A former New York State court employee was found guilty Wednesday of threatening to kill Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Democratic politicians, just after three hours of jury deliberations.
Queens man Brendan Hunt was found guilty of making threats to Congress members “by threatening to assault and murder a U.S. official.”
Hunt, 37, testified Tuesday that the social media videos in which he urged people to go back to the Capitol after the Jan. 6 riot and “kill your senators” were made in jest, and that he did not mean any harm.
Federal prosecutors however, said that Hunt’s postings on social media websites like BitChute constituted “true threats,” and that he was animated by his anti-Semitism and racist beliefs.
“You have seen the threats he made. You have seen the context in which he made them and you have heard from witnesses about how they reacted to them,” said Assistant U.S. Attorney Ian Richardson in closing arguments.
“These were true threats. He threatened to murder senators and representatives in vivid and violent language.”
Hunt’s defense had argued that his statements were part of his First Amendment right.
“They took a guy who has sent the last year at home alone spending way too much time online who was clearly suffering from substance abuse and charged him with a crime,” said defense attorney Leticia Olivera. “They took a guy with no audience for his online rants, and they gave him one.”
The trial in Brooklyn Federal Court is believed to be the first in the country related to the Jan. 6 riot at the Capitol, though Hunt is not accused of actually being in the building.
On Jan. 8, he took to BitChute to broadcast a violent message.
“We need to go back to the U.S. 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. And we need to slaughter these motherf—–s,” he said in an 88-second video titled “Kill your senators.”
He was arrested on Jan. 19 and has been held at Brooklyn’s federal jail since then.