WASHINGTON (AP) — An Iowa man who was part of the mob that stormed the U.S. Capitol believed in a conspiracy theory that law enforcement would arrest “all corrupt politicians” that day- there, starting with then-Vice President Mike Pence, a defense attorney told jurors on Tuesday.
Doug Jensen wore a shirt bearing the letter “Q” to express his support for the QAnon conspiracy theory when he joined the January 6, 2021 attack on the Capitol. A viral video recorded by a reporter’s cellphone showed Jensen running after a Capitol Police officer retreating from a crowd of rioters down a flight of stairs.
A federal prosecutor showed jurors the video early in Jensen’s trial. They also saw a photograph of Jensen with his arms outstretched as he confronted a line of police near the Senate chambers, one of the most memorable images from the riot.
“This is not a police matter,” defense attorney Christopher Davis said in opening statements for the trial. “Literally, the whole thing is on video.”
But he pointed out that none of the videos show Jensen engaging in any acts of violence or damaging property.
“You won’t see this man get his hands on anybody,” Davis said.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Emily Allen told jurors they would hear testimony from Capitol Police Officer Eugene Goodman. Jensen was at the front of a group of rioters following Goodman as the officer ran up the stairs.
Goodman “walked up to them with his hand on his gun because he had no way of knowing what they were capable of,” Allen said. “And he knew he was hopelessly outnumbered and alone.”
Davis said Jensen, a construction worker, was motivated by his “100%” belief in QAnon, a conspiracy theory that has spread beyond the dark fringes of the internet to penetrate mainstream Republican politics.
QAnon focused on the baseless notion that former President Donald Trump was secretly battling a Satan-worshipping cabal of ‘Deep State’ enemies, prominent Democrats and Hollywood elites during his time at the White House. Another core tenet of QAnon is the doomsday prophecy that “The Storm” was coming and would usher in mass arrests and executions of Trump’s enemies.
Prior to the riot, Trump and his allies spread the false narrative that Pence could have somehow overturned the 2020 election results. Davis told jurors they would hear Jensen pleading with the police to “do their job” and arrest Pence, who was presiding over the Senate on Jan. 6.
“He believed they had to do it,” Davis said. “He believed martial law was going to be instituted.”
After scaling the exterior walls of the Capitol, Jensen climbed through a broken window to enter the building. He was one of the first 10 rioters to enter the building, according to prosecutors.
Allen said Jensen learned via text message from a friend that Pence was about to certify the election results.
“Everything is about to change,” Jensen replied.
Jensen is charged with seven counts, including obstructing the joint session of Congress to certify President Joe Biden’s 2020 election victory, interfering with police and engaging in disorderly conduct at the inside the Capitol while carrying a knife in his pocket.
Allen said Jensen “got what he came for” in Washington on Jan. 6.
“Debates in Congress have stopped,” she said. “That’s why he was there.”
Jenson returned home to Des Moines, Iowa, a day after the riot. The next day he walked six miles to a police station and showed up unannounced, saying he was probably a wanted man. But there was no warrant for his arrest when two FBI agents questioned him at the police station.
Jensen told officers he sees himself as a “digital soldier” who “religiously” follows QAnon. He said he pushed his way to the front of the crowd because he “wanted Q to get some attention”.
“I basically intended to be the poster boy, and it really worked out,” he said, according to a January 8, 2021 transcript of the interview.
Jensen told FBI agents that his belief in QAnon cost him friends and family who thought he was “crazy.” One of the officers asked him if he regretted his actions on January 6.
“I don’t know. It depends if the result I wanted happens, then it would have been worth it. But if nothing happens other than the negativity of that, and I’m a rioter, then, yes, I completely regret it,” he said.
Jensen asked U.S. District Judge Timothy Kelly to suppress statements he made to the FBI and evidence seized from his cellphone. The judge denied his request earlier this month.
The first government witness for Jensen’s trial is due to testify on Wednesday. Kelly said the trial could wrap up later this week.
More than 870 people have been charged with federal crimes for their conduct on January 6. About 400 of them have pleaded guilty. Juries convicted eight Capitol Riot defendants after the trials. None of the defendants who were tried by jury were acquitted of any charges.