‘Cowboys for Trump’ founder dodges additional jail time for Jan. 6 conviction

By | June 17, 2022

New Mexico County Commissioner and “Cowboys for Trump” founder Couy Griffin avoided additional jail time Friday for breaching restricted Capitol grounds on Jan. 6.

U.S. District Court Judge Trevor McFadden delivered a blistering assessment of Griffin’s actions amid the chaos of the Jan. 6 mob, calling it a “dark day” for America. He also decried Griffin’s embrace of conspiracy theories related to the outcome of the 2020 election, as well as to the role of the federal government in responding to the riot.

But McFadden, a Trump appointee, said Griffin’s conduct, while clearly criminal, fell on the low end of the range compared to other Jan. 6 defendants and noted that Griffin had already spent 20 days in jail while awaiting trial, an unusual circumstance for a misdemeanor case.

Ultimately, McFadden sentenced Griffin to 14 days in prison but offset it with credit for his time already served. He also issued a $3,000 fine, a year of supervised release and 60 hours of community service. Justice Department prosecutors had sought 90 days in prison, with credit for his pretrial detention, and a $1,000 fine.

Griffin’s case became a significant benchmark among the more than 800 defendants charged for their actions on Jan. 6. He was the first misdemeanor defendant to go to trial, electing to have a bench trial before McFadden — meaning the judge, and not a jury, would decide the case. McFadden found him guilty on one count of entering and remaining in a restricted area, and he acquitted Griffin on a charge of violent or disorderly conduct in a restricted area.

As the case moved toward trial earlier this year, Griffin mounted a case that included the assertion that then-Vice President Mike Pence left Capitol grounds during the attack. Ultimately, McFadden forced prosecutors to elicit testimony from the Secret Service that showed Pence remained in an underground loading dock beneath the Capitol plaza for the duration of the assault, the first time Pence’s precise location was confirmed.

No evidence showed Griffin ever entered the Capitol, a fact McFadden repeatedly noted, but video evidence showed he climbed over retainer walls and used a toppled barricade to reach the restricted area of the Capitol, where he remained for hours. He also spent a long stretch atop the platform erected for President Joe Biden’s inauguration, where he watched some of the chaos unfolding below and remarked on the scent of chemical sprays officers and rioters deployed.

Griffin maintained his innocence in a statement to the court Friday. He said he didn’t know the grounds were restricted, that he was led by “faith” to the foot of the Capitol. He urged leniency, saying he’d faced hostility at home, including an effort to recall him from his post as a county commissioner for Otero County in New Mexico.

McFadden called Griffin’s explanation “preposterous.” He accused Griffin of using his public position to tout his actions on Jan. 6 and said he continued to make menacing statements about returning to D.C. with firearms.

“You’re probably your own worst enemy,” McFadden said.

He noted that Griffin spent the weeks after Jan. 6 drawing attention to and celebrating his conduct in a way that McFadden said reasonably drew the Justice Department’s notice.

He also said Griffin’s actions and conduct, including after his conviction, showed he had “disdain for our nation’s laws and criminal justice system.”