The mob made me do it: Rioters claim Jan. 6 crowd at fault

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FILE – In this Jan. 6, 2021, file photo rioters loyal to President Donald Trump storm the U.S. Capitol in Washington. Arguments begin Tuesday, Feb. 9, in the impeachment trial of Donald Trump on allegations that he incited the violent mob that stormed the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6. (AP Photo/John Minchillo, File)

Christopher Grider said he came to Washington on Jan. 6 with no intention of rioting. But he got caught up in the mob of angry supporters of then-President Donald Trump as they surged into the U.S. Capitol, breaking through police barriers and smashing through doors.

It wasn’t his fault, he said, that he ended up inside the building with a yellow “Don’t Tread on Me” flag around his neck as lawmakers ran for their lives.

Grider, 39, a winery owner and former school teacher in Texas is among at least a dozen Capitol riot defendants identified by The Associated Press who have claimed their presence in the building was a result of being “caught up” in the hysteria of the crowd or that they were pushed inside by sheer force.RELATED STORIES

For some, blaming the mob is part of an attempt to restore reputations tarnished by their presence at an event of such infamy. Others may try to broach the issue at trial or at least during sentencing in bids for leniency.

Social scientists have long observed how individuals can act in ways they never would on their own when they are in crowds of like-minded people who are whipped into a frenzy.

The insurrectionists descended on the nation’s capital that day to disrupt the certification of Joe Biden’s presidential victory. Many attended a rally by Trump, who was refusing to concede even though there was no evidence to suggest the election had been rigged and his own administration said it wasn’t.

Hundreds of Trump supporters broke through police barricades and overwhelmed officers, violently shoving their way into the building to chants of “Hang Mike Pence” and “Stop the Steal.” Some came prepared with pepper spray, baseball bats and other weapons. More than 400 people have been charged; it’s the largest prosecution in the Justice Department’s history.Full

Coverage: Capitol siege

Grider, accused of helping to break a glass door to the House chamber, never planned to storm the building, his lawyer has said in filings and comments to reporters after Grider, was charged with violent entry and disorderly conduct on Capitol grounds.

“He would never have anticipated finding himself in the situation, but for the president and the rally and the way everything went down,” Brent Mayr told the Houston Chronicle. “We’ve heard ‘mob mentality’ — and he describes it to a T.” Mayr more recently declined to comment further.

Judges typically don’t let defendants assert at trial that outside influences, be it drugs or peer pressure, made them act as they did. Most judges would reject efforts by rioters’ lawyers to use any iteration of a blame-the-crowd defense, legal experts say.

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