NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — Were they just online rants or legitimate threats?
That’s what a jury is trying to decide as the trial of Brendan Hunt from Queens resumed Monday.
He’s accused of posting threats online about killing members of Congress around the time of the Capitol riot in January.
As CBS2’s Alice Gainer reported, a staffer of Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez took the stand.
Daniel Bonthius, the deputy district director of operations at AOC’s office in Jackson Heights, Queens, said the FBI notified him about the alleged threats after Hunt’s arrest. He noted that though the office gets all kinds of threats, this was very concerning.
“We have had experiences with people who have already been arrested coming back to our office after the arrest and additionally being threatening,” Bonthius said.
Hunt wasn’t at the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6 during the breach, but two days after prosecutors say he posted an 88-second video online called “Kill Your Senators,” encouraging others to head back for the inauguration.
Bonthius testified that, “makes it more real than it ever would’ve been previously,” adding, “He saw those events and saw they needed to go farther.”
Prosecutors say Hunt, then an analyst for the New York court system, had a monthlong online campaign to urge violence against Congress.
In December, he allegedly posted: “We want to hold a public execution of Pelosi, AOC, Schumer, etc. … start up the firing squads, mow down these commies, and let’s take America back!”
The defense argues the charges are overblown and that his rants are protected speech with no proof he was a legitimate threat, telling jurors last week that they could label him “an idiot or clown.”
Bonthius was the last witness called by the government.
Outside the courtroom, he told Gainer he did not want to comment further.
Hunt is charged with making threats against U.S. officials. He faces up to 10 years in prison.