Couy Griffin guilty of misdemeanor that has violated limited Capitol grounds

U.S. District Judge Trevor N. McFadden found Griffin, who is also an elected New Mexico county commissioner, guilty of illegally entering or remaining on restricted grounds after a one-day trial and not guilty of another misdemeanor for disorder. Each charge was punishable by up to one year in prison.

Griffin, who attended the trial in a black cowboy hat, left the courthouse in DC and reiterated former President Donald Trump’s baseless allegations that the 2020 election was stolen. He went on to claim that he was a victim of political persecution – even though his judge was appointed by Trump in 2017 and served as an official in the Department of Justice’s Criminal Department in the Trump and George W. Bush administrations.

McFadden set the sentence at June 17, after defense attorney Nicholas D. Smith turned down an offer of immediate sentencing.

The judge’s ruling only upheld U.S. prosecutors’ decision to charge about half of the more than 750 people arrested to date in the Capitol siege for misdemeanors if they did not assault police, damage property or act to obstruct congressional proceedings. . More than 220 people have so far pleaded guilty, most of them to a petty misdemeanor of misdemeanor, parade, strike or demonstration, punishable by a maximum of six months in prison.

But in indictments and indictments, prosecutors have also indicted stricter charges for misdemeanors against those accused of more gross or disruptive conduct than passing quietly through restricted areas, or in a small number of cases like Griffins, did not enter the Capitol .

In the first trial against a crime accused earlier this month, a jury discussed just under two hours before finding Guy Reffitt guilty on all five charges, and convicted the recruiter of a self-proclaimed Texas militia movement of crimes, including obstruction of an official trial, witness manipulation and police interference in a riot.

Griffin’s trial was another legal test that required U.S. prosecutors to prove that the defendant deliberately violated a restricted area where then-Vice President Mike Pence or others receiving Secret Service protection were or would be present. McFadden found out they did, after forcing the Secret Service to publicly confirm for the first time that Pence was evacuated to an underground Senate loading dock and remained there for four to five hours on the afternoon of January 6th. The Justice Department had initially argued that revealing Pence’s whereabouts could jeopardize national security interests.

Assistant U.S. Attorneys Janani Iyengar and Kimberly Paschall also quoted a video that Griffin posted of himself on the inauguration scene next to the Capitol during the riots that forced the evacuation of lawmakers who met to confirm Joe Biden’s election victory.

Other evidence recorded by a videographer that Griffin brought with him to Washington showed that he climbed over a stone wall marking the Capitol’s security perimeter and walked over trampled plastic mesh fences and separate bicycle rack barriers. The video also showed him spending more than an hour on the front railing of the inaugural stage with a bullhorn, ignoring the lingering odor of police-sprayed pepper spray and leading the audience downstairs in prayer.

“He [Griffin] crossed over three walls, ”McFadden said. “All of this would suggest to a normal person that you might not need to get into the area.” The judge added that Griffin said in videos he recorded the next day and on January 14 that he joined a crowd that “pushed through” fences into areas “cordoned off” by police for the inauguration.

But McFadden acquitted the defendant of disorderly conduct, finding that prosecutors had not proved that he acted knowingly to disrupt a government case. The judge quoted Griffin’s recorded statements and said that when he arrived at the scene at 14.31, he mistakenly believed that Pence and Congress had already confirmed the election.

Griffin “might have thought business was still going on, but the burden was on the government” to prove it beyond a reasonable doubt, McFadden said.

Griffin was arrested when he returned to Washington on January 17, 2021, after saying during a meeting of the Otero County Commission that he planned to return to Biden’s inauguration with his .357 Henry Big Boy rifle and single-action revolver. He had also rhetorically suggested that the blood of political enemies could be spilled on the Capitol in defense of the right to bear firearms.

He rejected an offer to plead a minor charge and probation, waived a trial by jury and took his chances with McFadden.

Griffin’s defense argued that there was no evidence that he saw a “Do Not Enter” sign, was told by police that any area was restricted, or knew that Pence was present at the Capitol at the same time as he was. Smith argued that one could find the events of January 6 “embarrassing and shameful,” but also conclude that it was “offensive and wrong” to selectively prosecute and convict Griffin of exercising his freedom of speech and leading a prayer.

“It would be one thing if he was arrested for assaulting someone, for planning to enter the building, for threatening members of Congress inside. But he will be prosecuted for standing on the stairs,” a the federal appeals court has declared it to be a public forum, Smith said.

McFadden rejected this claim before the trial and found that Griffin’s alleged leadership role, more overt behavior and position as an elected official could rationally deserve a different handling of prosecutors. While reading his verdict, he said Griffin “was not on the stairs. He is on [inauguration] the scene, ”while the police worked to restore order for hours.

“No one thinks a random tourist can climb up there, right?” said McFadden.

The judge also said it would be “strange” to require the Secret Service, before enforcing a given security perimeter, to notify in advance that a person under its protection was present.

“What kind of security issues does it raise if the Secret Service is required to tell people who are in a restricted area that the restricted area needs to have teeth?” asked McFadden.

Griffin is one of at least 10 people charged in the riot, who either held public office or ran for a government leadership post in the 2½ years before the attack, according to an Associated Press statement.

The Washington Post has reported that at least 163 Republicans who have embraced Trump’s false allegations are running for nationwide positions that would give them authority over the election administration. The list includes 69 candidates for governor in 30 states, as well as 55 candidates for the U.S. Senate, 13 candidates for attorney general and 18 candidates for secretary of state in places where that person is the state’s top election official.

Griffin, a former rodeo cowboy at Disneyland Paris and self-proclaimed preacher, is a stonemason and racial provocateur whose use of social media earned him praise from Trump and an invitation to the Oval Office.

Griffin won the 2018 election with 65 percent of the vote, but is not seeking re-election. He has supported a taxpayer-funded $ 50,000 revision of the 2020 election results in the small Conservative county, whose 24,000 votes Trump had by 25 percentage points.

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