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Cowboys for Trump founder Couy Griffin sentenced for trespassing

The New Mexico county commissioner said he merely went to the Capitol to pray with protesters

Couy Griffin speaks after his sentencing for misdemeanor trespassing during the Capitol attack. (Tom Jackman/The Washington Post)

After being convicted at trial, many defendants wait quietly for their sentencing. Not Couy Griffin, a New Mexico county commissioner and founder of “Cowboys for Trump.”

Soon after he was convicted by a federal judge in March of entering restricted grounds on Jan. 6, 2021, he returned to social media and the airwaves to disparage the case against him, insult the judge and assert that FBI and “Team Pelosi” were responsible for the attack on the Capitol.

“I don’t think justice was served,” Griffin said of his case in a radio interview earlier this month. According to a court document, he wrote on Twitter that District Judge Trevor McFadden’s “PRE written response” announcing the verdict “was pathetic! I wonder who wrote it?”

At Griffin’s sentencing Friday, McFadden noted the “tension” between Griffin’s professed remorse in the courtroom and his numerous public statements after his conviction. But the judge said very few people who didn’t enter the Capitol on Jan. 6 were charged, and sentenced Griffin to 14 days in jail and a $3,000 fine. Griffin already served 20 days in jail upon his arrest last year, so he was released Friday.

After his sentencing, Griffin implored reporters to follow up on discredited conspiracy theories about the Capitol doors mysteriously opening on Jan. 6, an Arizona man falsely accused of being an FBI agitator in the crowd, and the possibility that voting machines in New Mexico might be electronically hacked. He said he would participate in an Otero County commission meeting later Friday by phone to refuse to certify a recent election until the voting machines are inspected.

Federal prosecutors had pointed out that the secretary of state in New Mexico has asked for a criminal investigation into Griffin’s actions in refusing to certify the primary election there. An online fundraiser for Griffin has also raised nearly $50,000.

McFadden told Griffin that as an elected state official, he had taken an oath to uphold the Constitution. “The actions and statements you’ve taken since then are in tension with that oath,” the judge said. Griffin responded afterward that he felt he was upholding his oath “to make sure that our elections are transparent and legal” and that he traveled to Washington “to stand and peaceably protest” and represent “millions of other Americans that feel the same way that I do.”

Instead of taking his case to a jury, Griffin elected a bench trial with McFadden, an appointee of former president Donald Trump. Evidence at his trial showed that Griffin and his videographer climbed over various barricades and barriers, then clambered onto the inauguration stage in front of the Capitol and spent over an hour speaking through a bullhorn to the surging mob. He said he was leading the group in prayer.

After his arrest, Griffin was initially ordered held without bond, in part because he said on a video he would return to Washington for the inauguration of Joe Biden and “there’s going to be blood running out of that building.” He was released 20 days later, in part because he might be awaiting trial longer than the maximum six-month misdemeanor sentence he faced.

The trial forced prosecutors to disclose the location of vice president Mike Pence during the riot, over Secret Service objections, to prove that Griffin had entered a restricted area, though he did not enter the Capitol itself. McFadden acquitted Griffin of disorderly conduct but convicted him of the misdemeanor charge of entering a restricted building or grounds.

According to a court document, Griffin tweeted after the trial that the “media has tried to make me look like the biggest loser the last couple days. Truth is I was 1 for 1 with the US Government. The 1 I lost I will appeal. We SHOULD have won a grand slam on both counts.” He also amplified his unfounded claims that the riot was a left-wing plot when he tweeted last month asking where “is the investigation into the coordinated and PLANNED SET UP of Jan 6th!”

His advisory sentencing guideline range for the misdemeanor conviction was zero to six months. Both the prosecutors and the probation and parole department recommended he serve 90 days. His lawyer, David Smith, requested two months probation.

At his sentencing, Griffin told the judge, “I have huge respect for law enforcement” and “I am a respecter of the system.” He said he had been a pastor before entering politics in Otero County. “I lived a life devoted to the Lord,” Griffin said. “On January 6, my actions were taken as the result of my faith” and that “was why I went down to the Capitol on January 6, to go pray with people.”

Griffin said “there was no signage, there was nothing that indicated I was going into a restricted or unauthorized zone.” McFadden responded that was “preposterous” and “you knew you shouldn’t be there and you continued to do it.”

“I suspect you were prosecuted because you went to great lengths to publicize your actions. Frankly, I think that’s completely legitimate,” the judge said. He told Griffin, “You’re not being sentenced for your beliefs about voting fraud” and took aim at those advancing similar claims about fraud nationally. “They are as mistaken as you are,” McFadden said. “The difference is they didn’t then decide to storm the Capitol building.”

Separately on Friday, an Indiana man pleaded guilty to carrying a loaded handgun and assaulting police with a stolen baton in the Capitol breach.

Mark Andrew Mazza, 57, of Shelbyville, Ind., faces up to 20 years in prison for assaulting an officer with a dangerous weapon and up to five years for carrying a pistol without a license. He is scheduled to be sentenced Sept. 30 in Washington.

Mazza is the second person to be convicted of carrying a handgun in the Capitol riot, with charges pending against a third. Two other defendants have pleaded guilty to brining unregistered firearms in their vehicles.

The Jan. 6 insurrection

The report: The Jan. 6 committee released its final report, marking the culmination of an 18-month investigation into the violent insurrection. Read The Post’s analysis about the committee’s new findings and conclusions.

The final hearing: The House committee investigating the attack on the U.S. Capitol held its final public meeting where members referred four criminal charges against former president Donald Trump and others to the Justice Department. Here’s what the criminal referrals mean.

The riot: On Jan. 6, 2021, a pro-Trump mob stormed the U.S. Capitol in an attempt to stop the certification of the 2020 election results. Five people died on that day or in the immediate aftermath, and 140 police officers were assaulted.

Inside the siege: During the rampage, rioters came perilously close to penetrating the inner sanctums of the building while lawmakers were still there, including former vice president Mike Pence. The Washington Post examined text messages, photos and videos to create a video timeline of what happened on Jan. 6. Here’s what we know about what Trump did on Jan. 6.