New York trial over US Capitol riot tests freedom of expression limits


NEW YORK (AFP) – Free speech may be sacred in the United States but calling for the killing of US lawmakers on social media is unlawful, a New York jury ruled Wednesday (April 28) after a week-long trial that revisited the Jan 6 riot at the Capitol.

The federal trial, the first related to the storming of Congress by supporters of ex-president Donald Trump, was viewed as a test case for the limits of freedom of expression protected by the First Amendment of the US constitution.

After just three hours of jury deliberations, Brendan Hunt, a 37-year-old court employee who uses the alias “X-Ray Ultra,” was found guilty of threatening to murder elected officials including Democratic congressional leaders Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer, and progressive congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez.

He was convicted of an “intent to impede, intimidate and interfere” with the performing of their official duties, specifically Congress’s vote on Jan 6 that confirmed President Joe Biden had won November’s election over Mr Trump.

Hunt was also charged with “intent to retaliate” over the electoral college vote count, which affirmed that Mr Trump would have to leave the White House after just one term.

The charges related to several messages that Hunt posted on social networks. The first dated back to Dec 6 when, on Facebook, he called on Mr Trump “to hold a public execution of pelosi aoc schumer etc.” “And if you dont do it, the citizenry will,” he wrote.

“Start up the firing squads, mow down these commies, and lets take america back!”

On Jan 8, two days after Mr Trump supporters stormed the Capitol to try to stop the count, Hunt posted an 88-second video on BitChute, a platform beloved by the far right, titled “KILL YOUR SENATORS.”

“We need to go back to the US Capitol when all of the Senators and a lot of the Representatives are back there, and this time we have to show up with our guns,” he said, addressing the camera.

Hunt, using a number of expletives, added that he would “go there myself