Want the best of VICE News straight to your inbox? Sign up here.
The defense attorney for Curt Brockway, the 39-year-old Montana Army veteran who choke-slammed a child for not removing his hat for the national anthem, is now saying that his client was simply following the president’s orders.
Brockway’s legal representative, Lance Jasper, told the Billings Gazette that he was inspired to attack the 13-year-old at the Montana county fair and rodeo Saturday, fracturing his skull and giving him a concussion, by Donald Trump’s no-nonsense approach to those who disrespect the flag and, by association, the country.
"His commander in chief is telling people that if they kneel, they should be fired, or if they burn a flag, they should be punished," Jasper told the Billings Gazette. "He certainly didn't understand it was a crime."
Jasper also told the Billings Gazette that a traumatic brain injury sustained in a car accident 19 years ago has severely hampered Brockway’s judgment. The accident, which damaged his frontal lobe, the part of the brain typically associated with problem-solving and make rational decisions, was the reason for his discharge from the military. The defense attorney believes that these all made his client more susceptible to the president’s repeated calls for violence.
Jasper said he will seek a mental health evaluation for Brockway before deciding how to move forward with the case.
"Obviously he owes a big portion of accountability for what took place. But it's certain that there was other things at work here that definitely contributed," Jasper told the Billings Gazette.
This is not the first time that the president’s most hardline supporters have employed the “Trump defense” in exceptionally violent situations.
Last month, defense attorneys for 24-year-old Anthony Comello, who allegedly carried out the assassination of mafia boss Francesco “Frankie Boy” Cali in Staten Island, attributed his actions to pro-Trump conspiracy group “QAnon.” QAnon is a fringe, right-wing collective that is convinced that a secret “Deep State” group made up of democrats, Hollywood elites and other liberals in power are carrying out transnational crimes throughout the world.
Earlier this week, Cesar Sayoc, the so-called “MAGA Bomber” who mailed makeshift bombs to all of Trump’s favorite left-wing punching bags, including Barack Obama, Robert DeNiro and Hillary Clinton, was sentenced to 20 years in prison. Sayoc’s defense attorneys also say that he became “slowly deranged” by Trump’s rhetoric after losing everything during the Great Recession in 2008.
"In this darkness, Mr. Sayoc found light in Donald J. Trump,” his attorneys wrote.
Last week, video of a 29-year-old Trump supporter attacking a 61-year-old protester outside a Trump rally in Cincinnati went viral. The Trump supporter was arrested and charged with assault.
The president has repeatedly called for his supporters to resort to acts of violence when confronted by people who disagree with them. He has encouraged police officers to brutalize arrestees, said he’d like to punch protestors in the face and has threatened to fight the former vice president.
Cover: This undated file photo provided by the Montana Department of Corrections shows Curt James Brockway. Montana authorities have charged Brockway with assault on a minor after a witness said he threw a 13-year-old boy to the ground because the boy didn't remove his hat during the national anthem at a rodeo. Brockway's attorney says his client believes he was acting on an order from President Donald Trump. (Montana Department of Corrections via AP, File)