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'The Donald' forum user convicted of assaulting officers on Jan. 6

Jose Padilla said his violent rhetoric about killing politicians and overthrowing the government was for "internet cool points."

WASHINGTON — A member of the pro-Donald Trump online forum "The Donald," who espoused violent rhetoric and advocated for overthrowing the government, was convicted on 10 counts Wednesday for repeatedly assaulting law enforcement officers at the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6.

Jose Padilla, who was arrested in Georgia in February 2021, was convicted after a bench trial before U.S. District Judge John Bates. Video shows Padilla repeatedly attacking officers on Jan. 6, 2021, including by pushing up against officers and hitting an officer with a flagpole. He has been held in custody since his arrest.

Padilla was found guilty of 10 crimes, including assaulting, resisting or impeding certain officers; civil disorder; and assaulting, resisting or impeding an officer with a deadly or dangerous weapon. He was found not guilty of just one count, which involved the mob’s pushing an enormous “TRUMP 2020: KEEP AMERICA GREAT!” sign against a police line, because Bates found the evidence of Padilla's intent in that incident "ambiguous."

Jose Padilla at the Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021.
Jose Padilla at the Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021.U.S. District Court Washington

Testifying in his own defense, Padilla conceded he was guilty of some crimes but said he wasn’t guilty of others. He insisted that the violent rhetoric he posted online about the Capitol attack wasn’t reality-based but was for “internet cool points.” He said that exaggeration was part of "gaming subculture" and that he engaged in "heated political rhetoric" because he liked to "shock people." He said he was trying to fit in with the community of Trump supporters.

"If we could have occupied the Capitol, we could have invoked the right given to us in the 2nd paragraph of the Declaration of Independence," Padilla wrote after the attack, referring to part of the declaration that states people have the right and duty to "alter or to abolish" a government and "institute new government" when it becomes a destructive force.

Jose Padilla at the Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021.
Jose Padilla at the Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021.U.S. District Court Washington

"We would have been in the Seat of Power. All we would need to do is declare our grievances with the government and dissolve the legislature, and replace it with Patriots who were there. Then simply re-adopt the Constitution with amendments added to secure future Federal elections," Padilla wrote.

Padilla's posts detailed his actions on Jan. 6; he wrote that he'd "pushed the rails ... pushed the stairs, and then pushed the doorway." He defended his actions online and said he wished he'd done more.

"My conscious is clear," he wrote. "Treason my ass. Keep on being jealous that I'm not a cowardly worm." Padilla wrote that he thought he would die in the fray on Jan. 6 but that “God was on my side.” 

Jose Padilla at the Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021.
Jose Padilla at the Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021.U.S. District Court Washington

"I would liked to have gone up to the Capitol, yeah, and protested where we eventually were," he testified, referring to the scaffolding that had been set up for Joe Biden's presidential inauguration. He testified that when he called officers at the Capitol oath breakers, he meant that he thought they were breaking their oath by not allowing rioters to go inside the building.

Padilla told an officer he faced off with at the Capitol that the machine "will be gone" if the officer let them through. Padilla testified that he wasn't talking about overthrowing the government or killing politicians, as he had discussed extensively online. Instead, he told Bates, the judge, under oath, the mob would have entered the Capitol to "convince legislators" to "adopt constitutional amendments" and get Trump in for a second term, when, Padilla said, he believed Trump would "fire everyone he could legally fire" and probably fire some people illegally, too.

Bates indicated that he thought Padilla's testimony wasn’t credible.

“I don’t credit his self-serving claims that he only intended to follow legal processes," Bates said.