The verdicts handed down Tuesday to three U.S. Capitol rioters could change the direction of future Jan. 6 prosecutions.
U.S. District Court judge Trevor McFadden will announce verdicts for Patrick McCaughey, Tristan Stevens and David Mehaffie after a two-week bench trial on charges including assaulting, resisting, or impeding officers and aiding and abetting; obstruction of an official proceeding; and civil disorder, reported NBC News.
Every defendant who has been tried before a jury has been convicted on every count, but mixed verdicts or acquittals for McCaughey, Stevens and Mehaffie could encourage others charged in the attack to opt for bench trials -- where McFadden, a Donald Trump appointee, has already acquitted two defendants on misdemeanor charges in previous cases.
No judge or jury has acquitted any Capitol rioters on felony charges.
The three men are charged with attacking police in a "tunnel" at the top of the temporary scaffolding where Lady Gaga performed two weeks later at President Joe Biden's inauguration, after online sleuths identified them from video evidence.
Video played at trial shows Mehaffie encouraging other rioters to climb over a restraining wall at the Capitol and battle officers in the tunnel, but he insisted during his testimony that the "battle" he called for that day was not meant to be taken literally.
"If you believe our country’s in trouble, we certainly are in a battle as to whether you stand up, we get called names and get lumped into groups, so that is exactly the battle I’m talking about," Mehaffie testified. “If you can’t enter into the battle of ideas, you’ve, you’ve lost all your freedoms.”
However, he conceded that Trump supporters at the Capitol knew that police wanted them to leave, and Mehaffie testified that he regretted holding up a stolen police shield to the cheering mob.
Capitol police officer Daniel Hodges testified that McCaughey pinned him during the clash with the stolen shield, leaving him defenseless and injured, while video shows Stevens grabbing a baton for what his attorney claimed was self defense, another officer, Sgt. Aquilino Gonell, rejected that assertion in his testimony.
“If my memory serves correct, we the officers were the ones on duty that day, not him,” Gonell testified.
Stevens also was seen on video asking police if they knew what happened to traitors, and then made a violent threat against them.
“They get tied to a post and shot," Stevens said. "Are you ready for that?”