Trump Sued For Wrongful Death Of Police Officer
Lost in the news cycle dominated by the tragic comedy of Republicans trying (unsuccessfully) to elect a House Speaker is that Donald Trump has been sued for the wrongful death of Officer Brian Sicknick. Sicknick died from two strokes that occurred on January 6th after he defended the Capitol. You can read the lawsuit HERE.
Also sued are Julian Khater and George Tanios. Tanio is accused of providing pepper spray that Khater then sprayed Sicknick in the face with. Trump is accused inciting them by pushing the big lie and by words that encouraged the violence against Sicknick. They have already been convicted criminally and will be sentenced in the next few weeks.
In particular, the lawsuit alleges that Trump encouraged the attack on Sicknick by:
- Spreading the Big Lie that the election was stolen from him.
- Summoning his supporters to the Capitol on January 6th to be “wild.” The lawsuit alleges this was interpreted by many of his supporters, including Khater and Tanios, as a call to violence.
- Telling the violence prone Proud Boys to “stand by” in case the election was stolen from him.
- Refusing to commit to a peaceful transition.
- Setting up speeches from supporters at the Ellipse on January 6th that encouraged violence.
- His own inflammatory speech to the mob urging it to fight like Hell.
- A speech where Trump urged a mob, he knew to be armed, to march on the Capitol.
- Inflaming the mob in the midst of the violence with his tweet attacking Mike Pence as a coward.
- Trump’s failure, for hours, to take any meaningful action to stop the violence despite pleas from other Republicans and family to do so.
That lawsuit cites the numerous January 6 defendants who claim their illegal actions were motivated by their belief that they were doing what Trump wanted them to do.
The lawsuit points to a judge’s prior determination that it has been plausibly alleged that Trump “aided and abetted” the assaults on police officers that day and engaged in a classic “civil conspiracy” for the assault on the Capitol. Under D.C. case law to aid and abet in an assault a person need only “plant the seeds of action” particularly when they are in a position of authority.
Expect causality to be a big issue in this lawsuit. The coroner ruled Sicknick’s death was from natural causes. He did not suffer any blunt trauma to the head or allergic reaction to the pepper spray. However, the coroner’s conclusion has not been universally accepted by others and the coroner acknowledged “all that transpired played a role in his condition.”
That may be sufficient for plaintiff to dodge early dismissal of the lawsuit. Cause of death is a fact issue and for early dismissal facts are assumed as alleged by plaintiffs. Thus, the lawsuit may survive to discovery when the plaintiffs can depose Trump, which should be interesting. They can also present their own expert witnesses who may more directly blame the assaults on Sicknick for his death, creating a basis for a judge to determine that a jury must decide the causality question.
I believe that Brian Sicknick lost his life defending the Capitol of the United States. I hope that the man responsible for bringing the violence to him is brought to justice.