The two lawyers representing Adam Johnson, the MAGA fan infamously photographed happily smiling while stealing House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s lectern, claimed that, despite evidence to the contrary, their client is actually “pro-law enforcement” and was trespassing in the Capitol to “witness a little bit of history” while, apparently, also looting.
Florida attorneys David Bigney and Dan Eckhart appeared on CNN’s Cuomo Prime Time on Monday night to give their public defense of Johnson, who was bonded out of jail in Tampa, Florida after being charged with trespassing, theft, and violent entry and disorderly conduct. The image of Trump-hatted Johnson, light-heartedly waving at the camera in the Capitol’s Statuary Hall as he stole the lectern, became an instant symbol of the arrogance and lawlessness of the pro-Trump mob.
The defense lawyers, however, put a brave face on a case where their client was caught red-handed — even as Cuomo repeatedly pushed back on their transparent, “can’t judge a book by its cover” spin.
“Why does he deserve your help in this situation?” Cuomo asked early on in the interview, noting the pair’s prestigious credentials. “He has no right to your help. What do you know about him that makes you feel that there are redeeming characteristics to who he is and what he did, sir?”
“To be honest with you it’s, you know, you always can’t judge a book by its cover, so to speak,” Eckhardt replied, before turning to a common defense attorney tactic. “You’ve got the photos and a lot of things on social media where they’re demonizing Mr. Johnson. It is really a mischaracterization. He is a family man. His wife is a physician. He has five children. There is nothing in his background or his past that would attribute any type of violence or this type of rebellious behavior to him. It is an anomaly, an unusual situation for him.”
“So he is not part of some extremist group? He wasn’t part of an organized effort to get into the Capitol?” Cuomo pressed, of someone who had just displayed exactly that kind of “rebellious behavior.”
“No, he certainly wasn’t. He was there to witness a little bit of history and that’s the extent of it,” Bigney claimed of his client, who, again, was photographed in the act of stealing a symbolic trophy from one of President Donald Trump’s political enemies while the Capitol was ransacked around him and a police officer was killed. “He wasn’t involved in any coup. He wasn’t involved in any planning of any entering of the Capitol. Things got out of hand. You saw the pictures. He was not there for any destruction, any treason. He was just there to witness history.”
“The guy did it. He is obviously in there,” Cuomo said, pushing back. “He was in there with a pack of savages who were trying to find and target members of Congress and do terrible things. Did terrible things. He is smiling his ass off while he takes a lectern. What is any rationale for him not being guilty?”
Bigney’s response to that inconvenient fact was two-fold: First, the attorneys have “gotten to know him a little bit over the last week or so. He is not the guy being portrayed on the media.” Second, he argued that because the U.S. Attorney granted him bail, the government must not feel like “he was involved in some sort of coup.”
“He did exactly the same things. He broke into the U.S. Capitol,” Cuomo pressed. “He went where he wasn’t supposed to be. He stole something that he knows isn’t his. And he loved it.”
Bigney, rehearsing his argument before the court, claimed there was a “big difference between him and the people that actually broke into the U.S. Capitol.”
“I don’t believe there is any damage that he did any — any evidence that he did damage to anything,” Bigney said, looking past the looting and trespassing. “Looking at your own website today it is clear that there was no security prohibiting the entry of a lot of the people that went in. So he was not one of those people that was forcing anything.”
Cuomo, his eyebrows furiously furrowed, shot back: “But he knew he wasn’t supposed to go in, David. He knew he wasn’t supposed to take that lectern.”
“That being said, what you’ve seen is a picture. You’ve seen a picture of one instance,” Bigney said of the totally incriminating evidence of his client’s guilt.
“You know, Chris,” Eckhart said, stepping in and alluding to a bizarre moment on the courthouse steps captured online. “I made a mistake during the initial questioning where somebody did point out ‘Hey, there is a photograph. Appears to be a photograph in the Capitol with a lectern’ and I said something to the effect of ‘I’m not a magician meaning we can’t make that evidence disappear.’”
This is just an amazing moment from a defense attorney pic.twitter.com/CypiRvKptW
— philip lewis (@Phil_Lewis_) January 11, 2021
“But here is the concern. We’re looking at more of this,” Cuomo pointed out. “We’re looking at people feeling emboldened by what happened on Wednesday. And this fool has been all over the place smiling as like, you know, the picture of exactly who you want to be if you’re a big Trumper and I’m worried that him getting off, getting bond, sends the message that it’s not that bad. You should try to do it, too. Are you worried about that?”
“Well, we’re not worried because, Chris, this is the initial stage as you know,” Eckhardt insisted. “We just got him out today. There’s more to this story and you’ll be one of the first to know as the case evolves.”
Watch the video above, via CNN.
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