NATIONAL NEWS

Capitol riot federal trial opens for ‘Cowboys for Trump’ founder

Mar 21, 2022, 2:58 PM | Updated: Jun 8, 2022, 3:17 pm
FILE PHOTO: Otero County Commission Chairman and Cowboys for Trump co-founder Couy Griffin. Griffin...
FILE PHOTO: Otero County Commission Chairman and Cowboys for Trump co-founder Couy Griffin. Griffin was convicted of illegally entering restricted U.S. Capitol grounds — though not the building — amid the riots on Jan. 6, 2021 (Photo by Jeenah Moon/Getty Images)
(Photo by Jeenah Moon/Getty Images)

(CNN) — The second trial in the January 6, 2021, Capitol riot case is underway Monday, with New Mexico county commissioner, self-proclaimed cowboy and noted conspiracy theorist Couy Griffin appearing before a federal judge for a bench trial in Washington, DC.

The trial will highlight key details prosecutors must prove about participants’ alleged crimes during the attack — such as that the rioters jeopardized the security of the area where then-Vice President Mike Pence was visiting.

Griffin arrived at the courthouse Monday morning, stepping out of a truck with “We the People” written across the side and pulling a large horse trailer.

“We’re rolling on in,” Griffin said. “By God’s grace and by his power the law will be followed impartially without a political narrative.”

Dressed in a black suit and donning a black cowboy hat, Griffin prayed with supporters outside the courthouse before entering.

Griffin, a founder of the group “Cowboys for Trump,” is charged with two misdemeanor offenses for his alleged actions during the attack: entering and remaining in a restricted area and disorderly and disruptive conduct. He chose to be tried by Judge Trevor McFadden, who will hear arguments from prosecutors and the defense before ruling, instead of a jury.

During a lunch break in Monday’s trial, Griffin was approached by several people who had driven to DC to support him, praying for him and asking for pictures.

Almost 800 defendants have been charged related to the Capitol riot. Nearly one-third have pleaded guilty, with many admitting trespassing-like crimes similar to Griffin’s charges, while the rest continue to fight their charges and are headed to trials. Earlier this month, prosecutors secured a conviction from a jury of riot defendant Guy Reffitt, who was caught on video taunting police on the Capitol’s West Terrace and found guilty of intentionally trying obstruct the congressional certification of the election.

The Justice Department’s case is set to focus on video of Griffin’s movements during the attack, including those filmed by his traveling partner, who is set to testify against him, according to court filings in the case as recently as this weekend.

“At trial, the government expects Matthew Struck’s testimony and videos will provide a precise picture of the defendant’s actions and his intentions,” prosecutors wrote.

Griffin’s legal defense team also has made clear they want to inquire about the location of Pence during the riot and whether Griffin was aware that he had entered a restricted area that day — a line of questioning of a law enforcement witness that could reveal more information about the vice president’s whereabouts than is known a year after the attack, and potentially jeopardize other DOJ prosecutions against Capitol riot participants.

“To mount a meaningful defense Griffin must be allowed to test the veracity of the Government’s contention that Vice President Pence was on the Capitol grounds during the relevant period,” the judge determined in recent days.

The Justice Department has said in court it does not want to reveal “the precise location” where Pence was once he was evacuated from the Senate chamber for security reasons.

Who is Couy Griffin?

An ex-pastor, cowboy Disney performer in Paris and owner of three failed barbecue eateries, Griffin has built a platform touting wild right-wing conspiracy theories — even telling CNN he wasn’t sure whether January 6 rioter Ashli Babbitt and US Capitol Police Officer Brian Sicknick were really dead — and using extremely inflammatory rhetoric.

In a video posted the day after the Capitol attack, Griffin said “we could have a Second Amendment rally” at the Capitol, and if they did there would “be blood running out of that building.”

“But at the end of the day, you mark my word, we will plant our flag on the desk of Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer,” he added.

A week later, Griffin told his colleagues on the county commission he would go back to DC for Biden’s inauguration with his revolver and rifle. While his threat to return may not be part of the trial Monday, prosecutors plan to show video in court of Griffin speaking at a local officials’ meeting a week after the attack. Griffin was arrested when he returned to DC on January 17.

Griffin says he will ride into DC on a horse before his trial Monday.

“Praying for justice to be served on the hand of the oppressor!” he tweeted Wednesday. His group “Cowboys for Trump” has pulled off similar stunts in the past.

What to expect in the trial

According to court documents, while he did not enter the Capitol on January 6, 2021, Griffin climbed over barriers and a stone wall, eventually making his way to the stage under construction for President Joe Biden’s inauguration — where he stayed for over an hour with his personal videographer, who documented Griffin that day.

Prosecutors are poised to argue that Griffin was part of the large mob that entered a restricted area established by the Secret Service to protect Pence and that he did so knowingly. The prosecution will call three witnesses to testify, including a US Capitol Police inspector, Secret Service agent and Struck, Griffin’s videographer that day who has been granted immunity to testify.

In court filings, Griffin’s attorneys have said they’ll show he did not cross over barriers, did not see any signage telling him the area was restricted and that Griffin believed the certification of the Electoral College vote had “been completed long before he arrived at the Capitol Grounds.”

