NEW YORK (AP) — A man charged with threatening to kill members of Congress testified on Tuesday that his disturbing social media rants were the work of a stoned and wasted provocateur — not someone actually out for blood.
Brendan Hunt did not deny creating the posts. But he told jurors at his trial in federal court in Brooklyn he believed what he called “rhetoric” — often put together while “smoking weed” by bong and drinking beer — would never be taken seriously.
“I was really just letting off steam,” said Hunt, 37, of Queens. “It was really more online blather than anything else.”
His decision to testify on his own behalf came in a case where prosecutors have portrayed scenes of the siege at the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6 as emblematic of his brand of extremism. He wasn’t there, but did post videos and other materials expressing support for the violent mob and calling for further mayhem.
Hunt — a staunch supporter of former President Donald Trump, avid comic book collector and an analyst for the New York court system — has pleaded not guilty to charges alleging, in part, that he called for the “public execution” of Democratic U.S. Reps. Nancy Pelosi and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and U.S. Sen. Charles Schumer. Prosecutors say it was part of a monthlong online campaign to urge violence against members of Congress that culminated with a Jan. 8 video titled: “Kill your senators. Slaughter them all.”
Defense attorneys have called the charges overblown and argued that there’s no proof that Hunt was a legitimate threat. He testified that he picked out the names of Pelosi, Ocasio-Cortez and Schumer because of their high profiles as Democrats, and “wasn’t trying to target them in real life.”
During cross-examination, Assistant U.S. Attorney David Kessler confronted Hunt with profane racist and antisemitic texts he had written. Hunt claimed they were aimed at trying to get the attention of his father, and that they didn’t represent his real views.
“I wrote a lot of things I didn’t mean,” he said.
Earlier, while questioned by his lawyer, Hunt called himself “immature” and “very irresponsible.”
“I just feel terrible about how I expressed myself,” he added.
He said he now realizes, “It’s important to be responsible with our words.”
The trial, which began last week, has featured testimony from a Capitol Police officer about the mayhem on Jan. 6. Closing arguments were expected to begin as early as late Tuesday afternoon with jury deliberations starting Wednesday.