Man Who Stole Coat Rack From Capitol on Jan. 6 Convicted by Jury

By Zachary Stieber
Zachary Stieber
Zachary Stieber
Reporter
Zachary Stieber covers U.S. and world news. He is based in Maryland.
April 14, 2022 Updated: April 14, 2022

A man who stole a coat rack from the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021, was convicted on six charges by a jury in Washington on April 14.

Dustin Thompson, 38, of Ohio, was convicted of obstructing an official proceeding, theft of government property, disorderly conduct in a Capitol building, and three other charges. Only one is a felony.

Thompson faces up to 24 years in prison.

Jurors rejected Thompson’s defense, in which he blamed Trump and members of the president’s inner circle for the Capitol breach and for his own actions.

Samuel Shamansky, representing Thompson, had told jurors that the defendant has not avoided taking responsibility for his conduct on Jan. 6 but alleged Thompson was prone to accepting claims about a stolen election.

Shamansky described Thompson as a “pawn” and former President Donald Trump as a “gangster” who abused his power to manipulate supporters. “The vulnerable are seduced by the strong, and that’s what happened here,” the lawyer said.

Trump told supporters in a speech on the Ellipse before the breach that they should march to the Capitol but remain peaceful.

Assistant U.S. Attorney William Dreher had said that Thompson, a college-educated exterminator who lost his job during the COVID-19 pandemic, knew he was breaking the law when he joined the breach and looted the Senate parliamentarian’s office. The prosecutor told jurors that Thompson’s lawyer “wants you to think you have to choose between President Trump and his client.”

“You don’t have to choose because this is not President Trump’s trial. This is the trial for Dustin Thompson because of what he did at the Capitol on the afternoon on Jan. 6,” Dreher said.

U.S. District Judge Reggie Walton, a George W. Bush appointee, ordered Thompson detained immediately because he felt the man was a flight risk.

A sentencing hearing is scheduled for July 20.

Authorities in court filings, citing cell phone and surveillance footage, said Thompson entered the Capitol during the breach and took possession of a coat rack, which he removed from the building.

Thompson was donning a “Trump 2020” winter cap and shouting “Wooo! ‘Merica hey! This is our house!” according to the footage.

Thompson was spotted sitting on the sidewalk later on Jan. 6 near the Capitol with Robert Lyon, with whom he’d traveled to Washington, and was approached by U.S. Capitol Police agents. Because Thompson carried the coat rack, officers stopped the pair.

Thompson took off running but Lyon cooperated then and in later interviews, sharing texts and other information with the FBI.

Lyon pleaded guilty to two counts, theft of government property and disorderly conduct in a restricted building, in February in exchange for other charges being dropped. He faces up to two years in prison.

Thompson is the third Jan. 6 defendant to hear their verdict handed down by a jury.

The two other defendants, former oil rig manager Guy Wesley Reffitt and former police officer Thomas Robertson, were also convicted on all counts.

The two defendants who chose bench trials fared better. Matthew Martin, a former federal contractor, was fully acquitted while Cowboys for Trump founder Couy Griffin was convicted on one count and acquitted on the other.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Zachary Stieber
Zachary Stieber covers U.S. and world news. He is based in Maryland.