Samuel Shamansky, the attorney for Dustin Byron Thompson—a January 6 defendant who is on trial for several charges including theft of government property—took a clear shot at former Republican President Donald Trump during his opening statement.
Shamansky told jurors Trump was "spewing lies" before a mob of his supporters attacked the United States Capitol in a failed bid to overturn the results of the 2020 general election. He added Trump used his presidential authority to essentially "authorize this assault."
He went further, saying Thompson was acting at the direction of Trump and "his various conspirators" and added Trump was part of a "sinister plot" to get Thompson and other Trump supporters to "do his dirty work."
Notably, Shamansky said Thompson fell down a "rabbit hole" of conspiracy theories after losing his job earlier during the COVID-19 pandemic. Thompson was influenced by an "echo chamber" of falsehoods that the election had been stolen, he said, and had chosen to act "accordingly."
Shamansky's statements were not a surprise given he'd stated in a February court filing he planned to argue at trial that Thompson was acting at Trump's behest.
At the time, he said he wanted to issue subpoenas to compel Trump and former New York City Mayor and Trump personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani to appear as witnesses, pointing to statements both men made at the "Stop the Steal" rally ahead of the attack.
Trump's call for his supporters to "fight like hell" and Giuliani's suggestion they should engage in a "trial by combat," Shamansky argued, offer ample evidence Thompson took their directions to heart.
Although a judge ultimately denied the subpoena request, they ruled jurors could listen to recordings of the speeches Trump and Giuliani gave at the rally.
While those following the trial acknowledged Trump had incited the insurrection, they felt Shamansky's defense would not absolve his client of responsibility for participating in it.
One of the more prominent faces to emerge from the January 6 insurrection has also made headlines for making claims in their defense.
In January 2022, Jacob Chansley—the infamous self-proclaimed "QAnon Shaman" who made headlines worldwide after he was photographed wearing a horned fur headdress and war paint in red, white, and blue while carrying a spear as he participated in the storming of the United States Capitol–claimed he was simply trying to "calm the crowd" during the attack.
Chansley, who is currently behind bars in Oklahoma serving a 41-month prison sentence, blamed the media for making him the public "face" of the attack.
His mother—who previously referred to her son as a "patriot"—suggested Trump invited everyone to go to the Capitol and stressed she is passionate "about how wrong I think it is that he [Chansley] is even doing any time at all."
Trump has continued to profess that he is the victim of a political smear campaign at the hands of Democrats.
In recent months, he has pledged to pardon rioters in the event he is re-elected and urged his supporters to protest in the event prosecutors officially charge him with financial crimes.