WASHINGTON — A former police officer from Virginia “gleefully” teamed up with the first wave of rioters, joining a “violent, vigilante mob” that set off hours of chaos at the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021, a federal prosecutor told jurors on Friday.
Thomas Robertson, a former Rocky Mount police sergeant and military veteran, is facing six charges: felony obstruction of an official proceeding, felony civil disorder, carrying a dangerous weapon in a restricted area, disorderly and disruptive conduct in a restricted building, disorderly conduct in a Capitol building, as well as obstructing a grand jury investigation by destroying cellphones after the Capitol attack.
He’s the second Jan. 6 defendant to go to trial before a jury after Guy Reffitt was convicted last month.
Robertson’s former colleague and co-defendant, Jacob Fracker, reached a plea deal with the government last month and testified for the prosecution at Robertson’s trial. Both men were fired shortly after they were arrested.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Risa Berkower told jurors during closing arguments on Friday that Robertson “put himself right in the middle of it” on the day of the riot, joining “the very first wave of rioters” to enter the building.
Holding a “makeshift baton,” Robertson “confronted overwhelmed and outnumbered officers” at the Capitol, Berkower said.
“This defendant was part of the problem,” the prosecutor said, adding that Robertson “decided to take matters into his own hands to get what he wanted” because he didn’t like the outcome of the 2020 presidential election.
“This defendant gleefully put himself in the thick of the initial round of rioters who set off hours of chaos inside the Capitol,” Berkower said. “On Jan. 6, he seized the moment. He was in the midst of an angry mob, and together they all wanted the same thing.”
The prosecutor told jurors that the purpose of Robertson’s actions on the day of the attack was clear: to get Congress to toss Joe Biden’s election victory and put Donald Trump in office for a second term. “The defendant entered the Capitol to overturn the election,” Berkower said.
For many Americans, Berkower said, Jan. 6 was a shameful day that soiled the image of the Capitol as a “powerful symbol of democracy” across the world. “But this defendant? He reveled in what happened. … He was proud of what he did, what the mob did.”
The FBI has arrested more than 775 people in connection with the Capitol attack, and more than 225 defendants have pleaded guilty. Hundreds more criminal cases are in the works.
Jurors were expected to begin deliberating Robertson’s fate later on Friday.
“In this country, no one is above the law,” Berkower said at the end of her closing. “In our democracy, we don’t decide elections with a cartridge box.”