A Minnesota state senator is encouraging supporters to donate to a Lindström, Minn., family facing federal criminal charges in connection with participating in the Jan. 6 insurrection at the U.S. Capitol.
Sen. Mark Koran, a North Branch Republican whose district includes the small town 40 miles northeast of the Twin Cities, on Friday posted a link to a crowdfunding site launched by a member of the Westbury family — four members of which are now among the eight Minnesotans to be charged so far with crimes related to the deadly Capitol riot.
"Here's a local family in Lindstrom who can use some help," Koran wrote. "They attended the Jan 6th Rally and have been accused and charged with a variety of crimes. Some very serious and some which seem to be just to punish opposing views. All I'm asking is that they need assistance to mount a fair defense from an over bearing Dept of Justice. They are a good family!"
Messages were left seeking comment from Koran on Friday.
Earlier this month, prosecutors in the District of Columbia charged Robert Westbury, 62, Isaac Westbury, 19, and a third man, Aaron James, 35, with crimes ranging from assaulting Capitol police officers to disrupting government business. The arrests occurred barely six months after another son, Jonah Westbury, 26, was charged in connection with the Capitol siege.
The new indictment linking three of the four relatives included allegations that two of the men — Isaac Westbury and Aaron James — used a shield to assault and impede a law enforcement officer at the Capitol. More than 600 people have been charged with federal crimes related to storming the Capitol, where a pro-Trump mob sought to disrupt a joint session of Congress convened to certify the 2020 presidential election results. The Justice Department has described its ongoing investigation as the biggest federal criminal probe ever undertaken.
All four of the Lindström defendants have since been released from custody to await trial. Court filings in Jonah Westbury's case indicate that he is nearing a plea agreement to resolve his case.
The crowdfunding campaign that Koran promoted on Friday was created by Rosemarie Westbury, who identified herself as the wife of Robert Westbury and mother of the other three defendants.
"My family is being targeted by this illigitimate [sic], tyrannical government," Rosemarie Westbury wrote on the website, which included a series of photos of armed law enforcement officers purportedly carrying out the Oct. 4 arrest operation at the family's Lindström home.
According to court records, three of the four men are being represented by attorneys appointed via the Criminal Justice Act of 1964, which provides court-appointed legal representation for those who cannot afford to hire their own attorney.
On the crowdfunding site, Rosemarie Westbury wrote that the family has "an attorney who is willing to stand up for us, but this isn't going to be an inexpensive endeavor."
The crowdfunding campaign has a goal of raising $50,000.
As of Friday afternoon, it had netted $200 in anonymous donations, one of which was made an hour after Koran shared a link to the website on his Facebook page.
A message was left seeking comment from the family. Rosemarie Westbury, when reached by the Star Tribune earlier this month, described the case as part of a "tyrannical system that is bullying the citizens of this once great United States of America." She later added: "The government that we have in place is a domestic threat as far as I'm concerned."
Rosemarie Westbury's crowdfunding website describes one of her sons as being a U.S. military veteran.
"My son served this country honorably for 7 years, as a corpsman he served in Iraq, Afghanistan, and the Philippines," she wrote. "The Country he served has turned on him."
Also Friday, Minnesota DFL Party Chair Ken Martin cited Koran's post among a list of recent examples of "dangerous extremism within the Minnesota Republican Party."
Martin was calling on Minnesota GOP Party Chair David Hann to remove Beltrami County Republican Party Chairman Rich Siegert after comments made to a ProPublica reporter who inquired about records linking former state senate candidate and GOP activist Steven Booth to the Oath Keepers extremist group.
Martin also urged Hann to "develop and implement a comprehensive plan to combat extremism within the Minnesota Republican Party, encompassing endorsed candidates, sitting elected officials, and local leaders."
"For far too long, the Republican Party of Minnesota has welcomed dangerous political extremists into their midst," Martin said in a statement. "The January 6th assault on the United States Capitol should have been a wake-up call about the logical endpoint of violent, extremist rhetoric, yet Minnesota Republican officials continue to turn a blind eye to extremism at best and foster it at worst."
Hann told the Star Tribune on Friday that he spoke to both Siegert and Koran. He said that Siegert told him he did not know anything about the Oath Keepers.
Hann said that Koran, meanwhile, had confirmed to him that he was trying to help the Westbury family raise money for their defense.
"I think that's odd that Ken Martin would think it's an extreme position to allow people to have a day in court to defend themselves unless he thinks people are guilty when they're charged rather than when they've actually gone to trial and have been proven guilty," Hann said. "So if that's extremism, I think that's remarkable that the Democrats would believe that our system that's based on a presumption of innocence until convicted, that to try to help people have their day in court is extreme."
Stephen Montemayor • 612-673-1755