“We see what I would describe as a look of pure rage,” U.S. Attorney Benjamin Gianforti said in describing a video of the incident. “His teeth are gritted. This is a man about to unleash some kind of violence.”
Webster’s first court appearance came as Steven A. Sund, who was chief of the Capitol Police during the Jan. 6 attack, testified to lawmakers that he had not seen an FBI report sent to the department warning of an extremist plan to storm the Capitol.
Webster, who served two decades in the NYPD until his retirement in 2011, allegedly hurled expletives at the officer and accused him of being a communist — a rant against a fellow officer that the prosecutor noted in requesting that he be held without the chance for release on bond.
Webster appeared to have no compassion for the officer he brutalized, Gianforti said: “Frankly, your honor, he goes after that cop like a junkyard dog . . . fists clenched.”
Webster’s defense attorney James Monroe argued the man had never been arrested and wouldn’t flee while awaiting trial. He now owns a landscaping business.
“He’s never been in a shooting incident in his career,” the lawyer argued. “This was the one and only protest he’s ever been a part of.”
He also said Webster was only reacting to being punched by a police officer. Gianforti said investigators had reviewed video showing Webster for the 10 minutes prior to the violent encounter and found no evidence of such provocation.
“There’s just nothing in there to suggest Mr. Webster was struck by this officer or any other officer,” Gianforti said.
Webster is expected to be sent to a federal jail in Washington, where he’ll be detained while his case is pending.
The NYPD confirmed Webster’s employment but did not comment on his arrest.
U.S. Magistrate Judge Andrew Krause found that Webster was too dangerous to be released while charges against him are pending and denied bond to the retired member of law enforcement.
Webster, who wore a bulletproof vest to the Capitol and who allegedly told the FBI he brought a gun on his trip to Washington, was “ready for some kind of confrontation that day,” Gianforti argued.
Krause noted that had Webster been attacked on the job the way the victim had been in this case, he’d have been calling for the suspect to be held in jail.
“I’m quite sure if this same thing happened to Mr. Webster while he was an NYPD officer and someone swung a flagpole at him and repeatedly charged at him, tackled him on the ground, I’d imagine he would have wanted that person to be detained without bail,” Krause said.
Krause added that the political strife that drove the insurrection at the U.S. Capitol remains a strong force in the nation — further reason that Webster remained a threat.
The chief judge in D.C.’s federal courthouse made a similar argument Wednesday when refusing to release William Chrestman, another veteran accused of engaging in violence at the Capitol.
Through a public defender, Chrestman argued that his “fever has broken” and he was “chastened rather than emboldened” by his arrest. Prosecutors allege Chrestman, of Kansas City, Mo., on Jan. 6 led a group of six affiliated with the right-wing Proud Boys that broke through police lines and helped others do the same. At one point, according to court records, he threatened Capitol Police officers who were attempting to arrest members of the mob.
Far from having broken, the “fever” of false right-wing media conspiracies continues, Chief U.S. District Judge Beryl A. Howell said.
“Has he expressed any remorse or rejection of his membership in the Proud Boys, a gang of nationalist individuals?” she asked. “Does he reject the fantasy the election was stolen? Does he regret the positions that animated the mob on Jan. 6? Is there anything on the record about any of those things?”
She also noted that Washingtonians are still living with the consequences of the insurrection. Some of the city’s monuments are now sealed off by rings of barbed wire, concrete barriers, high fencing and armed members of the National Guard.
“For citizens who live in Washington, D.C., for Americans who want to visit Washington, this beautiful city, are they ever going to be able to walk where they used to freely?” Howell asked. “It’s unclear. Shockingly unclear.”
Webster was one of two New Yorkers arrested Monday in connection to the Jan. 6. attack; the other, Philip Grillo, is a local leader in the Queens Republican Party who ran unsuccessfully for city council last year. Grillo is accused of crawling through a broken window into the Capitol with a mob that attacked police. An attorney for Grillo could not be immediately reached for comment.
Peter Hermann contributed to this report.