Otto County Commissioner Cui Griffin has been accused of knowingly entering the confines of Capitol Square, one of hundreds of pro-Trump supporters who have been accused of violating Joe Biden’s certification for the 2020 presidential election. His trial will be the second of hundreds of people arrested in the riots.
He is one of at least 10 people accused of rioting who held public office or ran for office in the two-and-a-half years since the attack. They include candidates for mayor of West Texas, city councils in Kansas and West Virginia, counties in Washington state, congressional seats in Florida, and statehouses in Pennsylvania, New York, and West Virginia. January 6 Another defendant is running for a congressional seat in New Hampshire this year.
Griffin has been in office since 2019 and is one of three elected officials responsible for management, administration and budget. While in office, he also served on county boards promoting local election results.
In 2019, he helped find a cowboy for Trump with a group of rodeo acquaintances to spread a conservative message about gun rights, immigration control and abortion restrictions. Many of those messages were delivered on horseback.
Griffin, a former rodeo rider and former pastor, plans to ride his horse “Red” to the country’s capital, as he has previously outing with the group in Washington and then taking the animal to courthouse.
He has rejected Biden’s 2020 election and believes Trump is the real winner, despite the lack of evidence and statements from elected officials, local election leaders and Trump’s own attorney general that the results were accurate.
Griffin voted in January with his county commission to review the 2020 presidential election in Otero County – where Trump won 62% of the share – through a door-to-door campaign that has raised concerns about intimidating voters. The review is still being conducted.
Prosecutors have submitted a variety of images showing Griffin violating the barricades on the day of the 2021 uprising – a torn down fence and another barrier to access the Capitol steps. Pictures taken by Griffin’s own videographer show him using a bullhorn to cheer in the crowd on January 6 and lead the crowd in prayer.
Matthew Struck, the videographer who was with Griffin, has been granted immunity and is expected to testify at trial, prosecutors said in a filing Thursday.
He does not deny that he was in the Capitol on January 6, 2021; He admitted that he had entered a barricaded area to reach the Capitol’s outdoor verandah in the afternoon without entering the building.
But his attorneys claim that prosecutors provided first-hand evidence that then-Vice President Mike Pence was still at the Capitol – a prerequisite for the US Secret Service to call for access restrictions.
Prosecutors say Pence’s exact location was irrelevant when the county commissioner entered the Capitol field – and that the Secret Service did not have to disclose sensitive security information regarding the riot response.
Griffin clearly disagrees.
“People have been accused of entering an unauthorized area and it cannot be an unauthorized area to start with – this is a legal question now,” Griffin said in an interview with the Associated Press. “It’s really embarrassing for part of Mike Pence – personally and privately – to take action and let us know when he left the building, unless he’s trying to protect the government and hurt the patriots.”
U.S. District Court Judge Trevor McFadden ruled that prosecutors must call a witness to testify who had first-hand knowledge of Pence’s whereabouts during the attack if they wanted Griffin to stand trial in a confined building or grounds. Earlier, McFadden denied Griffin’s allegations of misconduct and discrimination.
Griffin was arrested by Capitol police on January 17, 2021, after returning to Washington to protest Biden’s election and inauguration. He spent about three weeks in prison before his pending trial.
Back home in southern New Mexico, Griffin resisted an attempt to hold a withdrawal election. State election regulators have sued Griffin for refusing to register cowboys for Trump as a political party. Griffin said the group is a profitable business and he is concerned about identifying and harassing contributors.
In early March, Griffin confirmed that he would not run for office this year or run in the 2022 election cycle, saying he had lost faith in the political system.
The fate of other politicians is unclear. A former Pennsylvania lawmaker has been sentenced to 60 days in prison for appearing inside the Capitol building during the riots. A former West Virginia lawmaker who resigned from his office three days after joining the crowd in the building has been charged with one count of civil unrest and is due to stand trial in court on Friday.
In all, at least 765 people have been charged with federal crimes related to capital riots. At least 231 of them have been convicted, mostly for misdemeanors. At least 119 riot convicts have been convicted, 50 of whom have already been sentenced to life in prison.
There are approximately 90 other trial dates. The first trial of the rioters has been completed in all the cases.
Billeaud reports from Phoenix.