Judge acquits man of misdemeanors in Capitol Riot trial

WASHINGTON (AP) — A federal judge on Wednesday acquitted a New Mexico man charged with misdemeanor charges of unlawfully entering the U.S. Capitol and engaging in disorderly conduct after entering the building during the riot. ‘last year.

U.S. District Judge Trevor McFadden delivered the verdict after hearing evidence without a jury in the case against Matthew Martin. McFadden, who was nominated by former President Donald Trump, acquitted Martin of all four counts he was charged with.

Martin did not dispute that he joined hundreds of others to enter the Capitol building during the riot. He is the third Capitol Riot defendant whose case has been resolved by trial. He is the first of the three to be acquitted of all the charges he faced,

The first two Capitol Riot trials ended in convictions, though McFadden acquitted one of those defendants on a disorderly conduct charge after a bench trial last month. A fourth trial is being held this week in Washington, DC, for a former Virginia police officer charged in the attack.

Martin was among hundreds of people charged with federal crimes stemming from the siege on January 6, 2021, when a mob of President Donald Trump’s supporters blocked Congress from certifying Joe Biden’s 2020 election victory.

Martin, whose trial began on Tuesday, said a police officer ushered him into the building after the riot broke out. A prosecutor dismissed that testimony as “nonsense.”

Martin was charged with four misdemeanor counts: entering and staying in a restricted-access building, disorderly and disruptive conduct in a restricted-access building, violent entry and disorderly conduct in a Capitol building, and marching, demonstrating or picketing a building. of the Capitol.

Dozens of Capitol Riot defendants have pleaded guilty and been sentenced, but Martin is the first to testify at trial. He said he was “going with the flow” as he approached the Capitol and testified that he saw a police officer wave him into the building. Martin remained inside the Capitol for about 10 minutes after entering the building through the rotunda doors, prosecutors say.

Martin said he “enjoyed the day” of the riot.

“It was a magical day in many ways,” he testified on Tuesday before adding, “I know bad things have happened.”

“Do you understand that police officers died? Justice Department prosecutor Michael Romano asked Martin.

At least nine people died in the riot or its aftermath. More than 100 police officers were injured. One officer died after collapsing hours after being pepper sprayed and other officers who tried to quell the riot died by suicide in the months after the attack.

Prosecutors said Martin, an engineer, worked for a government contractor at Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico and held a top-secret security clearance on January 6. Martin said he actually worked at another facility in Los Alamos.

Defense attorney Dan Cron said Martin saw another person shake hands with a police officer after entering the Capitol. Martin put his hand on an officer’s shoulder “as a sign of thanks and goodwill,” Cron said.

“It was a very loud scene there. There was a lot to try to process,” Cron told the judge.

Martin is not accused of engaging in acts of violence or destruction.

“The whole time he’s in there, he’s just there,” Cron said.

Romano, the Justice Department prosecutor, said Martin joined the crowd in rounding up police who were trying to disperse the crowd. The prosecutor said Martin knew he was not allowed to be in the Capitol.

“The idea that he thought he had permission to do that is nonsense,” Romano said.

Other riot defendants also claimed that police waved them in or said they could come in, but it’s unclear how that testimony will be considered by the courts.

McFadden last month chaired a bench test for Cuoy Griffin, a New Mexico county official who helped found a group called Cowboys for Trump. On March 22, the judge found Griffin guilty of unlawfully trespassing on restricted grounds of the United States Capitol, but acquitted him of engaging in disorderly conduct.

On March 8, a jury decided the Capitol’s first riot trial convicting a Texas man, Guy Reffitt, of storming the Capitol with a holstered handgun. Jurors also convicted Reffitt of obstructing the joint session of Congress to certify the Electoral College vote, interfering with police officers guarding the Capitol, and threatening his two teenage boys if they reported him to law enforcement.

Reffitt and Griffin entered restricted areas outside the Capitol, but not the building itself.

Meanwhile, a jury trial began Tuesday for a former Virginia police officer accused of storming the Capitol with a co-worker.

A federal prosecutor says former Rocky Mount police officer Thomas Robertson stormed the Capitol because he believed the 2020 presidential election was stolen from Trump and wanted to interfere with certification of the Electoral College vote.

The other former officer, Jacob Fracker, pleaded guilty to a riot-related charge and could be a key witness for prosecutors. Robertson’s trial resumed on Wednesday with testimony from a Metropolitan Police Department officer who supervised other officers during the riot.

More than 770 people have been charged with federal crimes related to the riots. More than 240 of them have pleaded guilty, mostly to misdemeanors, and more than 140 of them have been sentenced.

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