Capitol rioters floating unique defense in effort to avoid jail time: report
Pro-Trump protesters trying to enter Capitol building. (lev radin / Shutterstock.com)

According to a report from the Associated Press, lawyers for several of Jan. 6th Capitol rioters now facing jail time for storming the halls of Congress are asserting their clients were not part of a deadly insurrection but were working as "journalists" recording the action that day.

After having handed prosecutors a treasure trove of photos and videos of themselves taking part in the chaos of the day, participants are looking to duck responsibility with a legal strategy that appears dubious.

'It's unlikely that any of the self-proclaimed journalists can mount a viable defense on the First Amendment's free speech grounds, experts say," the report states. "They face long odds if video captured them acting more like rioters than impartial observers. But as the internet has broadened and blurred the definition of a journalist, some appear intent on trying."

Adding, "At least eight defendants charged in the Jan. 6 riot have identified themselves as a journalist or a documentary filmmaker, including three people arrested this month, according to an Associated Press review of court records in nearly 400 federal cases.," AP notes one participant in particular who is pushing his case.

"One defendant, Shawn Witzemann, told authorities he was inside the Capitol during the riot as part of his work in livestreaming video at protests and has since argued that he was there as a journalist. That explanation did not sway the FBI. The plumber from Farmington, New Mexico, is charged with joining in demonstrating in the Capitol while Congress was certifying Joe Biden's electoral victory over Donald Trump," AP reported.

According to Lucy Dalglish, dean of the University of Maryland's Philip Merrill College of Journalism, the rioters don't have much of a case.

Saying, "any defendant captured on video encouraging rioters cannot credibly claim to be a journalist," she told AP, "You are, at that point, an activist with a cellphone, and there were a lot of activists with copyrighted videos who sold them to news organizations. That doesn't make them journalists."

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