Today, a jury sitting in the Eastern District of New York found Brendan Hunt guilty of threatening to assault or murder a U.S. official, a federal crime punishable by up to 10 years in prison under 18 U.S.C. 115. The jury deliberated for three hours after hearing evidence at trial that included Hunt’s facebook posts, youtube videos, and trial testimony, which called for violence against elected officials after a large number of former President Trump’s supporters stormed the Capitol to stop the certification of the election.
The videos and posts reportedly included a video titled “Kill Your Senators,” posted after the January 6 insurrection, where Hunt called for protestors to return to the Capitol with guns. In a previous Facebook post, Hunt identified certain elected officials as “high value targets” who should be killed by firing squad. His previous posts also contained anti-Semitic and anti-immigrant rhetoric. Hunt testified in his own defense, arguing that these posts were made in jest and that he did not have the intent of carrying through with anything. His attorney argued that holding or expressing racist or offensive views is not akin to making true threats. Jurors interviewed after the trial indicated they were troubled by the content of Hunt’s views and beliefs. The case will likely go up on appeal to the Second Circuit and will likely involve First Amendment claims.
The conviction comes a week after the feds obtained their first guilty plea relating to the January 6 insurrection. On April 16, Jon Schaffer became their first after he pleaded guilty to a two-count information charging him with obstruction of an official proceeding under 18 USC 1512(c) and entering a restricted building or grounds with a dangerous weapon under 18 USC 1752. Schaffer was, by his own admission, a “founding lifetime member” of the Oath Keepers, a group that was heavily involved in organizing at the Capitol, and he was accused of spraying police officers with bear spray.
Notably, Schaffer has agreed to cooperate with the Government in exchange for a potential sentence reduction, and the DOJ is reportedly considering placing him in the witness protection program. Some observers believe he may assist the feds in a larger case brought against a group of Oath Keepers and associates.