New Mexico county commissioner and Cowboys for Trump founder Couy Griffin sentenced for Jan. 6 conviction
Washington – The founder of the "Cowboys for Trump'' organization and commissioner of Otero County, New Mexico, Couy Griffin, was sentenced Friday to 14 days in jail, a $3,000 fine, 60 hours of community service and a year of supervised release on Friday after being convicted of entering restricted U.S. Capitol grounds on Jan. 6, 2021.
Griffin, who has been in jail for 20 days, will receive credit for time served and will not have to serve additional time.
Griffin was found guilty in March of the misdemeanor, which carries a maximum sentence of one year in prison. A federal judge acquitted him of another misdemeanor charge of disorderly conduct in a bench trial during which the judge, not a jury, renders the verdict.
Judge Trevor McFadden ruled that Griffin was guilty of the charge that arose from his illegal entry of U.S. Capitol grounds in the vicinity of then-Vice President Mike Pence, who was in the Capitol building for the counting of the Electoral College votes and remained in the Capitol complex during the riot.
Prosecutors had said Griffin should get 90 days in prison with credit for the 20 days he has already served, contending that despite statements to the contrary, Griffin has shown a lack of remorse for his actions. Referring to the split ruling of one conviction and one acquittal rendered by McFadden, prosecutors noted that Griffin tweeted in the weeks after his trial and criticized the judge.
"The 1 I lost I will appeal. We SHOULD have won a grand slam on both counts," Griffin tweeted. "McFaddens PRE written response was pathetic! I wonder who wrote it??"
During the sentencing, McFadden said that Griffin not entering the Capitol "puts the case on a lower misdemeanor level," but said there is a "grave tension" between his comments in the courtroom and his tweets.
"Sometimes you are your own worst enemy here," said McFadden.
McFadden also said he he should uphold his oath to the Constitution, noting his responsibility as an elected official. "You are encouraging the breaking of our laws. I have to take that seriously," McFadden said.
Griffin maintains his mistaken belief that the 2020 election was fraudulent, but McFadden said he was not being sentenced for his voting fraud beliefs.
Griffin's sentencing in Washington, D.C., took place on the same day as New Mexico's deadline to certify its election results, and currently, Otero County is refusing to certify, citing unspecified concerns about the Dominion voting machines used in the June 7 primary. The commissioners have not identified any problems with the voting machines, but allies of former President Trump made disproven conspiracy-laden accusations against the reliability of the machines after the 2020 election. The Democratic secretary of state and the state Supreme Court have ordered Otero County's commission to certify its results, and there is an emergency meeting of the commission Friday evening, although it is not clear whether Griffin, who told CNN he would vote against certifying, will be back in New Mexico for the meeting.
Griffin, who arrived in court wearing his signature cowboy hat, took the stand saying, "I am very sorry for the violence that day" and that he "disagreed" with it.
"My actions on January 6 was a result of my faith," said Griffin, who has earlier said he went to pray over the crowd. "I live a life devoted to the Lord."
Griffin said after the sentencing he believes he is honoring his oath of office by advocating for the hand counting of votes counted by Dominion machines.
"It could be a baseless claim, but you can't prove anything is baseless until you look deeper into it," he said Friday afternoon.
Griffin was not accused of any act of physical violence or of entering the Capitol building on Jan. 6, 2021, but of being present on restricted Capitol grounds cordoned off by law enforcement and closed to the public ahead of the election certification. He asked the judge to sentence him to no more than two months' probation, which his lawyer argued was the average term for such an offense.
"To the extent his presence there contributed to the distress of outnumbered law enforcement officers, he offers them his sincere apology," the defense wrote in a prehearing filing, later adding, "No evidence, in any case, indicated that Griffin's purpose in being in the area was driven by [Pence's] presence specifically" at the Capitol.
Griffin, his attorneys argued, did not personally endanger Pence by his presence on Capitol grounds and should not be treated as if he had.
"Though he is of limited means, Griffin would seize an opportunity to offer assistance to injured officers and to contribute to the repair of physical damage to the Capitol. Griffin vows to never again enter a restricted area, at the Capitol or anywhere else," the filing added.
Prosecutors, however, argued Griffin was part of the mob that "succeeded in halting the Congressional certification," according to a recent court filing.
"Griffin remained on the Capitol grounds for over two hours while rioters engaged in acts of violence and property damage on the Capitol grounds," the memo read.
Prosecutors also allege he has used his legal fight as a way to raise money, asking for contributions to an online funding page.
Jail time, the government argued, was the only way to deter Griffin from acting in such a way again, a claim his legal team countered, saying, "the shame Griffin has experienced is itself a guarantee of deterrence."
He was arrested in the weeks following the attack and held in pretrial detention before his legal team successfully won his court-ordered release. Griffin claimed he was innocent and argued he was unaware that Pence was still anywhere in the Capitol area. He did not testify in his own defense.
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