After a short-lived bench trial where a federal judge appointed by former President Donald Trump rendered the verdict, Cowboys for Trump founder and Jan. 6 defendant Couy Griffin was found guilty Tuesday of trespassing but was acquitted on a disorderly conduct charge.
His conviction ultimately marks the second trial win for the Department of Justice in its massive probe of the Capitol assault.
Griffin, who is also an elected county official in New Mexico, left the federal courthouse with confidence, telling reporters he eagerly awaited Trump’s reelection while spewing long-debunked claims that the 2020 election was stolen from the twice-impeached president.
Griffin will be sentenced on June 17 and could face up to a year in prison for the misdemeanor charge.
The right-wing conspiracy theorist entered into a restricted area of the Capitol complex on Jan. 6, scaling a wall and shuffling up a makeshift platform. The zone he found himself in that day was restricted, according to prosecutors, because it was considered an area where Secret Service agents were protecting then-Vice President Mike Pence.
Griffin tried to beat that charge specifically by arguing he and Pence were not in the same areas during the riot and moreover, even if they were, Griffin had no way of knowing he and Pence shared a restricted or protected space.
U.S. District Judge Trevor McFadden rejected the premise. According to BuzzFeed, he called it “preposterous” on its face.
In the end, closed-circuit security footage of Pence held by the U.S. Capitol Police Board and ultimately shared with the Department of Justice sunk Griffin’s bid to unwind the trespass misdemeanor.
Though defense attorney Nicholas Smith ultimately conceded on Griffin’s location, he urged the judge to toss the disorderly conduct charge.
Once Griffin made his way into the restricted area on Jan. 6, he turned to his Cowboys for Trump cameraman Matthew Struck. As Struck filmed, the mob exploded around them.
Griffin exclaimed: “People are ready for fair and legal elections, or this is what you’re going to get and you’re going to get more of it.”
He also led a prayer.
For McFadden, Griffin’s recorded remarks prior to Jan. 6 about the 2020 election being stolen and his urging that someone needed to stop it from being stolen did not reach the bar of disorder. McFadden thought Griffin’s call to prayer was evidence that he intended at that moment to calm rioters.
Over the course of his bench trial—he waived his right to a jury trial and left the decision entirely up to McFadden—inspectors for the Secret Service and the U.S. Capitol Police testified about the restricted zones. Griffin did not testify on his own behalf and it took McFadden less than an hour to make a decision.
Reprinted with permission from Daily Kos