An attorney for a man accused of picking up and slamming a 13-year-old boy to the ground and fracturing his skull after he didn’t remove his hat during the national anthem at a recent county fair is invoking President Trump’s rhetoric about respecting the flag to defend him.
“His commander in chief is telling people that if they kneel, they should be fired, or if they burn a flag, they should be punished,” attorney Lance Jasper told the Missoulian about his client, Curt Brockway. “He certainly didn’t understand it was a crime.”
“There was a little boy lying on the ground,” Taylor Hennick, who was as the Mineral County Fair and Rodeo on Saturday, told Missoulian. “He was bleeding out of his ears, seizing on the ground, just not coherent.”
“He said [the boy] was disrespecting the national anthem so he had every right to do that,” Hennick said about Brockway’s attempt to justify his actions to nearby fairgoers.
The attorney added that he will seek a mental health evaluation for Brockway, a military veteran who he said got a traumatic brain injury in a 2000 vehicle crash driving home from Fort Lewis, Wash., later receiving an honorable discharge due to disability.
“Obviously he owes a big portion of accountability for what took place, but it’s certain that there was other things at work here that definitely contributed,” he said.
Trump has frequently used campaign rallies to attack black athletes who kneel during the playing of the national anthem to protest police brutality and racial inequality.
“Wouldn’t you love to see one of these NFL owners, when somebody disrespects our flag, to say, ‘Get that son of a bitch off the field right now. Out! He’s fired. He’s fired!’” the president said at a September 2017 rally for Republican senator Luther Strange. “You know, some owner is going to do that. He’s going to say, ‘That guy that disrespects our flag, he’s fired.’ And that owner, they don’t know it [but] they’ll be the most popular person in this country.”
Lawyers have previously invoked rhetoric emerging from the White House while defending their clients.
Earlier this year, a lawyer for a man charged with murdering an alleged Gambino crime family boss in Staten Island argued his client was influenced by “hate words that have been spewed by citizens, including politicians, including right at the White House.”
On Monday, lawyers representing 57-year-old Cesar Altieri Sayoc, the domestic terrorist who mailed explosive devices to prominent Democrats and critics of President Donald Trump last year, argued in court that their client was a Trump “super fan,” saw him as a “surrogate father” and came to believe in an “alternative reality” that was fueled by the president’s attacks on Democrats and the media.
Sayoc’s van, which he reportedly lived in, was plastered with images of Trump, and his lawyers said Trump’s rhetoric guided Sayoc’s actions.
“A rational observer may have brushed off Trump’s tweets as hyperbole, but Mr. Sayoc took them to heart,” they wrote.
Sayoc “slowly became deranged” by conspiracy theories, defense attorney Ian Marcus told the court on Monday, according to reporter Adam Klasfeld.
“We believe that the President’s rhetoric contributed to Mr. Sayoc’s actions in this offense,” Marcus said, according to the report.
Sayoc was sentenced to 20 years in federal prison.