WASHINGTON, D.C. – As the police and FBI continue to identify, track down and arrest participants in the January 6 insurrection at the U.S. Capitol, a number of those in custody are engaging in a novel defense – they’re claiming that the only reason they went into the Capitol building to begin with was because the police allowed them to enter.
According to reports by ABC News, at least 29 defendants in the Capitol riots have claimed that they didn’t realize it was illegal for them to enter the building because officers at the scene either made no attempt to stop them or didn’t inform them that what they were doing was against the law.
Thomas Mayr, lawyer for accused rioter and Texas resident Christopher Grider, said that his client was not aware that he was not permitted to be in the Capitol building when he marched there on January 6.
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“He was not at the front of the lines,” he said. “He didn’t see barricades being knocked down, he didn’t see officers getting assaulted, he didn’t see anything other than large crowds at the Capitol. He went through an open door.”
California resident and accused rioter Jacob Lewis reportedly told authorities that he was not only ‘not told’ that entering the Capitol was forbidden, but claimed police officers actually “escorted” him inside and that he had video evidence to prove it; evidence, however, that he did not share with ABC News.
However, legal expert and former federal prosecutor in the Eastern District of New York, Taryn Merkl, noted that such a defense – essentially claiming that they didn’t know any better – is sure to have little standing in court.
“In general, ignorance of the law is not an excuse for criminal behavior,” she said. “Whether or not people knew that it was not lawful to enter the grounds as they did, many are charged with parading, demonstrating, or picketing — and that is prohibited, and no intent is required.”