Couy Griffin on Trial: A Tale of Two Realities

September 2, 2022 4:09 am

Otero County Commissioner and Cowboys for Trump co-founder Couy Griffin rides his horse on 5th Avenue on May 1, 2020 in New York City. (Photo by Jeenah Moon / Getty Images)

Otero County Commissioner Couy Griffin’s trial for betraying his oath of office to defend the Constitution got underway in Santa Fe in mid-August with Griffin, the founder of Cowboys for Trump, denying he knew he was doing anything illegal in the storming of the Capitol on Jan. 6.

Griffin was convicted in June by a D.C. court of trespassing during the uprising, but he told the Santa Fe judge he thought the barricades were just meant to keep people off the grass. In spite of police warnings, Griffin said he never saw a sign that he couldn’t be where he was.

Griffin came to the attention of the nation with his remark that “The only good Democrat is a dead Democrat.” Then-President Trump tweeted the remark, and Griffin’s social media followers swelled.

I reviewed the transcripts from Griffin’s two-day trial, which is based on a section in the 14th Amendment that disqualifies anyone from office who has taken an oath of office to uphold the constitution and then violated it by fomenting insurrection. The clause originated in post-Civil War history.

NAACP refutes comparisons of BLM protests and Jan. 6, calls for Griffin’s removal from office

If found guilty, Griffin would not be allowed to serve out his term on the Otero County Commission, which ends in December, or run for another office. Griffin is thinking about running for Catron County sheriff.

The recent bench trial was a disturbing tale of two realities. One was presented by a team of lawyers who showed video clips of Jan. 6, 2021, used testimony from a number of witnesses, and played Griffin’s on-the-record statements before and after the event. Witnesses included an injured D.C. police officer, a photojournalist, and two experts on political violence and insurrection.

The other recounting was Griffin’s, presented by the preacher-turned-politician himself. It contained no evidence, no witnesses, but only the pleas of Griffin, who portrayed himself as a peaceful, innocent protestor with heart. He often did not remember saying the things that were on the record in his own deposition, maintained that the videos shown had been doctored by the mainstream media, and accused witnesses of being tainted by a liberal bias.

He asserted that the real villains were antifa provocateurs. He even said that the judiciary had been weaponized against him.

Even though I do some communications work for Common Cause New Mexico, an organization that filed a brief in the case supporting Griffin’s removal from office, I felt some sympathy for him as I watched the hearing. He was all alone there in the courtroom, representing himself in a folksy, down-to-earth manner. A lone ranger.

But then the contradictions began to pile up.

Griffin: “I would never encourage or promote anyone breaking the law and acting in a way to disrupt the government.”

Footage: Griffin pumping his fist and encouraging the mob as it yelled “Heave ho, heave ho,” while it broke down a door leading to the chambers.


Griffin in court: “I had no violent intent on Jan. 6.”

Footage with quotes from the bus tour organized by Women for America First to drum up support for Jan. 6:

  • ”It feels to me like we’re a nation at war.”
  • ”If you don’t win it at the ballot box, win it in the streets.”
  • ”It’s a war we cannot lose. Every card is on the table.”
  • ”We will hunt down the RHINOS.”
  • ”If he (Pence) doesn’t (send the results back to the states) he’s going to have to find a real dark hole to climb into.”


Griffin in court: “I’m trying to save America, not destroy America…All we wanted was to have our voices heard.”

Footage: Griffin at the event: “I love the smell of napalm in the morning.”

Griffin’s social media account shared the day after the event as he encouraged his followers to return for the inauguration: “Blood will run from the Capitol.”


It’s hard to deal with family members and friends who are in denial about their behavior and its effects on other people. It’s particularly difficult when the person apologizes, as Griffin did during his court appearance.

“I’m not necessarily proud of some of the things I’ve said,” he told the court.  “They were driven by emotion. Sometimes, in the world of politics, you get driven by emotion.”

Griffin admitted to foolishness, to being too blunt, to being frustrated.

His remarks were almost believable until I realized that his behavior had not changed since his two court appearances. He continues to use his office as county commissioner to try and discredit election results nationwide and decertify our own state election — even when ordered by the NM Supreme Court not to do so. He continues to be heavily armed.

I am all for questioning authority and insisting on transparency, two shields he used in court. Unfortunately, it became obvious that his agenda so closely follows the boilerplate Trump conspiracy theories and Fox News media memes that it sapped my sympathy for him.

The last straw, though, was his effort to undercut the testimony of the D.C. police officer who had been wedged between the mob and a glass door, and his insistence that the officer who died the day after the insurrection only died of “natural causes,” not the vicious mob attack.

After a while it became hard to listen to the continued falsehoods and misinformation, even though we must in order to find a clue to healing the disconnect from reality that so many of our fellow citizens have fallen into.


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Dede Feldman
Dede Feldman

Dede Feldman represented Albuquerque’s North Valley in the N.M. Senate from 1997 to 2012. She is the author of "Inside the NM Senate" and "Ten More Doors: Politics and the Path to Change."