A federal judge convicted an elected official from New Mexico of illegally entering restricted U.S. Capitol grounds but acquitted him of engaging in disorderly conduct during the riot that disrupted Congress from certifying Joe Biden’s presidential election victory, the Associated Press reports. U.S. District Court Judge Trevor McFadden heard one day of testimony without a jury on Monday before handing down a verdict in the misdemeanor case Tuesday against Otero County Commissioner Couy Griffin, a 48-year-old former rodeo rider who helped found a group called Cowboys for Trump. McFadden, a nominee of then-President Trump, said there was ample evidence that Griffin knew he was in a restricted area and didn’t leave. Griffin crossed over three walls, needing help from others or a ladder to get over them, the judge noted.
McFadden said prosecutors didn’t meet their burden to prove that Griffin engaged in disorderly conduct. Griffin’s trial in Washington, D.C., was the second among the hundreds of federal cases arising from the Jan. 6, 2021, siege. The outcome of Griffin’s trial could have a ripple effect, helping other Capitol riot defendants decide whether to let a judge or a jury decide their case. The case against Griffin is unlike most Jan. 6 cases and may not be a bellwether for defendants who are charged with storming the Capitol. Griffin is one of the few riot defendants who wasn’t accused of entering the Capitol building or engaging in violent or destructive behavior.