NEW YORK — A social media agitator was convicted Wednesday on federal charges of threatening to kill members of Congress in a verdict that rejected his claims it was harmless rhetoric.
A jury found Brendan Hunt guilty at the close of a weeklong trial in federal court in Brooklyn.
Hunt, 37, did not deny creating a series of menacing-sounding posts. But he testified that they were often put together while impaired from smoking pot with a bong and drinking beer, and never thought they would be taken seriously.
"I wrote a lot of things I didn't mean," Hunt said, calling himself "immature" and "very irresponsible."
He added: "I just feel terrible about how I expressed myself."
The verdict came in a case where prosecutors linked Hunt to the siege at the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6 to his brand of extremism. He wasn't there, but admitted posting videos and other materials expressing support for the violent mob.
Hunt — a staunch supporter of former President Donald Trump, avid comic book collector and an analyst for the New York court system — had pleaded not guilty to charges alleging, in part, that he called for the "public execution" of Democratic U.S. Reps. Nancy Pelosi and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and U.S. Sen. Charles Schumer. Prosecutors say it was part of a monthlong online campaign to urge violence against members of Congress that culminated with a Jan. 8 video titled: "Kill your senators. Slaughter them all."
Defense attorneys had called the charges overblown. They argued Hunt's posts were protected free speech and that there was no proof that he was a legitimate threat.
The trial featured testimony from a Capitol Police officer about the mayhem on Jan. 6.
A message was left with one of Hunt's lawyers on Wednesday.