A federal judge ruled Wednesday that a former New Mexico government contractor who claimed police let him into the Capitol during last year’s pro-Trump riot was not guilty of four misdemeanors, the first acquittal related to the sprawling investigation into the attack. .
During a two-day trial in federal district court in Washington, the defendant, Matthew Martin, admitted that he entered the Capitol on January 6, 2021, along with hundreds of other supporters of President Donald J. Trump. But he claimed he did not break the law because two Capitol Police officers waved him through a door.
Prosecutors argued that Mr Martin knew he had illegally entered the building as signs of a riot were clearly apparent all around him, including tear gas and alarms going off.
Ruling in favor of the defence, Judge Trevor N. McFadden said he found it plausible that Mr Martin believed the police let him in and therefore did not knowingly enter the building inappropriately. Judge McFadden acquitted Mr Martin of four misdemeanors: entering and remaining in a building with restricted access; disorderly and disruptive conduct in a restricted building; violent entry and disorderly conduct into a Capitol building; and marching, demonstrating, or picketing a Capitol building.
The other judges are not bound by Justice McFadden’s analysis of Mr. Martin’s assertions about the police. But in the wake of the acquittal, some defendants facing low-level charges who might otherwise have pleaded guilty may feel emboldened to go to trial and test the government’s case against them. More than 200 people have already pleaded guilty to offenses related to the riot.
The case of Mr. Martin, who once held a top-secret security clearance as a private contractor for the Department of Energy, was the third related to the Capitol attack to go to trial.
In early March, a jury convicted Texas militia member Guy Wesley Reffitt of obstructing Congressional certification of the 2020 presidential election by helping lead a push against police that resulted in the first violent breach of the building.
Weeks later, in another trial without a jury, Judge McFadden found Couy Griffin, the founder of a group called Cowboys for Trump, guilty of trespassing during the riot, but not guilty of a second count. disorderly conduct offence.
A former Virginia police officer, Thomas Robertson, is also on trial in Washington. He faces charges of obstructing election certification and interfering with law enforcement during a civil unrest.