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New Mexico Politics

Federal judge orders Cowboys for Trump leader held without bond until trial on Capitol riot charge

Otero County Commissioner and 'Cowboys for Trump' co-founder Couy Griffin during the protest-turned-riot at the U.S. Capitol.
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Otero County Commissioner and 'Cowboys for Trump' co-founder Couy Griffin during the protest-turned-riot at the U.S. Capitol.

WASHINGTON, DC — A federal judge on Monday refused to release jailed Cowboys for Trump leader Couy Griffin of New Mexico as he awaits trial in Washington in connection with the siege on the U.S. Capitol.

U.S. Magistrate Judge Zia Faruqui ordered Griffin, an Otero County Commissioner, held without bail on charges that he knowingly entered the Capitol grounds with the intent to disrupt government business.

The judge told Griffin, who attended the hearing virtually, that "words matter, facts matter." He then granted the prosecution's motion to hold Griffin in jail pending trial.

Federal prosecutors called Griffin both a flight risk and a danger to others, citing a history of threatening comments, racial invective, access to firearms and vows not to allow Joe Biden to be president.

A public defender argued Monday that Griffin was within his 1st Amendment right of free speech and is "not a crazy person even though he has made some unfortunate statements."

But Faruqui rejected the defense's argument, citing inflammatory comments made by Griffin both before and after the Capitol siege.

“These statements that he makes about blood running out of the Capitol, threats to members of Congress, stating that the only good Democrat is a dead Democrat, all of those things demonstrate to me history and characteristics that warrant and favor detention,” Faruqui said.

As rioters stormed the Capitol on Jan. 6, Griffin told the FBI he was “caught up in the crowd” and “pushed through the barricades” as Trump supporters overwhelmed Capitol police. Videos he posted on social media showed himself on an exterior balcony of the Capitol amid the mob.

The public defender maintained Monday that Griffin did not have knowledge that he was entering a restricted area at the Capitol.

But the judge pushed back on the idea that Griffin was an observer and not a participant in the siege.

“You were not some wallflower in an otherwise large event,” Faruqui told Griffin. “You were in the thick of things.”

Griffin's court appearance on Monday came after the judge had threatened him with contempt of court if he failed to appear. For two weeks following his arrest on Jan. 17 as he returned to Washington for the inauguration, Griffin had rejected offers to speak with an attorney - or even the judge, court records showed.

In the days before his arrest, Griffin spoke at a meeting of the Otero County Commission at length about his presence at the U.S. Capitol as riots broke out and the building was breached and about his plans to return to Washington with guns in his vehicle.

His fellow commissioners have called on Griffin to resign his post or face the prospect of removal from office.

Griffin is scheduled to appear again in federal court on Feb. 8 for a preliminary hearing.

His defense attorney said Griffin has now been released into the general jail population after a prolonged stint in solitary confinement because he initially refused a coronavirus test.

If convicted of the charge against him, Griffin faces up to a year in prison and fines of $100,000.

(The Associated Press contributed to this report.)

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Jim Parker

Jim Parker is the Director of Digital Content for ABC-7.

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