A New Mexico official headed to trial Monday with a judge — not a jury — to decide if he is guilty of charges that he illegally entered the U.S. Capitol grounds on the day a pro-Trump mob disrupted the certification of Joe Biden’s presidential election victory. That’s not the only unusual feature of the case against Otero County Commissioner Couy Griffin, whose trial in Washington, D.C., is the second among hundreds of people charged with federal crimes related to the Jan. 6, 2021, siege, the Associated Press reports. Griffin is one of the few riot defendants who isn’t accused of entering the Capitol or engaging in any violent or destructive behavior. He claims he has been prosecuted for his political views.
Griffin is one of three members of the Otero County Commission in southern New Mexico. He is among only three riot defendants who have asked for a bench trial, which means federal Judge Trevor McFadden will decide his case without a jury. Griffin, a former rodeo rider and former pastor, helped found a political committee called Cowboys for Trump. He had vowed to arrive at the courthouse on horseback. He showed up on Monday as a passenger in a pickup truck that had a horse trailer on the back. Prosecutors called him “an inflammatory provocateur and fabulist who engages in racist invective and propounds baseless conspiracy theories, including that Communist China stole the 2020 Presidential Election.” Defense attorneys say hundreds if not thousands of other people did what Griffin did on Jan. 6 and haven’t been charged with crimes.