A social media agitator was convicted Wednesday on federal charges of threatening to kill members of Congress in a verdict that rejected his claims it was harmless rhetoric. A jury found Brendan Hunt guilty at the close of a weeklong trial in federal court in Brooklyn. Hunt, 37, did not deny creating a series of menacing-sounding posts, the AP reports. But he testified that he often put them together while impaired from smoking pot with a bong and drinking beer, and that he never thought they would be taken seriously. "I wrote a lot of things I didn't mean," Hunt said, calling himself "very irresponsible." He added: "I just feel terrible about how I expressed myself." The verdict came in a case where prosecutors linked the siege at the US Capitol on Jan. 6 to Hunt's brand of extremism. He wasn't there, but he admitted posting videos and other materials expressing support for the violent mob.
Hunt—a staunch supporter of former President Trump and an analyst for the New York court system—had pleaded not guilty to charges alleging, in part, that he called for the "public execution" of Democratic Reps. Nancy Pelosi and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Sen. Charles Schumer. Prosecutors say it was part of a monthlong online campaign to urge violence against members of Congress that culminated with a Jan. 8 video titled: "Kill your senators. Slaughter them all." Defense attorneys had called the charges overblown. They argued that Hunt's posts were protected free speech and that there was no proof that he was a legitimate threat. The case was considered a broader test of when free speech becomes criminal, per the Washington Post. Hunt could be sentenced to as long as 10 years in prison.
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