A jury in a federal court in Brooklyn has found a Trump supporter named Brendan Hunt guilty of issuing a death threat against elected officials, meaning that he now faces up to 10 years in prison. The jury deliberated for merely a few hours, suggesting that they could find little to undercut the idea that Hunt should face consequences for his remarks.
The case grew in large part from a vitriolic video that Hunt posted on a website called BitChute shortly after the Capitol rioting in January. Hunt titled that video “KILL YOUR SENATORS: Slaughter them all,” and in the footage, he “offered detailed descriptions of how he wanted to end the lives of the people he claimed were complicit in “stealing” the election from former president Donald Trump,” as The Washington Post summarized arguments from prosecutors. Members of the jury evidently agreed with the argument that Hunt’s comments constituted a sincere threat rather than vapid rhetoric.
Notably, the jury concluded that certain social media posts that Hunt made in 2020 did not constitute serious — and criminal — threats. As for the video that landed him the guilty verdict, Hunt claimed from the witness stand on Tuesday that the comments were merely on par with “this sort of rhetoric going on at the time,” and he also claimed to have been inebriated while initially filming the remarks. Having been allegedly under the influence of alcohol or drugs when committing a crime does not automatically absolve a defendant of responsibility for their own actions.
The arguments portion of Hunt’s trial reached its conclusion before hundreds of defendants who are facing criminal charges over their participation in the Capitol rioting ever formally went to trial, although one Capitol riot defendant has already pleaded guilty and agreed to cooperate with investigators. (Hunt did not participate in the rioting.)
Although the charges that the apprehended rioters are facing vary, some of them — like Florida resident and Oath Keepers affiliate Kenneth Harrelson — are facing possible lengthy prison sentences if convicted. Harrelson, for instance, is facing charges including one count of conspiracy to defraud the United States, and he could face up to 36 years in prison. Prosecutors have presented evidence from security footage apparently showing Harrelson’s involvement in stashing weapons at a hotel near D.C. that were meant to be used by Trump supporters on the ground in D.C. if requested. Harrelson is getting held in jail ahead of his trial, as are other rioters who are facing more serious charges.
The rioters initially operated under the pretense of Trump’s lie that the 2020 presidential election had been rigged for Joe Biden, and the ex-president has refused to abandon this lie in the aftermath of the violence.