The attorney for a Columbus man who faces misdemeanor charges for stealing a coat rack during the Jan. 6, 2021 insurrection at the U.S. Capitol has asked a federal judge to allow him to subpoena former President Donald J. Trump as a witness at his client’s trial.
Columbus attorney Sam Shamansky said he plans on using a “public authority defense” for his client, 37-year-old Dustin Byron Thompson, of the Iuka Ravine neighborhood in the city’s University District.
“Trump and his co-conspirators concocted this ridiculous lie that our election was stolen and democracy was at stake,” Shamansky told The Dispatch.
Trump supporters were led to believe that “the only way to engage was to fight like hell to disrupt the certification proceedings,” he said.
Without that message, Shamansky said, his client wouldn’t have been there.
“The proof was in the pudding. The crowd did precisely as they were instructed,” Shamansky said.
A spokesperson for Trump did not return a message left by The Dispatch.
Sam Shamansky: Client joined U.S. Capitol riot prompted by Trump’s words
Shamansky first suggested to The Dispatch shortly after Thompson was charged in the weeks after the insurrection that Trump’s words had spurred his client to join the mob.
According to the notice of public authority defense filed in court, Thompson said he was “directed to engage in the conduct set forth in the indictment by Donald J. Trump and his various conspirators. At the time, Mr. Trump was vested with the full authority of the Executive Branch as President of the United States of America and was acting under color of that authority.”
Thompson and a co-defendent, Robert Anthony Lyon, who has had addresses in Columbus and Reynoldsburg, are both charged with federal misdemeanor counts of knowingly entering any restricted buildings or grounds and violent entry and disorderly conduct on Capitol grounds.
Thompson is also charged with theft of government property for taking a wooden coat rack from the Senate side of the U.S. Capitol. Both were released on their own recognizance pending trial after appearing in federal court. Shamansky only represents Thompson.
According to the criminal complaint filed in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, U.S. Capitol Police found Thompson, wearing a Trump 2020 winter hat and a bulletproof vest, and Lyon, holding a Trump 2020 flag, sitting on the sidewalk near a street corner.
They told police they were waiting for an Uber to take them back to their Maryland hotel. Police directed them to a location where they could be picked up outside of the secure zone police were establishing, according to court records.
As Thompson and Lyon stood up to leave, Thompson picked up a wooden coat rack that was behind him. The coat rack appeared to have been taken from the inside of the Capitol, and a bar code on it later confirmed it was Senate property, the complaint said.
Agents told Thompson to put down the coat rack. He complied, but then immediately ran away. Lyon did not attempt to run, cooperated with the agents and gave them consent to search his bag for stolen property. Inside, they found marijuana, two pipes and an open bottle of bourbon that were confiscated, an FBI agent wrote in the statement of facts in the complaint.
The charges carry potential prison terms of up to one year and fines up to $100,000. A trial is scheduled for April, Shamansky said.