Mehta said he viewed Webster’s conduct as some of the most egregious of any defendant sentenced thus far. As of Thursday, the longest sentences had been given to Texas militia member Guy Refitt and local Virginia police officer Thomas Robertson, who were convicted by juries of trying to obstruct congressional proceedings.
It is the latest in a series of harsher sentences to be handed down as rioters facing felony charges, some of whom have taken their cases to trial, learn their fate from judges who have presided over their cases for more of a year
The images of Webster trying to rip the gas mask off Rathbun’s face amid broader chaos on Capitol Hill are among the most indelible images to emerge from the Jan. 6 attack. Mehta expressed disbelief that Webster took the stand in his own defense and attempted to argue that his effort to rip the officer’s gas mask off was really just to show him his hands and show that he was not a threat.
“I have no doubt that his conception of what happened that day and how he described it was absolutely fanciful and unbelievable,” Mehta said.
Mehta said that while any act of violence toward a police officer would be “bad enough,” the fact that the assault came as part of a mob attack intended to disrupt the transfer of presidential power added weight to the crime.
“This happened in the context of something bigger,” he said. “It happened against the backdrop of…one of the darkest days in our country’s history.”
“We just can’t have a country,” he said, “where people who are on the losing end of an election think they can use violence and physical force to undo that outcome. We can’t function as a country if people think they can behave violently when they lose an election.”