The lawyer for a Montana man accused of assaulting a teen for not removing his hat during the national anthem said his client believed he was simply following the orders of President Donald Trump.
Attorney Lance Jasper also said 39-year-old Curt James Brockway’s decision-making ability was compromised by a traumatic brain injury that led to him to be honorably discharged from the Army.
“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,” attorney Lance Jasper told the Missoulian. “He certainly didn’t understand it was a crime.”
Brockway faces one count of felony assault of a minor. His lawyer said he plans to have Brockway’s mental health evaluated before determining the proper defense for him.
Brockway was arrested on Saturday after he allegedly assaulted a 13-year-old boy at the Mineral County Fair and Rodeo when the anthem was being played.
The boy suffered temporal skull fractures from the attack and bled from his ears for six hours, according to his mother, Megan Wheeler.
Jasper told the paper that in 2000, Brockway sustained a traumatic brain injury in a vehicle crash while on active military duty at Fort Lewis, Washington, that affected the frontal lobe, which controls cognitive functions like judgment and problem-solving.
Despite the discharge, Jasper argued that Brockway’s military background is central to his identity. Therefore, he viewed Trump’s diatribes against NFL players kneeling when the anthem is played as akin to a presidential order.
“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 said, adding: “I am certain of the fact that [Brockway] was doing what he believed he was told to do, essentially, by the president.”
Prosecutors requested that Brockway be held on $100,000 bond, but Honorary Judge Dale Magone ruled that he could be released without posting bail even though he was convicted of assault with a weapon in 2010 and given a 10-year suspended sentence.
Court documents obtained by local station KPAX said Brockway is required to affix a GPS to his body and have no contact with the victim, his family or witnesses.
He is also only allowed to leave his parents’ home for work, medical appointments and court appearances.
Brockway is scheduled to be arraigned on Aug. 14.