WASHINGTON — An Iowa man was so determined to stop the certification of electoral votes on Jan. 6 he scaled a 20-foot wall and led a mob that chased a police officer through the U.S. Capitol Building, prosecutors told a jury Tuesday.
Opening arguments began late in the afternoon in the trial of Doug Jensen, a Des Moines resident indicted on multiple felony charges of obstruction, civil disorder and assaulting, resisting or impeding police on Jan. 6. A jury of 10 men and four women was empaneled to hear the case after two days of questions from attorneys and U.S. District Judge Timothy Kelly — a process that was delayed somewhat by Jensen's last-minute attempt to fire his lawyer, which Kelly denied.
During brief opening remarks Tuesday, assistant U.S. attorney Emily Allen told jurors Jensen had driven 16 hours, scaled a wall, climbed through a broken window and led the mob that chased U.S. Capitol Police Officer Eugene Goodman all in an effort to stop Congress from certifying President Joe Biden's victory in the 2020 election. He was so committed to the task, Allen said, that when he saw Goodman's hand on his firearm while attempting to hold the mob back, Jensen told him, "Go ahead and shoot," and continued advancing on him.
Allen said Jensen had brought others with him to the Capitol on Jan. 6 and had sent a message to a friend about being "locked and loaded" with pistols, although there is no evidence he brought firearms with him to the Capitol. He is accused of carrying a 3-inch folding knife with him, which his attorney has attributed to his job as a construction worker.
Allen also showed jurors and image of another message Jensen sent to a friend who had just told him, albeit incorrectly, that Pence had certified the election. In it, Jensen responded, "That's all about to change."
"His whole purpose in going there that day was to stop Congress from certifying that election," Allen said.
But Jensen's attorney, Christopher Michael Davis, said Jensen had a different motive. He described Jensen as an unsophisticated media consumer who had fallen down a "rabbit hole" online and gotten sucked into the QAnon conspiracy theory — which holds, among other ideas, that former President Donald Trump was engaged in a global battle against a Satanic cabal of child sex abusers. A key element of the QAnon conspiracy theory is the coming of "the storm," which is the day that Trump would supposedly begin the mass arrest of members of the cabal, the so-called "deep state" and prominent Democrats. That, Davis said, is what Jensen thought was happening on Jan. 6.
"He believed 100% in QAnon. He believed on Jan. 6 the storm was going to arrive and police were going to arrest all the corrupt politicians," Davis said. "And that included Mike Pence."
Davis conceded that the jury would see an array of video evidence brought to bear against his client. Those videos, some of which jurors saw snippets of during Allen's opening argument, show Jensen leading the mob against Goodman, yelling at police to back up and, upon his return to Iowa, talking to FBI agents about his belief in the QAnon conspiracy theory.
"This is not a whodunnit case," Davis said. "This whole case is on video. And not only it is on video, most of it has audio!"
But, he urged jurors to see what he saw in that video, which was a man who didn't threaten police or Congress and who never pulled the knife he had in his pocket.
The trial was scheduled to begin in earnest Wednesday morning at 9 a.m. with the first of seven witnesses expected to be called to testify against Jensen. Allen said four of them, including Goodman, came face-to-face with Jensen on Jan. 6. It was unclear whether the defense intended to present its own witnesses, and Davis told jurors he hoped to put the case in their hands before the end of the week. If convicted of the most serious charge against him, obstruction of an official proceeding, Jensen could face years behind bars.
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