The elected New Mexico, Otero county commissioner and pro-Trump grass-roots group leader was convicted at bench trial by a Trump-appointed judge. He was acquitted of a second count of disorderly conduct
An elected Republican county commissioner representing Otero County, New Mexico posted a video on Facebook of himself on the inauguration stage within the barricaded perimeter of the Capitol grounds during the Jan. 6 riot that forced the evacuation of lawmakers meeting to certify Joe Biden’s election victory. Griffin, 48, turned down an offer to plead to a lesser charge and probation, waived a trial by jury and bet his freedom on a bench trial that started Monday before U.S. District Judge Trevor N. McFadden of Washington.
The conviction gave the Justice Department its second victory at trial in the Capitol riot probe, affirming its decision to level misdemeanor charges punishable by up to one year in jail against hundreds of defendants. A jury earlier this month found a Texas militia movement recruiter, Guy Reffitt, guilty of five felonies, including obstruction of an official proceeding, witness tampering and interfering with police in a riot.
Donald Trump who injured scores of police, ransacked Capitol offices and caused Congress to evacuate as it met to confirm the 2020 election results, Griffin was not accused of violence or entering the building — one of the few such defendants among more than 750 people federally charged in the Capitol siege investigation.
Defense attorneys David B. Smith and Nicholas D. Smith have said U.S. authorities targeted Griffin for prosecution based on his protected speech. McFadden rejected that contention, finding that Griffin’s alleged leadership role, more blatant conduct and position as an elected official might rationally merit different handling by prosecutors.
McFadden, a 2017 Trump appointee, said video showed Griffin climbing over a stone wall marking the Capitol’s security perimeter, walking over other plastic mesh fencing and metal bicycle rack barriers that had been pushed down, and spending more than an hour on the front railing of the inaugural stage with a bullhorn.
The law requires that offenders act knowingly to disrupt a government proceeding. Griffin was recorded saying that he thought Vice President Mike Pence had already acted and that the certification was over at the time, McFadden said. Prosecutors said that Congress was only in recess and still in session to certify the election, and their evidence showed that members of the crowd around Griffin were chanting “Decertify!” even as their presence delayed Congress’s return to vote until that evening. However, McFadden found that although Griffin “could have thought business was still taking place, . . . the burden was on the government” to prove it beyond a reasonable doubt.
The judge set sentencing for June 17, after his attorney, Nicholas Smith, declined the judge’s offer to immediately sentence Griffin on Tuesday.
Upon Griffin’s return he faces two new lawsuits filed against him in New Mexico, one calling for his removal from office and one for campaign finance violations.
We requested a statement from Mr. Griffin and have not received one as yet. If he provides us commentary we will update the article upon receipt.