Couy Griffin’s future is in the judge’s hands

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Otero County Commissioner Couy Griffin, center, in court during a civil trial earlier this month. Written closing arguments in the case were filed on Monday and a judge is reviewing the case. (Eddie Moore/Albuquerque Journal)

The trial is over, closing arguments have been filed, and a district court judge is considering whether Otero County Commissioner Couy Griffin can finish his term or be banned for life from holding public office.

Griffin faces a lawsuit from three northern New Mexico residents seeking to oust him from public office for violating a Civil War-era clause in the 14th Amendment that sought to bar former Confederates to exercise a public function. The case against him is based on his role in the assault on the US Capitol on January 6, 2021, which Griffin attended.

A two-day trial was held earlier this month in the 1st Judicial District Court of Santa Fe before Judge Francis Mathew, who gave both sides until August 29 to submit written closing arguments. He said he would announce a verdict within 10 days of receiving court documents.

Plaintiffs’ attorneys said they had proven that the events of January 6 met the definition of an insurrection and that Griffin played a leading role in it.

“Nonviolent crowd members, including Griffin, camouflaged violent crowd members and contributed to law enforcement being overwhelmed by a ‘sea of ​​potential threats,'” the attorney wrote. plaintiffs Joe Goldberg and seven other attorneys in the closing. “Griffin did more than just join the mob: he instigated, encouraged and helped normalize the mob violence on January 6.”

Griffin is among hundreds of people who have been charged in connection with the mob. He was convicted earlier this year in federal court of a misdemeanor for entering a restricted area outside the US Capitol.

He argued in a written submission that those seeking to remove him from public office “missed their mark” and failed to prove that the assault on the US Capitol on January 6, 2021 was an insurrection.

Griffin said he was not trying to prevent the peaceful transfer of power, but was on Capitol Hill to pressure Vice President Mike Pence not to certify the election results and that it “returns this vote to the States for certification”.

“All within the bounds of the law and within the duties of the legislators involved,” he wrote. “This is not about or supporting insurgency/rebellion in any way.”

Griffin also argued that a failed effort to recall him from his county commission seat shows his constituents still support him.

But the plaintiffs said January 6 was a violent insurrection and marked the first time in American history that people disrupted the peaceful transfer of power.

“The mob finally achieved what even the Confederates never did in the Civil War: they breached the Capitol building and seized the Capitol grounds,” they wrote.

During the two-day trial, plaintiffs’ attorneys called several witnesses, including Griffin, an officer with the District of Columbia’s Metropolitan Police Department who defended the Capitol, a freelance photographer who filmed Griffin, and experts on the threats to democracy and the constitution. the story. They also aired hours of footage of Griffin in the days leading up to, during and after the attack on the Capitol.

At least seven lawyers represented the plaintiffs. Laurence Tribe, emeritus professor of constitutional law at Harvard, and Erwin Chemerinsky, dean of the University of California, Berkeley Law School, were among the authors of the amicus curiae memoirs submitted in the case. The NAACP and Common Cause, an organization that advocates for government accountability, filed briefs in the case, and attorneys from the Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics group in Washington were also part of the plaintiffs’ legal team.

Griffin represented himself in the case and did not call any witnesses. He said in his opening statement that he planned to appeal the judge’s verdict if he was barred from holding public office.

“The plaintiffs’ failed attempt to interpret my words and portray me as an insurgent is purely political and has no place in court,” Griffin wrote.

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