SANTA FE, N.M. (AP) – Defense attorneys for jailed Cowboys for Trump leader Couy Griffin urged a federal judge Wednesday to release the New Mexico county commissioner and gun rights advocate as he awaits trial in Washington in connection with the siege on the U.S. Capitol.
Federal prosecutors want Griffin, a resident of Tularosa, held without bail in Washington – as a flight risk and danger to others – on charges that he knowingly entered the Capitol grounds with the intent to disrupt government business. Prosecutors cite a history of threatening comments, racial invective, access to firearms and vows that Joe Biden would never be president.
In federal court filings, attorneys for Griffin said federal authorities have been misleading and selective in their characterization of Griffin’s comments to FBI agents and in public, noting that he is a Christian pastor and “not a mafia member.”
The filings also show that Griffin told FBI agents that he never went inside the Capitol. He did, however, post videos on social media showing himself on an exterior balcony of the Capitol amid throngs of Donald Trump supporters as a mob stormed the building.
More than 150 people have been charged in federal court with crimes following the Jan. 6 riot.
“If the government is not going to prosecute most of the 800 people who surged into the building, why should they continue to pursue Mr. Griffin, who didn’t even approach the entrance to the Capitol building?” attorneys for Griffin said in court filings. “By the time the court reads this, Mr. Griffin will have already spent over a week in solitary detention at the D.C. jail, which ought to be enough to punish him for his actions.”
Before returning to Washington, Griffin spoke at a meeting of the Otero County Commission at length about his presence at the U.S. Capitol as riots broke out and the building was breached and about his plans to return to Washington with guns in his vehicle.
Griffin‘s attorneys say the guns were a self-defense precaution in response to threats, saying Griffin explained in public and in interviews by the FBI that he was worried about online threats. On the way to Washington, Griffin said he decided to leave his guns with friends in Pennsylvania and was arrested unarmed.
Defense attorneys released FBI summaries of its interviews with Griffin and a companion videographer for Cowboys for Trump. Griffin told agents that he began his journey to Washington on Dec. 28 in El Paso, Texas, with members of the Women for America group.
As rioters stormed the Capitol, Griffin said, he was “caught up in the crowd” and “pushed through the barricades” as Trump supporters overwhelmed Capitol police. He later seized a megaphone to deliver a prayer to the crowd.
The angry mob acted as Congress was considering Electoral College votes. Protesters ransacked hallways, broke down doors and attempted to break into the House chamber with lawmakers hiding inside. They rifled through desks on the empty Senate floor and hunted for House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and then-Vice President Mike Pence, who was in the Capitol overseeing the certification of Biden’s election victory.
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