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Prosecution Faces Hurdles in Second Trial of Capitol Rioter

The federal government is facing obstacles in its second trial involving a January 6 rioter, Politico reports. The first defendant, Guy Reffitt, faced five felony charges in a slam dunk case for the Department of Justice. The current case is much murkier on both factual and legal grounds. Couy Griffin faces two misdemeanor charges, entering a restricted area at the Capitol and disruptive or disorderly conduct, both of which carry a one year maximum sentence. His conduct consisted of scaling a series of barricades and entering a restricted area of the Capitol grounds. Griffin did not enter any buildings or commit any violence or destroy property. A key component of the government's theory of the case is the claim that the Capitol was strictly off-limits in part because then-Vice President Mike Pence was there, triggering a Secret Service perimeter and the coverage of a federal law aimed at safeguarding Secret Service protectees.. The government has used that theory in other prosecutions.

Griffin's defense challenged the assertion that Pence was still at the Capitol when Griffin entered onto restricted grounds, forcing the government to divulge the location where Pence was taken after he was whisked off the Senate floor: an underground loading dock connected to the Capitol Visitor Center. To prove that Pence was there, the government produced security footage as well as Secret Service agent testimony. The government maintained that the issue of Pence's physical presence at the Capitol at any given time is irrelevant because Pence intended to return to the Capitol to finish the certification of election results. Judge Trevor McFadden seemed to disagree with this theory, requiring the information about Pence's whereabouts to be provided. Whether he will deem the loading dock to be a part of the Capitol remains to be seen. The government also introduced video evidence to support its disorderly conduct charge, though nothing Griffin did or said seemed outrageous. He could be heard saying that the protesters could "not take no for an answer" but also that they should conduct themselves "peacefully."


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