Cowboys for Trump founder sentenced to 14 days for breaching Capitol grounds

WASHINGTON, June 17 (Reuters) - A Republican member of a governing commission in New Mexico who founded a group called "Cowboys for Trump" was sentenced in federal court on Friday to 14 days in jail over his role in breaching the U.S. Capitol grounds during the Jan. 6, 2021, riot.

But the man, Couy Griffin, will get credit for the 20 days he already served in pretrial detention, and will not be required to report to prison, the judge said. He was also ordered to pay a $3,000 fine and serve 60 days of community service.

Griffin is one of three members of the Republican-led Otero County commission that is refusing to certify June's primary election results, citing unfounded conspiracy theories about voting machines.

Griffin was convicted in a bench trial in March of a misdemeanor count of entering and remaining on restricted grounds on Jan. 6, 2021.

Unlike many of the more than 840 defendants in the Capitol riot cases, Griffin did not physically enter the building itself.

He was acquitted of a second misdemeanor of disorderly conduct.

At his sentencing hearing in Washington on Friday, Griffin told U.S. District Judge Trevor McFadden that his Christian faith prompted him to enter the Capitol grounds that day, and he swore he "could be struck dead right now" when he said he truly did not know he was on restricted grounds.

"My actions on Jan. 6 were the result of my faith," he said. "I received that message to go pray with people."

Prosecutors in the case had sought a sentence of 90 days in jail, with credit for 20 days served.

They cited Twitter posts Griffin wrote, including one in which he blasted McFadden's ruling to convict him in the case, calling it "prewritten" and "pathetic." "I wonder who wrote it?" the tweet asked.

"All of that goes to show he does not have any remorse whatsoever," prosecutor Janani Iyengar said.

Although McFadden did not impose additional jail time, he nevertheless had harsh words for Griffin and called the Capitol riots "a national embarrassment."

He told Griffin it was "preposterous" to claim he did not know he was violating the law, and blasted his inflammatory Twitter posts, which he said contradicted Griffin's claims of contrition.

"Sometimes, sir, you are probably your own worst enemy," McFadden said.

He also chastised Griffin, saying that as an elected official he swore to uphold the rule of law. "I urge you to consider the oath you've taken," he said.

Griffin's sentencing comes just two days after New Mexico's Supreme Court ordered Otero County's Republican-led commission to certify June's primary election results. read more

The commission is also facing a criminal referral by the Democratic-led secretary of state's office to the state's attorney general. The referral asks the state to open an investigation into "multiple unlawful actions...that directly implicate criminal violations of the Election Code and the Governmental Conduct Act."

During his sentencing hearing, Griffin continued to insist there was fraud in the election, telling McFadden an audit had uncovered "major discrepancies." He described himself as a "victim" of political backlash who has been labeled as "crazy and right-wing and white supremacist."

Later, in comments outside the courthouse to reporters, he said he would decline to comply with the state court's order to change his vote and certify the June 7 primary results.

"All we want to do is hand-count the ballots that are right now resting inside of the Dominion machine," he said.

Reporting by Sarah N. Lynch; Editing by Leslie Adler and Daniel Wallis

Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

Thomson Reuters

Sarah N. Lynch is the lead reporter for Reuters covering the U.S. Justice Department out of Washington, D.C. During her time on the beat, she has covered everything from the Mueller report and the use of federal agents to quell protesters in the wake of George Floyd’s murder, to the rampant spread of COVID-19 in prisons and the department's prosecutions following the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol.