Judge Allows Capitol Police Lawsuit Against Trump, Jan. 6 Defendants to Go Forward

Ryan Morgan
By Ryan Morgan
January 28, 2023USshare
Judge Allows Capitol Police Lawsuit Against Trump, Jan. 6 Defendants to Go Forward
Then-President Donald Trump speaks to supporters from The Ellipse near the White House in Washington, D.C., on Jan. 6, 2021. (Mandel Ngan/AFP via Getty Images)

A judge ruled on Thursday that a lawsuit filed by U.S. Capitol Police officers may proceed against former President Donald Trump and some of his supporters and individuals accused of assaulting police at the Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021.

Judge Amit Mehta of Washington D.C.’s federal district court ruled that eight Capitol Police officers could proceed in their lawsuit on one count against Trump and other counts they’ve alleged against individuals accused of entering the Capitol and assaulting officers that day.

The officers originally filed a lawsuit (pdf) in August 2021, against Trump and his political allies Roger Stone, Ali Alexander, and Brandon Straka. The officers also sued the Proud Boys and six of its members; the OathKeepers and four of its members; six more named individuals accused of with entering the Capitol, and 10 other unidentified individuals accused of either assaulting officers or participating in a conspiracy to breach the Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021.

The officers are seeking financial compensation for injuries they sustained while dealing with protesters and rioters at the Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021. They also seek punitive damages against the defendants and repayment for attorneys fees.

The lawsuit alleges that Trump and his political allies were part of a conspiracy “to prevent Congress from certifying the election results through the use of force, intimidation, and threats.” The lawsuit alleges that Trump furthered a conspiracy to get his supporters to attack the capitol by organizing a rally on Jan. 6 that would coincide with Congress’s process to certify the 2020 election results and by disseminating false claims about the election.

In his decision, Mehta allowed portions of the lawsuit to proceed against Trump and the individuals charged with rioting at the Capitol. But he also granted motions to dismiss some of the claims against all of the defendants. Mehta also dismissed all of the claims against Stone and Alexander.

Trump’s Defense

As an example of Trump’s alleged encouragement of violence, included a post on Twitter reading “LIBERATE MICHIGAN!” two days after armed protesters entered the Michigan state capitol and staged a protest against COVID-19 lockdowns on April 15, 2020. No violence was reported and no arrests were made at the Michigan Capitol protest.

Further, the lawsuit argues that Trump encouraged violence when he was asked—during a moment of cross-talk in an election debate—to tell members of the Proud Boys to “stand down” and avoid violence. As Biden and debate moderator Chris Wallace continued to talk, Trump told the Proud Boys to “stand back and stand by.” The lawsuit alleges that members of the Proud Boys interpreted Trump’s words as an endorsement of violence and said Trump didn’t disavow their interpretation of his remarks.

In their motion to dismiss the case, Trump’s lawyers argued that he was not intentionally making false claims of election fraud but rather that he “believed there had been a failure to secure our nation’s election procedures” and that he “made this sentiment known.”

His lawyers argued Trump intended for “Congress to postpone certifying election results until various lawsuits challenging those results concluded,” and that such speech is protected by the First Amendment.

During the Jan. 6, 2021, rally, Trump said, “We’re going to the Capitol, and … we’re going to try and give our Republicans … we’re going to try and give them the kind of pride and boldness that they need to take back our country.”

The complaint against Trump focused on other comments he made during the Jan. 6 rally, including “we’re gonna fight like hell.” The lawsuit also said that, after Trump saw the crowd at the rally “had turned into an angry mob ready to employ violence,” he directed them to walk down to the Capitol.

However, during his Jan. 6 rally speech, Trump described how he anticipated that those in attendance would go to the Capitol “to peacefully and patriotically make your voices heard.” Trump and his attorneys have pointed to this quote and insisted he did not encourage violence on Jan. 6.

After the rioting began at the Capitol on Jan. 6, Trump also released a video on Twitter, calling on his supporters to “go home.”

“We had an election that was stolen from us. It was a landslide election, and everyone knows it, especially the other side, but you have to go home now,” Trump said in the video. “We have to have peace. We have to have law and order. We have to respect our great people in law and order. We don’t want anybody hurt.”

Trump’s lawyers argued that he cannot be assumed to have been part of a conspiracy to get his supporters to commit acts of violence or destruction simply because some did so even after he called for them to act peacefully.

“Retrospectively assuming a speaker’s intent based upon the actions of others is not a constitutionally acceptable method of pleading an unlawful incitement,” Trump’s lawyers argued.

How Lawsuit Can Proceed

The Capitol Police officers are pursuing six counts against Trump and the other defendants. The counts are:

  1. Conspiracy to interfere with civil rights
  2. Failure to prevent a conspiracy to interfere with civil rights
  3. Violations of the D.C. Bias-Related Crimes Act
  4. Battery
  5. Battery
  6. Negligence

The Bias-Related Crimes Act specifies that a civil cause of action is provided for “any person who incurs injury to his or her person or property as a result of an intentional act that demonstrates an accused’s prejudice based on the actual or perceived … political affiliation of a victim.”

The lawsuit had alleged that Trump violated this Act by inciting his supporters to riot at the Capitol. But Mehta ultimately granted all motions made by the various defendants to dismiss the Bias-Related Crimes Act count, the negligence count, and the count of failing to prevent a conspiracy to interfere with civil rights.

Mehta also granted a motion by Trump to have the battery counts dismissed. Still, Mehta allowed the lawsuit to proceed against Trump on the count of conspiracy to interfere with civil rights. The police officers will be able to continue to seek compensatory and punitive damages from Trump, as well as attorneys fees.

In his decision, Mehta ruled that it could be argued that Trump engaged in a conspiracy to get people to attack the capitol because he told people to march and repeatedly described the rally in terms of a planned march to the Capitol—an activity the Jan. 6 rally permit allegedly”prohibited.”

NTD News reached out to an attorney representing Trump but did not receive a response before this article was published.

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