Official in election standoff avoids prison in Capitol riot

Jun 17, 2022, 12:23 PM | Updated: 5:07 pm
Otero County, New Mexico Commissioner Couy Griffin speaks to reporters as he arrives at the federal...

Otero County, New Mexico Commissioner Couy Griffin speaks to reporters as he arrives at the federal court in Washington, Friday, June. 17, 2022. Griffin, who is a central figure in a New Mexico county's refusal to certify recent election results based on debunked conspiracy theories about voting machines, has avoided more jail time for joining the mob that attacked the U.S. Capitol. He was sentenced to 14 days behind bars, which he has already served. (AP Photo/Gemunu Amarasinghe)

(AP Photo/Gemunu Amarasinghe)

WASHINGTON (AP) — 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 on Friday for joining the mob that attacked the U.S. Capitol.

Couy Griffin, who founded the political group Cowboys for Trump, was sentenced to 14 days imprisonment. U.S. District Judge Trevor McFadden gave Griffin credit for the 20 days he already served in jail after his arrest.

Federal prosecutors and a probation officer had both recommended a sentence of three months imprisonment. Griffin faced a maximum prison sentence of one year for his misdemeanor conviction.

After a trial without a jury, McFadden convicted Griffin in March of entering a restricted area outside the Capitol during the riot on Jan. 6, 2021, but acquitted him of a disorderly conduct charge. Griffin didn’t go into the building itself and wasn’t accused of engaging in any 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 riot that delayed the certification of President Joe Biden’s victory and sent lawmakers running for their lives came the same day Griffin’s Republican-dominated county commission faced a deadline to certify its election results.

Otero County commissioners opted 2-1 to certify the results during an emergency meeting Friday. Griffin alone 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 could be only a rubber stamp. They also acknowledged an order by the state Supreme Court and subsequent threats of legal action by the Democratic state attorney general.

While there has been no evidence of fraud, the actions by the commission had 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 major discrepancies” in an election audit. He didn’t elaborate but said, “That’s all we want, is transparency and truth.”

McFadden said he didn’t factor that situation into his sentencing of Griffin. But the judge said public officials like Griffin must be held to a higher standard.

“We need our elected officials to support this country,” McFadden said.

During the riot, Griffin shouted his unsubstantiated belief that the election was stolen from Trump, climbed a toppled fence and another barrier to access the Capitol steps and used a bullhorn to lead the throngs in prayer.

Griffin told McFadden that he only went to the Capitol to pray with others.

“My actions on Jan. 6 were the result of my faith,” he said.

McFadden said the Capitol riot was a “national embarrassment” and called it “preposterous” for Griffin to claim that he didn’t know he couldn’t be on Capitol grounds on Jan. 6.

“I’m not convinced, even a little bit,” the judge said.

A day after the Capitol siege, Griffin made a social media video expressing his intention to return to Washington and talking about the prospect of holding a gun rights rally on the Capitol steps, saying “there’s gonna 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 and Donald J. Trump if it boils down to it,” Griffin said.

At least 21 riot defendants have pleaded guilty to a single count of the same misdemeanor charge that Griffin was convicted of by the judge. Judges handed down prison sentences ranging from 10 days to three months in 14 of those cases, according to an AP review of court records.

Prosecutors said Griffin has shown a lack of contrition for his actions during the attack. Griffin bragged at a county commission meeting about violating orders from police to stay out of the restricted area, has spread conspiracy theories about what happened on Jan. 6 and has made social media posts that questioned the conclusions of the judge overseeing his case, prosecutors said.

Defense attorney Nicholas Smith maintained Griffin is remorseful and believes he received a fair trial.

But the judge said Griffin’s lack of contrition and apparent disdain for the criminal justice system is “very concerning.”

Griffin is one of the few riot defendants who isn’t accused of 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 Jan. 6 riot. Over 300 of them have pleaded guilty and nearly 200 have been sentenced.

_____

Billeaud reported from Phoenix. Associated Press reporter Morgan Lee in Santa Fe, New Mexico, contributed to this report.

Copyright © The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

AP

Associated Press

A roof over their head: Churches use tiny homes for homeless

Churches across the U.S. are tackling the big question of how to address homelessness in their communities with a small solution: tiny homes. On vacant plots near their parking lots and steepled sanctuaries, congregations are building everything from fixed and fully contained micro homes to petite, moveable cabins, and several other styles of small-footprint dwellings […]
6 hours ago
Flowers are left at the scene of a shooting in central Oslo, Saturday, June 25, 2022. Norwegian pol...
Associated Press

Norway terror alert raised after deadly mass shooting

OSLO, Norway (AP) — A gunman opened fire in Oslo’s night-life district early Saturday, killing two people and leaving more than 20 wounded in what Norwegian security service called an “Islamist terror act” during the capital’s annual Pride festival. Investigators said the suspect, identified as a 42-year-old Norwegian citizen originally from Iran, was arrested after […]
6 hours ago
In this combo photo, protesters gather outside the Supreme Court in Washington, Friday, June 24, 20...
Associated Press

Three months of waiting, and finally a Supreme Court ruling

Follow the links in this story to recent AP coverage about abortion over the last three months. ___ And so the interminable wait after the leak of the decision overturning Roe v. Wade has come to an end — nearly three months in which abortion and all of its complexities have been have been hashed […]
6 hours ago
With tear gas in the air, a large number of police surround the Arizona Capitol after protesters re...
Associated Press

Police at Arizona Capitol fire tear gas, disperse protesters

PHOENIX (AP) — Police fired tear gas to disperse anti-abortion demonstrators from outside the Arizona Capitol Friday night, forcing lawmakers to huddle briefly in a basement inside the building as they rushed to complete their 2022 session. Thousands of protesters had gathered earlier on the Capitol grounds in Phoenix, divided into groups both supporting and […]
6 hours ago
Jay Walker, third from left, co-founder of Gays Against Guns, speaks into a megaphone during a rall...
Associated Press

To some defenders, gun ruling could right a racial wrong

NEW YORK (AP) — When the U.S. Supreme Court struck down New York’s tight restrictions on who can carry a handgun, condemnation erupted from liberal leaders and activists. But some public defenders, often allies of progressive activists, praised the court’s ruling, saying gun-permitting rules like New York’s have long been a license for racial discrimination. […]
6 hours ago
FILE - Rhode Island Army National Guard Staff Sgt. Andrew Bates pulls up tape marking a line at a c...
Associated Press

Army Guard troops risk dismissal as vaccine deadline looms

WASHINGTON (AP) — Up to 40,000 Army National Guard soldiers across the country — or about 13% of the force — have not yet gotten the mandated COVID-19 vaccine, and as the deadline for shots looms, at least 14,000 of them have flatly refused and could be forced out of the service. Guard soldiers have […]
6 hours ago

Sponsored Articles

...
Day & Night Air

Tips to lower your energy bill in the Arizona heat

Does your summer electric bill make you groan? Are you looking for effective ways to reduce your bill?
...
Carla Berg, MHS, Deputy Director, Public Health Services, Arizona Department of Health Services

ADHS mobile program brings COVID-19 vaccines and boosters to Arizonans

The Arizona Department of Health Services and partner agencies are providing even more widespread availability by making COVID-19 vaccines available in neighborhoods through trusted community partners.
...
Canvas Annuity

The secret to guaranteed retirement income

Annuities aren’t really a secret, but they are so misunderstood that they might as well be. Once you understand what an annuity is and how it can benefit you, you could decide this “secret” is the perfect supplement to your retirement plan.
Official in election standoff avoids prison in Capitol riot