Four from NM charged in Jan. 6 riot

·5 min read

Jan. 6—One year ago, Couy Griffin climbed a temporary staircase to an outdoor terrace of the U.S. Capitol and used a bullhorn to lead raucous protesters in prayer.

An Otero County commissioner and founder of Cowboys for Trump, Griffin recorded videos of the event that made him one of the most visible faces of the Jan. 6, 2021, attack.

Griffin "got up on the wall to face the crowd, and was able to borrow a bullhorn to lead the group in prayer," according to a statement written by a Washington, D.C., Metropolitan police detective.

"It's a great day for America," Griffin said in a video recorded on the Capitol terrace. Behind him were hundreds of noisy flag-waving protesters.

"The people are showing that they've had enough," said Griffin, wearing a black Stetson and a western-style shirt with "C4T" embroidered over the pocket. "People are ready for fair and legal elections, or this is what you are going to get. You are going to get more of it."

Griffin is one of at least four New Mexicans swept up in a sprawling investigation of the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol, described by the Justice Department as the largest in its history.

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They are among more than 700 people arrested of the estimated 2,500 people who took part in the Jan. 6 attack.

The four New Mexicans all were charged with knowingly entering or remaining in any restricted building or grounds without lawful authority, a federal misdemeanor. All were charged with at least one other federal misdemeanor.

New Mexicans arrested other than Griffin are Matthew Martin of Santa Fe and Shawn Witzemann of Farmington. The three have pleaded not guilty and remain free on their own recognizance.

Leonard Gruppo of Clovis pleaded guilty last year to a single misdemeanor charge and was sentenced to 24 months probation.

Both Griffin and Martin are scheduled in March for bench trials, meaning they will be tried by a federal judge and not a jury.

Both trials will be heard by Judge Trevor McFadden of the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia.

Griffin is scheduled for trial on March 21.

In addition to the illegal entry charge, Griffin faces one misdemeanor charge of disorderly and disruptive conduct in a restricted building. He was arrested after his return to Washington to protest President Joe Biden's Jan. 20 inauguration.

Griffin said nothing he has seen in the past year has convinced him that Biden was the true winner of the 2020 election. But he would like all the key actors to be more forthcoming about how events unfolded leading to Jan. 6.

"It's time for everybody to show their cards," he said in a phone interview Wednesday. "It almost seems like they're trying to hide something. I just wish they would show everything."

Griffin predicted he will beat the federal charges against him.

His attorneys argue that he is the target of "selective prosecution" because of his political and religious speech.

"The government targets the political beliefs and perceived ideologies of political and cultural groups," the attorneys wrote in a motion filed Tuesday.

Griffin's attorneys, David Smith of Alexandra, Virginia, and Nicholas Smith of New York City, declined the Journal's request for an interview.

In their recent motion, they argue that of the estimated 700 arrests made in the Jan. 6 attack, Griffin was the only person charged who did not enter the Capitol or commit alleged felonies outside the building.

Griffin was singled out because of his outspoken political and religious statements, they said.

Federal prosecutors in August offered Griffin a confidential plea agreement.

The charges against Griffin carry a maximum prison sentence of one year and implications for Griffin's future in public office.

In September, Griffin prevailed against efforts to recall him from office as Otero County commissioner.

Matthew Martin

Matthew Martin of Santa Fe is scheduled for a bench trial March 29 on charges alleging he illegally entered the U.S. Capitol Building during the insurrection.

Martin was charged with four misdemeanors based on videos he recorded inside the Capitol, according to a criminal complaint filed by an FBI agent.

In addition to the illegal entry charge, Martin also is charged with disruptive conduct in the Capitol, and parading, demonstrating or picketing in the Capitol.

Martin's attorney, Dan Cron of Santa Fe, said Martin did not witness or participate in any acts of violence or vandalism.

Capitol Police officers were holding open the back doors to the Rotunda when Martin arrived, Cron said. The battles between police and protesters all took place in front of the building out of Martin's view, he said.

"He never ventured outside of the Rotunda," Cron said. "He was in and out in way less than 15 minutes."

Federal prosecutors are slow in presenting evidence in the cases, Cron said. Martin may consider a plea deal once the evidence is fully available, he said.

Leonard Gruppo

Leonard Gruppo, a Clovis physician assistant and decorated U.S. Army veteran, pleaded guilty Aug. 18 to a misdemeanor charge of parading, demonstrating or picketing in the U.S. Capitol.

A federal judge sentenced Gruppo in October to 24 months probation, with 90 days of home detention, a $3,000 fine and $500 restitution.

Federal prosecutors said Gruppo and a friend entered the Capitol and walked around the building and entered the Senate Wing, according to a Justice Department statement of facts.

A short time later, he exited the south side of the Capitol through the Hall of Columns, it said.

Shawn Witzemann

Shawn Witzemann of Farmington surrendered to FBI agents in April based on videos he and others recorded inside the Capitol.

He is charged with illegal entry of a restricted building, violent entry on Capitol grounds, and disorderly and disruptive conduct, according to a criminal complaint.

Witzemann's former attorney, Todd Bullion, said at the time that his client had "done nothing wrong" and looked forward to clearing his name in court.

Bullion said in an email he no longer represents Witzemann and declined comment. His current attorney, Guy Womack of Houston, did not respond to a request for comment Wednesday.

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