Couy Griffin sentenced to time served, meaning no more jail time

Otero County commissioner rioted at the Capitol on Jan. 6, later refused to certify votes in county primary

By: - June 17, 2022 2:58 pm

A pro-Trump mob breaks into the U.S. Capitol on January 06, 2021 in Washington, D.C. (Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images)

Otero County commissioner Couy Griffin avoided more jail time at a federal court sentencing hearing Friday for his role in the riot at the Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021.

Judge Trevor McFadden sentenced Griffin to 14-days in jail, but since he spent more time than that in pretrial detention he will not be incarcerated, according to federal court records.

Griffin was also sentenced to one year probation, 60 hours community service, and a $3,000 fine – far less than the $50,000 he has raised online following his participation in the riot. 

Griffin’s sentencing came one day after the New Mexico Secretary of State’s office asked the state Attorney General to launch a criminal investigation into Griffin and other commissioners for refusing to certify the vote count in the county’s primary, as well as attempting to unilaterally change election procedures in the county in violation of state law. 

Griffin was not accused of entering the Capitol building itself on Jan. 6, but of knowingly crossing police lines to enter a restricted area outside the Capitol building. In a March bench trial, he was convicted of entering and remaining in a restricted area and acquitted of a charge of disorderly and disruptive conduct.

“Griffin climbed onto the Capitol grounds over the Olmsted Wall, knowing that police officers directed him not to enter that area,” according to the sentencing report. “After entering the area, he mounted another wall using a makeshift ramp and then waited for a door to ‘be broken down’ so he could enter the staircase leading up to the inaugural platform … Griffin remained on the Capitol grounds for over two hours while rioters engaged in acts of violence and property damage on the Capitol grounds.”

Although Griffin denies knowing he was entering a restricted area, the government’s sentencing memo reports that Griffin stayed on the Capitol grounds as rioters fought with police and broke windows to enter the building. 

Griffin also recorded a video from inside the restricted area of the Capitol grounds, saying “I love the smell of napalm in the air,” in reference to crowd-control chemicals police were using against rioters, according to the sentencing report.

Source New Mexico contacted Griffin’s lawyers by phone and email and called a number listed for Griffin on the Otero County Commission website, but was not able to reach either Griffin or his lawyers before publication of this article. A public information officer for the US Attorney’s Office in Washington, D.C. declined to comment. A spokesperson officer for the US Attorney’s Office in Washington, D.C. declined to comment.

Griffin continued agitating against the election results after Jan. 6 and made threatening remarks towards Congress and President Joe Biden, according to the sentencing report. 

In a video recorded the day after the Capitol riot, Griffin said the riot could have been worse.

“You want to say that was a mob? You want to say that was violence? No, sir. No, ma’am. No, we could have had a 2nd Amendment rally on those same steps that we had that rally yesterday,” Griffin said in the video. “You know, and if we do, then it’s gonna be a sad day, because there’s gonna be blood running out of that building.”

A week later, Griffin said that he was planning to return to D.C. for Biden’s inauguration and would bring guns with him, according to the sentencing report. Following his arrest, he continued to insist he did nothing wrong, and posted tweets insulting the federal judge overseeing his case.

Webpages set up for Griffin’s defense also raised over $50,000 online, despite the fact that he was using court-appointed lawyers at no cost to himself. The sentencing report notes that the webpage posted a picture of a $5,000 check written from Couy Griffin to the Barnett Law Firm. The Barnett Law Firm did not represent Griffin in his Capitol riot case. 

In the sentencing memorandum, government lawyers recommended a sentence of 90 days in jail for Griffin, noting that he has shown “an utter lack of remorse for his actions.”

The government also recommended Griffin pay a fine of $1,000 and additional restitution of $500. Noting the more than $50,000 he raised, prosecutors wrote that Griffin “should not be able to ‘capitalize’ on his participation in the Capitol siege in this way.”

In their own sentencing memo, Griffin’s lawyers argued that he is in fact sorry for his actions.

“Griffin deeply regrets his decision to climb on the inaugural platform and enter the restricted area. To the extent his presence there contributed to the distress of outnumbered law enforcement officers, he offers them his sincere apology,” the lawyers wrote. “Though he is of limited means, Griffin would seize an opportunity to offer assistance to injured officers and to contribute to the repair of physical damage to the Capitol.” 

Griffin requested a sentence “no greater than two months’ probation,” the lawyers wrote.

NM Supreme Court steps in after Otero County refuses to certify primary results

This week, Griffin and the other two members of the Otero County Commission refused to certify the results of the state’s June 7 primary election, citing vague concerns about voting machines. The New Mexico Supreme Court Wednesday ordered the commission to reconvene by June 17 and certify the results. 

Griffin told CNN Thursday that he was planning to defy the court order.

The Secretary of State’s office also referred Griffin and the other two members of the Otero County Commission, Vickie Marquardt and Gerald Matherly, to the New Mexico Attorney General’s office for potential criminal prosecution. 

In the referral, the Secretary of State alleged that the members of the commission likely committed felonies when they refused to follow election code by voting not to certify the primary results, as well as by voting at an earlier meeting to discard legally-mandated election procedures by removing ballot dropboxes, removing voting machines and ordering an unauthorized hand recount of the ballots.

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Andrew Beale
Andrew Beale

Andrew Beale has 15 years of reporting experience, starting with the UNM Daily Lobo. He's reported for national and international publications including the New York Times, Vice and al-Jazeera from locations as far-flung as Portland and Palestine. He has a master's degree from the UC Berkeley Graduate School of Journalism, and he resides in Southern California.