A federal judge on Tuesday handed down a split verdict to the founder of the “Cowboys for Trump” group, the second defendant to be tried for their role in the January 6 attack on the US Capitol.
Cui Griffin, a county commissioner in New Mexico, was arrested 10 days after the Capitol riots and was charged with two counts of disorderly conduct and entering a confined building or grounds.
In his ruling Tuesday, Judge Trevor McFadden convicted Griffin of first-degree murder but not of disorderly conduct, saying the government had failed to meet the burden of proof that Griffin wanted to join others in the crowd. Out
Griffin could face up to a year in prison and a potential fine if convicted in June.
Griffin was not physically involved in the Capitol building or was involved in any violence, but prosecutors said he climbed over a barrier and a wall before reaching an area near the temporary barracks set up before President Joe Biden’s inauguration. According to investigators, Griffin remained at the scene for more than an hour, and the videos showed him cheering the crowd and leading a prayer with the bullhorn.
The key to the government’s case was proving that Griffin knew he was joining a pro-Trump mob in a confined area set up to protect former Vice President Mike Pence because he presided over the congressional credentials to win the Biden election.
Griffin’s attorneys argued that his case should be dropped because there was no evidence that Griffin was present at the Pence building when he was inside the confined area.
Following Griffin’s trial, prosecutors clashed with Judge McFadden, whom the government called as a witness to Pence’s position throughout the riots, over whether Griffin’s attorneys should be allowed to interrogate a Secret Service agent. Agent Lanel Hawa was assigned to guard Pence on January 8.
In his testimony Monday, Hawa confirmed the first on-the-record from a detailed agency previously reported by Jonathan Carl of ABC News – that Pence was taken underground to a loading dock area where he was “for a few hours” as the crowd passed through the Capitol. Took the storm.
The government initially claimed that information about the exact location of Pence’s removal was so sensitive that it could prevent the Secret Service’s security missions from proceeding – but Judge McFadden insisted that this was the government’s key to proving the case against Griffin.
During Monday’s hearing, Assistant U.S. Attorney Kimberly Pashall was also pressured by Judge McFadden over Capitol police surveillance video that Pashall showed Pence’s location and movements during the riots, but did not hand over to Griffin’s defense because Capitol police did not instruct him. Approval of footage to be shared with third parties.
McFadden refused to give Capitol police extra time for Griffin’s team to release the video and told prosecutors they could choose to drop the case if they wanted to. The judiciary reluctantly decided to proceed, and Griffin’s attorneys provided a revised version of the surveillance footage. However, the footage was not played in open court.
Instead of facing a jury, Griffin chose a bench trial, leaving his fate in the hands of Judge McFadden, a Donald Trump appointee who has in the past questioned whether the judiciary has been “equal-handed” in its approach. The January 6 riots, which erupted into racial unrest following the death of George Floyd in the summer of 2020.
Prior to Tuesday’s concluding argument, McFadden said the government had effectively proven that Griffin was in an unauthorized area at the time of the riots, but asked prosecutors whether Griffin was there “knowingly” and that his actions were considered “disorderly conduct.”
Assistant U.S. Attorney Janani Iyengar said Griffin’s movements on the Capitol field that day – climbing a rocky wall and using a flipped-over metal bike rack to help overcome another obstacle – would “indicate to any reasonable person” that they were there. Was. An area where they were not supposed to be.
Prosecutors also pointed to Griffin’s behavior in the days following the riots, when he posted a video on his Facebook page stating that he had “climbed to the top of the Capitol building and … had a front row seat” and another was called. “If we do, it’s going to be a sad day, because there’s going to be blood in that building,” said the “Second Amendment Rally” outside the Capitol.
A week later, Griffin told a New Mexico County Commission meeting that he planned to return to Washington, D.C., with his revolver and his rifle.
On January 6, Griffin’s traveling companion, Matthew Struck, served as one of the government’s key witnesses and was granted immunity to testify against him. The prosecution showed several videos of Stroke being shot during the riots, showing his and Griffin’s movements outside the Capitol.
Struck initially handed over a collection of videos to the judiciary in January 2021, but Judge McFadden punished prosecutors Monday when it was revealed over the weekend that the judiciary had received additional cash, including two more videos, from Struck last week. Which showed Griffin on Capitol’s limited field. McFadden allowed the government to introduce two of the newly released videos, which he said fell within his original request to Struck, but prevented prosecutors from identifying others because of their last-minute release to Griffin’s attorneys.
Griffin’s case comes three weeks after prosecutors convicted the first rioter, Guy Refitt, of five felony counts on Jan. 6. When he is due to be sentenced in June, he will likely have to spend years in prison.
As of Tuesday, an estimated 770 people had faced federal charges for the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol – about 220 of whom had pleaded guilty to their charges, according to an ABC News analysis.