A lawyer for one insurrectionist said the pool of jurors was “terrifying” for his client.
However Donald Trump fares in the Mar-a-Lago documents case in Florida, he will face a much tougher fight if the target letter he received on Sunday is followed by an indictment for attempting to overthrow the 2020 election.
Those charges would almost certainly be brought in Washington, D.C., where juries have convicted one Jan. 6 defendant after another.
“If I was Donald J. Trump, the last place on earth I’d want to be tried other than Atlanta, Georgia, is Washington, D.C.,” Samuel Shamansky, attorney for convicted Jan. 6 rioter Dustin Thompson, told The Daily Beast.
Shamansky said he based his opinion partly on pre-trial jury selection and the trial itself, but mostly on speaking with the jury after it returned a guilty verdict. The jurors made it clear that they were deeply offended by the storming of the Capitol.
“The overwhelming sense was this was a personal violation, a personal affront,” Shamansky said. “Folks from outside the D.C. area with an anti-D.C. agenda took over their city and trashed the Capitol building and assaulted their officers, all in the name of a fake stolen election.”
Thompson testified at the trial that he traveled from Ohio to Washington on Jan. 6 after being convinced by Trump’s claims on various media platforms that the election had been rigged.
“The way he was saying it was believable to me,” Thompson testified during the 2022 trial. “I mean, I believed him.”
The laid-off pest exterminator told the jury that he attended the rally at the Ellipse and simply joined the crowd when Trump told them to proceed on to the Capitol.
“If the president is giving you almost an order to do something, I felt obligated to do that,” Thompson testified. “I had to do something to gain his respect or, like, his approval.”
Shamansky subpoenaed Trump and asked the judge to allow the U.S. Marshals to assist in serving it. The judge declined and told Shamansky to use a civilian process server. The result was what Shamansky had anticipated when he asked for the marshals.
“On April 1, 2022, while attempting to lawfully serve former President Donald J. Trump at the Mar-a-Lago Club, one of Mr. Thompson’s private process servers was turned away [by] an armed individual,” Shamansky reported in court papers. “According to the return of service submitted to Counsel1 , the process server believed this individual to be a government employee, specifically an agent of the United States Secret Service.”
But as he has since been demonstrated twice, Trump’s Secret Service detail cannot protect him from an indictment. The most the agents can do is escort him as he is being arrested, fingerprinted, and then arraigned.
More insight into what Trump would face in Washington, D.C., comes from attorney Norman Pattis, who represented Joseph Biggs, one of five Proud Boys charged with a seditious conspiracy related to Jan. 6. Pattis told The Daily Beast that more than half of the prospective jurors he interviewed sympathized with the Black Lives Matter movement. Nearly everyone had attended a protest at some time, though not one had been to a ‘Stop the Steal’ rally.
“It is a terrifying panel,” he said. “It took us 12 days to pick a jury and we didn’t like what we had.”
All five Proud Boys were convicted, though the jurors did reject some counts and appear to have taken considerable care in weighing the evidence.
“I’m not saying you can’t get a fair trial there,” Pattis said.
But he did suggest that the nation’s capital is hardly an ideal venue for defendants who rant about “the deep state” and pledge to “drain the swamp.”
“D.C. is a company town and its business is government,” he said.
Pattis figures that Trump would seek a change of venue.
“And it will fail,” Pattis added, citing the current guidelines for such a switch.
That does not mean Trump will get anything other than a fair trial. But given the evidence against him, a fair trial could very well mean a conviction. And, many federal felonies carry mandatory minimum sentences.
Thompson got three years for having gone along with the crowd and getting so carried away that he stole some booze and a coat rack from the Senate side of the Capitol. Pattis thinks Biggs will get 10 to 12 years for his part in an insurrectionist conspiracy.
Right now, Trump has only been hit with a target letter. But should he be indicted and then convicted, it is hard to see how even being a former president could save someone who was the instigator-in-chief from being sentenced to serious time.