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Some Rioters Using 'Mob Mentality' Defense

It's a longshot, but there is precedent
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted May 23, 2021 5:13 PM CDT

(Newser) – 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 Trump as they surged into the 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, the AP reports. Grider, 39, 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. Judges typically don’t let defendants assert at trial that outside influences made them act as they did, but there’s some precedent for a version of the argument succeeding at trial.

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Lawyers at the California trial of two Black men charged with attempted murder in the beating of white truck driver Reginald Denny during Los Angeles riots in 1992 were allowed to call psychiatry professor Armando Morales to testify that a pervasive mob mentality meant the men couldn’t have intended to harm anyone. Denny was pulled out of his truck and severely beaten after four white Los Angeles officers were acquitted of most charges in the beating of Black motorist Rodney King. One Jan. 6 rioter told investigators that walking up the Capitol steps was like “a funnel.” A second claimed he couldn’t pull back from the crowd, even though the FBI said video showed the man made no attempt to turn around. 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.

(Read more Capitol attack stories.)

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