.

"The logical thinking was 'He invited us down'."

No defendant will be able to avoid criminal culpability by saying they were incited by Trump, said Jay Town who served as the top federal prosecutor in Birmingham, Alabama, during the Trump administration.

"If anything, it is an admission to criminal conduct," Town said.

"While this ineffective tactic may help with headlines, it will not help the fate of any defendant."

Trump adviser Jason Miller did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the legal strategy of blaming the former president, who has called his speech "totally appropriate".