The charge is related to the violent rebellion at the U.S Capitol. In a show of support for Donald Trump, he plans to ride his horse to court.
Otero County Commissioner Couy Griffin was charged with knowingly entering restricted areas on Capitol grounds. He is one of many pro-Trump supporters who were accused of disrupting Joe Biden's 2020 win certification. He will be the second of hundreds of people who were arrested during the riot.
At least 10 others were charged in the riot. They either held or ran for public office in the two-and-a-half years preceding the attack. These include candidates for mayor in West Texas, Kansas City Council and West Virginia city commissions, Washington State's county commissions, Florida congressional seats and statehouses in New York, Pennsylvania and West Virginia. A Jan. 6 defendant is also running for a New Hampshire congressional seat.
Seven of the 10 defendants were charged with entering the Capitol Building, while at least five others had expressed doubts regarding the legitimacy of the presidential elections. In Republican circles, false claims about election security are common. Griffin's trial could cause political problems for other elected officials who were entangled in the huge prosecution.
Griffin is an elected official responsible for budget, administration, and management. He has been in office since 2019. He also served as a member of the county's canvassing board.
He founded Cowboys for Trump in 2019 with a group rodeo friends to spread conservative messages about gun rights and immigration controls. Many of these messages were relayed on horseback.
Griffin, who is a former rodeo rider, and former pastor, plans on driving his horse "Red," as he did in previous outings in Washington, to the capital and riding the animal to the courthouse.
He rejected Biden's 2020 election, and believes Trump is the winner, despite the lack of evidence and statements made by elected officials, local election leaders, and Trump himself, the attorney general, that the results were incorrect.
Griffin voted with his county commission in January to hire a contractor to review the 2020 Otero County presidential election. Trump won this area with 62% of the vote. Griffin also canvassed door to door, which has raised concerns about voter intimidation. The review is ongoing.
A variety of images have been submitted by the prosecution showing Griffin climbing over barricades during the 2021 rebellion. Griffin's videographer captured Griffin enjoying the Jan. 6 crowd, and using a bullhorn as a way to lead the prayer throngs.
Matthew Struck, the videographer who was with Griffin, was granted immunity and is expected testify at trial, according to prosecutors in a Thursday filing.
While he doesn't deny his presence at the Capitol on January 6, 2021, he says he went into a barricaded area in order to access an outdoor balcony of Capitol on the afternoon.
His attorneys demanded first-hand evidence from prosecutors that Mike Pence, then Vice President, was still present at the Capitol. This is a requirement for the U.S. Secret Service's invocation of access restrictions.
Prosecutors claim that Pence was not in the Capitol at the time the county commissioner entered it. They also argue that Secret Service should not have to reveal sensitive security information about the riot response.
Griffin stated that people are being charged with entering an unauthorized area and that it may not have been one to begin with. This was Griffin's statement in an interview with The Associated Press. It's a shame that Mike Pence has been charged with entering an unauthorized zone. He should tell us when he left the building.
U.S. District Judge Trevor McFadden ruled the prosecution must call a witness who has firsthand knowledge of Pence’s whereabouts during an attack to testify against Griffin. This is to prove that Griffin was guilty of entering and remaining on restricted grounds or buildings. McFadden dismissed Griffin's claims of discriminatory and misguided prosecution.
Capitol Police arrested Griffin on January 17, 2021 after he returned from Washington to protest Biden's election, and inauguration. Griffin was held for nearly three weeks before being released to await trial.
Griffin, back in New Mexico, resisted a recall election. Griffin refused to register Cowboys For Trump as a political organization, and state election regulators sued him. Griffin claims the group is a for profit business and that he fears about contributors being harassed and identified.
Griffin stated that he would not seek election as a commissioner this year or compete in the 2022 election cycle. He said he had lost faith and trust in the political system.
Other politicians are still uncertain about their fates. For his role in the riot, a former Pennsylvania legislative candidate is currently in prison serving a 60-day sentence. One count of civil disorder is being brought against a former West Virginia lawmaker, who was forced to resign three days after joining the mob inside the building.
At least 765 people were charged with federal crimes in connection to the Capitol Riot. At least 231 have pleaded guilty to misdemeanors, with the rest to federal crimes. A minimum of 119 riot defendants were sentenced. 50 of them have already been served terms of imprisonment.
Around 90 others are scheduled for trial. The first trial of a rioter resulted in a conviction for all charges.