McFadden, who was appointed by President Donald Trump, will allow Griffin’s attorneys to cross-examine a Secret Service witness on Pence’s whereabouts on January 6. The defense believes the location of Pence is an essential issue in the case because, they say, Pence was not in the Capitol Building at the time Griffin entered the alleged “restricted area.”

Prosecutors have said that the Secret Service witness will not testify as to Pence’s exact location during the riot and that the location doesn’t matter since the “restricted area” includes “an area in which a person protected by the Secret Service is or will be temporarily visiting.”

In the 48 hours before the trial is set to begin, Griffin’s team has also taken issue with video prosecutors now say they want to show the court. Griffin’s team believes video DOJ has assembled in a montage and gave to the defense was revealed too late to them to be used as evidence against him. The dispute over evidence is likely to set the tone for the proceedings Monday morning.

“The last-minute production was the government’s fault alone: it served a trial subpoena on the videographer witness Matt Struck on Wednesday, March 16 — because it neglected to previously ask the witness for the right video files. Now the government is attempting, absurdly, to use the new files as last-minute evidence. Though this misdemeanor case is over a year old, the government is scrambling to put it together the weekend before trial. This is fundamentally prejudicial to Griffin’s due process rights,” Griffin’s lawyers Nicholas Smith and David Smith wrote to the court on Sunday.

This headline and story have been updated with additional developments Monday.

The-CNN-Wire™ & © 2022 Cable News Network, Inc., a WarnerMedia Company. All rights reserved.

KSL 5 TV Live

Top Stories

National News

WASHINGTON, DC - FEBRUARY 08:  U.S. Rep. Marjorie Taylor-Greene (R-GA) holds up a poster of a Twitt...
Farnoush Amiri and Barbara Ortutay

Ex-Twitter execs deny pressure to block Hunter Biden story

Former Twitter executives conceded to Congress that they made a mistake by blocking a story about Hunter Biden, the president’s son, from the social media platform in the run-up to the 2020 election.
23 hours ago
A general view of atmosphere the premiere of Walt Disney Animation Studios' "Frozen"at the El Capit...
Alli Rosenbloom

Disney announces more ‘Toy Story’ and ‘Frozen’ sequels are in the works

Disney CEO Bob Iger said on Wednesday during the company's earnings call that there are plans for additional sequels to both hit franchises in the works.
23 hours ago
Patrick Crusius...
Ashley Killough and Holly Yan, CNN

Suspect in El Paso Walmart massacre pleads guilty to 90 federal charges

Patrick Crusius plead guilty to all federal charges on Wednesday, nearly three and a half years after the 2019 mass shooting at a Walmart in El Paso, Texas -- one of the deadliest attacks on Latinos in modern US history.
23 hours ago
The Twitter emblem is displayed on a smart phone outside the Twitter offices in Dublin on November ...
CNN

Twitter users briefly unable to tweet, send messages

Twitter users on Wednesday briefly encountered various issues with the platform, including the inability to tweet, send direct messages or follow new accounts.
23 hours ago
President Joe Biden delivers the State of the Union address to a joint session of Congress at the C...
Zeke Miller, Seung Min Kim and Lisa Mascaro, Associated Press

Biden in State of Union exhorts Congress: ‘Finish the job’

President Joe Biden has exhorted Republicans in his State of the Union address to work with him to “finish the job” of rebuilding the economy and uniting the nation.
23 hours ago
Rep. George Santos, R-N.Y., Rep. Matt Gaetz, R-Fla., and other Republicans gather in the House Cham...
Lisa Mascaro and Mary Clare Jalonick, Associated Press

GOP on GOP: Romney scolds Santos, ‘You don’t belong here’

Congressman George Santos' presence at the center aisle for Tuesday night's speech was met with a stern rebuke from a fellow Republican, Sen. Mitt Romney of Utah.
23 hours ago

Sponsored Articles

vintage photo of lighting showroom featuring chandeliers, lamps, wall lights and mirrors...
Lighting Design

History of Lighting Design | Over 25 Years of Providing Utah With the Latest Trends and Styles

Read about the history of Lighting Design, a family-owned and operated business that paved the way for the lighting industry in Utah.
Fiber Optical cables connected to an optic ports and Network cables connected to ethernet ports...
Brian Huston, CE and Anthony Perkins, BICSI

Why Every Business Needs a Structured Cabling System

A structured cabling system benefits businesses by giving you faster processing speeds and making your network more efficient and reliable.
notebook with password notes highlighted...
PC Laptops

How to Create Strong Passwords You Can Actually Remember

Learn how you can create strong passwords that are actually easy to remember! In a short time you can create new ones in seconds.
house with for rent sign posted...
Chase Harrington, president and COO of Entrata

Top 5 Reasons You May Want to Consider Apartment Life Over Owning a Home

There are many benefits of renting that can be overshadowed by the allure of buying a home. Here are five reasons why renting might be right for you.
Festive kitchen in Christmas decorations. Christmas dining room....
Lighting Design

6 Holiday Decor Trends to Try in 2022

We've rounded out the top 6 holiday decor trends for 2022 so you can be ahead of the game before you start shopping. 
Happy diverse college or university students are having fun on their graduation day...
BYU MBA at the Marriott School of Business

How to Choose What MBA Program is Right for You: Take this Quiz Before You Apply!

Wondering what MBA program is right for you? Take this quiz before you apply to see if it will help you meet your goals.
Capitol riot federal trial opens for ‘Cowboys for Trump’ founder