An elected official who was a central figure in a New Mexico county’s refusal to certify recent election results based on debunked conspiracy theories about voting machines avoided more jail time Friday for joining the mob that attacked the US Capitol.
Couy Griffin, who founded the political group Cowboys for Trump, was sentenced to 14 days in prison. US District Judge Trevor McFadden credited Griffin for the 20 days he has already served in jail after his arrest.
Federal prosecutors and a probation officer recommended a sentence of three months in prison. Griffin faced a maximum prison sentence of one year for his misdemeanor conviction.
After a bench trial, McFadden convicted Griffin in March of entering a restricted area outside the Capitol during the Jan 6, 2021, riots, but cleared him of one count of disorderly conduct. Griffin did not enter the building itself and was not charged with engaging in acts of violence or destruction.
McFadden, who was nominated by President Donald Trump, also ordered Griffin to pay a $3,000 fine and $500 in restitution and perform 60 hours of community service.
The punishment for Griffin’s role in the riots that delayed President Joe Biden’s victory certification and sent lawmakers running for their lives came on the same day the Republican-dominated Griffin County commission faced a deadline to certify the results of your elections.
Otero County commissioners opted 2-1 to certify the results during an emergency meeting Friday. Only Griffin refused to certify, joining the meeting remotely hours after his sentencing in Washington.
The two who voted to certify said they had no choice under state law and it could only be a rubber stamp. They also acknowledged a state Supreme Court order and subsequent threats of legal action by the state’s Democratic attorney general.
While there has been no evidence of fraud, the commission’s actions threatened to disenfranchise more than 7,300 voters in the politically conservative area of southern New Mexico.
During his sentencing, Griffin claimed the commission “found significant discrepancies” in an election audit. He did not elaborate, but said: “That’s all we want, it’s transparency and truth.”
McFadden said he did not factor that situation into his sentencing of Griffin. But the judge said public officials like Griffin must meet a higher standard.
“We need our elected officials to stand behind this country,” McFadden said.
During the riots, Griffin shouted his unfounded belief that Trump had stolen his election, climbed over a toppled fence and another barrier to access the steps of the Capitol, and used a megaphone to lead the crowd in prayer.
Griffin told McFadden that he was only going to the Capitol to pray with others.
“My actions on January 6 were the result of my faith,” he said.
McFadden called the Capitol riot a “national embarrassment” and called it “absurd” that Griffin claimed he didn’t know he couldn’t be on Capitol grounds on Jan 6.
“I’m not convinced, not even a little bit,” the judge said.
A day after the siege of the Capitol, Griffin made a video on social media expressing his intention to return to Washington and talking about the possibility of holding a gun rights rally on the steps of the Capitol, saying that “blood is going to come out” of that building.
“But at the end of the day, mark my word, we will plant our flag on the desk of Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer and Donald J. Trump if it comes down to that,” Griffin said.
At least 21 riot defendants have pleaded guilty to a single count of the same misdemeanor for which the judge convicted Griffin. Judges handed down prison sentences ranging from 10 days to three months in 14 of those cases, according to an Globe Live Media review of court records.
Prosecutors said Griffin has shown a lack of remorse for his actions during the attack. Griffin bragged at a county commission meeting that he violated police orders to stay out of the restricted area, spread conspiracy theories about what happened on Jan 6 and made social media posts that questioned the judge’s findings, overseeing his case, prosecutors said.
Defense attorney Nicholas Smith said Griffin is remorseful and believes he received a fair trial.
But the judge said Griffin’s lack of remorse and apparent disdain for the criminal justice system is “very troubling.”
Griffin is one of the few riot defendants not charged with entering the Capitol building or engaging in any violent or destructive behavior.
More than 800 people have been charged with federal crimes related to the January 6 riots. More than 300 of them have pleaded guilty and nearly 200 have been convicted.
Melissa Galbraith is the World News reporter for Globe Live Media. She covers all the major events happening around the World. From Europe to Americas, from Asia to Antarctica, Melissa covers it all. Never miss another Major World Event by bookmarking her author page right here.